State Releases Final Reports on Climate Funding, Shad

Beacon among cities classified as ‘disadvantaged’

A year ago, New York State released drafts of two reports. The first dealt with boosting shad populations in the Hudson River and the second with identifying communities that qualify to receive special funding to fight climate change. Now, after considering public comment, the state has finished both.

As part of an ambitious state law enacted in 2019, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is hoping to get 70 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030 and reach zero-emissions electricity by 2040 and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The law also set an “environmental justice” target that 40 percent of state spending on clean energy would accrue in communities defined as disadvantaged. 

To select those municipalities, the state considered history (such as past industrial pollution), current challenges (such as high housing costs) and projected conditions. 

Communities with low levels of tree cover, for example, rated highly because of the urban “heat island” effect. Agricultural communities scored higher because of the expected impact of rising temperatures on farming and outdoor laborers.

Under the draft and final criteria, Beacon qualifies as disadvantaged because, among other factors, it has high housing costs, a legacy of industrial pollution, a rising river, diesel fumes from Interstate 84 and lengthy rides to the nearest hospitals. 

Because of the designation, Beacon is set up to receive “green” funding that other cities won’t. It could come in the form of helping residents make green upgrades to their homes (such as replacing gas appliances and weatherization); subsidies for vehicles such as electric school buses; and investments in renewable energy infrastructure.

No communities in Putnam County qualified, although low-income households anywhere in the state (defined as having an annual income at or below 60 percent of the state median) will qualify for assistance.

Climate change is one of the many factors impacting American Shad in the Hudson River, which led to a population crash around the turn of the millennium. In 2009, the state ended shad fishing, which led to the cancellation of the many river-town festivals that welcomed spring.

The final Recovery Plan For Hudson River American Shad sets benchmarks for when catch-and-release fishing can be reintroduced. Although 97 percent of shad are thought to survive the ordeal, the population is so low (and slow to recover) that the state isn’t ready to give the OK. Research suggests that the shad that survive may be stressed enough to skip spawning.

Once shad recover enough to allow for catch and release, the state said it will consider requiring anglers to use barbless hooks. 

A section added to the report lobbies for shad to be considered when ladders, passages and other infrastructure is installed to allow fish to swim upriver to spawn. Unlike most other fish, shad do not die after spawning. Instead, they swim back to the ocean. Because of this, the state said, any interventions in the river must allow for upstream and downstream passage. 

To allow the public to monitor shad recovery, the state said it will post metrics at each year by Aug. 1.

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