Cuomo’s ambitious environmental plan includes a $3 billion bond act

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office
Governor Andrew Cuomo launches campaign to pass $3 Billion “Restore Mother Nature” Bond Act in FY 2021 Budget.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be asking voters to approve $3 billion in borrowing to fund “critical environmental restoration projects in every corner of the state” and to ensure New York is able to withstand the threat of more intense and frequent storms fueled by climate change.

If approved by voters, the Bond Act would fund environmental restoration projects across the state in order to withstand climate change fueled storms. It would ensure financing to restore wetlands and fight algal blooms, problems believed to be human caused. The funding could also restore up to 10,000 acres of wetlands, repairing dams and repairing some of the overused foot trails in the Adirondack and Catskill mountains, among a host of other projects.

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office

“We face a crisis for the planet and you only get one chance to fix it before reaching a point of no return,” Cuomo said when he announced the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act earlier this month. “We recognize the magnitude and urgency of what we’re dealing with — because if you don’t save the planet, everything else is irrelevant.”

The Bond Act — which will be a question on the General Election ballot in November — would fund a variety of projects related to recreational fishing, infrastructure improvements, clean water and flood mitigation.

The $3 billion in borrowing, if approved by voters, would fund land acquisition for new and expanded recreational opportunities; protect communities from flooding; safeguard drinking water resources and aquatic habitats; advance freshwater and tidal wetland restoration to naturally filter contaminants and the nutrients that contribute to harmful algal blooms; and restore riparian buffers to protect waterbodies from nutrient runoff and sedimentation.

The Bond Act would also support an estimated $100 million in fish hatchery investments and public access site improvements in hopes of establishing New York as the premier destination for recreational fishing. These investments aim to triple the state’s walleye fingerling production, produce an additional 500,000 trout and salmon, raise 100,000 cisco for native fish restoration and bolster development of a hardier strain of brown trout.

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo tours fish stocking operation at Indian Lake in 2016. The Restoring Mother Nature Bond Act would increase the number of fish produced in state hactheres with a goal of expanding recreational fishing opportunities in New York, among other projects.

The bond act would also improve the state’s network of fishing access sites, hand launch boat sites and public fishing rights, with an emphasis on warm-water streams and rivers.

The money would also be used on new and updated infrastructure to better withstand flooding — a more frequent and widespread problem in many regions of New York in recent years — including acquiring flood vulnerable properties, right-sizing culverts and bridges, removing obsolete and hazardous dams and green infrastructure projects.

Karenna Gore, director of the Center for Earth Ethics, Union Theological Seminary and a board member of RiverKeeper, called the bond act, “the kind of long-term thinking that has been missing. And it really will bring to bear a newer, healthier, more just and equitable New York state that is a leader on climate change.”

The Cuomo administration is launching a marketing campaign to convince voters to approve the bond act this coming November. Groups such as the New York League of Conservation Voters, The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Advocates of New York are supporting the bond act. The state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will be helping to get the word out.

According to a recent Siena College Poll 71 percent of participants support the initiative asking voters to pass the $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act. Of the voters polled, 83 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans favor the bond act borrowing as being “good for New York.”

“We’re going to start the most ambitious climate change program this nation has seen and part of that effort is the environmental bond act,” Cuoms said. “We’re going to organize to get it passed in the budget and then implement the most successful climate change and environmental restoration program in the nation.”

The proposed New York State FY 2021 budget includes multiple environmental related proposals, including a renewal in $300 million in funding for the Environmental Protection Fund and an additional $500 million for Clean Water Infrastructure.

Other priorities for Cuomo include the complete ban of hydrofracking across the state and single-use styrofoam food and packing containers. Siena College Poll shows support for banning single-use styrofoam containers at 72 percent. His environmental initiatives stretch beyond single-use containers with plans to implement a recycling system for mattresses and carpets, hoping to reduce waste in landfills across the state.

“It’s a bold plan but we must do it because either you face the crisis of the time or the crisis defeats you,” Cuomo said.