The Mohawk Valley regional sustainability planning process is under way for the state’s Cleaner, Greener Communities program and community input is needed.
A workshop to collect public input to guide in the development of the Mohawk Valley’s plan took place Wednesday at Herkimer County Community College, where the program’s consultants shared information about the plan that will seek to create green jobs, improve energy efficiency and reduce pollution. Leaders and community members were also able to ask questions and suggest ideas.
“This is one of the most important, if not the most important, discussions we will ever have,” said Robert Singer, a project manager with Ecology and Environment, a Lancaster-based firm hired to oversee the first phase of the plan’s development. “What we talk about today will have a profound impact on our children’s lives and our grandchildren’s lives. This plan really is for them.”
The Cleaner, Greener Communities program was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2011 as a $100 million competitive grant program to encourage communities to develop regional sustainable growth strategies. The program is intended to provide the necessary resources for each Regional Economic Development Council area to develop a comprehensive sustainability plan.
Singer said the plan that will result from this process will establish a statewide sustainability planning framework that will aid in statewide infrastructure investment decision making; outline specific and tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions consistent with a goal of 80 percent carbon reductions by the year 2050; inform municipal land use policies; serve as a basis for local government infrastructure decision making; help guide infrastructure investment of public and private resources and provide each region with a sustainability plan that will enable them to identify and prioritize projects they submit for consideration to the implementation stage.
“When you think about issues like where do we invest our infrastructure expansion, if we do that in areas where there is better accessibility to jobs closer to proximity, then people will spend less on transportation costs,” said Rebecca Flora, sustainable communities practice leader for Ecology and Environment. “This will help the region think about its future and understand what’s being used.”
In the second phase of the Cleaner, Greener Communities program, Singer said up to $90 million will be provided on a competitive basis statewide for implementation of specific projects that provide the greatest opportunities for achieving carbon reductions, energy efficiency savings and renewable energy deployment consistent with a region’s sustainability and economic development plans.
All ten regions across the state already received $10 million each to start collecting data for the projects, said Karen Sullivan, Otsego County planning director. She added consultants hope this will benefit the regions by thinking about their futures even if they do not receive a portion of the grant.
Page 2 of 2 - “Things have got to start happening, and this is a start,” said Herkimer County Legislator Bernard Peplinksi, R - Ilion, a member of the Mohawk Valley’s regional consortium. “A lot of people don’t want to change, and it’s too bad. At least look at things and be willing to say, ‘Maybe this can happen.’”
The Mohawk Valley’s plan is scheduled to be completed by the end of March 2013, said Singer. This will allow the region to submit its plan to receive grant moneys to move onto the next phase, he said adding the consortium plans to conduct another public outreach meeting after Jan. 1, 2013.
More information regarding the program can be found at www.sustainablemohawkvalley.com.