Presenter Kristin Marcell, special project coordinator of the state’s Hudson River Estuary Program, noted that the challenge includes not just protecting existing infrastructure but also natural resources, such as marshes, which are also under threat. The flooding and damage caused by Tropical Storm Lee, which hit two weeks after Irene, was a wake-up call that municipalities need to adopt “a more sensible long-term strategy” regarding development, she said.

Marcell showed examples of the three options for dealing with threatened infrastructure: protection, via “armoring” — such as adding sand to a shoreline or building bulkheads; accommodation, in which structures are designed to withstand flooding; and strategic relocation, which involves moving infrastructure from the shoreline and replacing it with parks and greenery. She advised against too much traditional “armoring,” or “hardening,” of the shoreline, saying such solutions were more susceptible to wave damage than more environmentally friendly methods, such as creating green “nooks and crannies” in a rock breakwater by planting shrubs and grasses, which accommodate wildlife.

So long, Strand?

Using a software visualization program, she projected three images showing what Kingston’s West Strand might look like in the future, as viewed from the Rondout Creek. To accommodate the expected four-foot increase in water level at low tide, one image showed the bulkhead raised to a height of four feet, like a looming sea wall. The second image showed a rocky, natural shoreline with plants and a wall replacing the storefronts of the facing row of historic buildings, to accommodate the flood waters; only the upper stories would be habitable. In the third, most radical image, the buildings were completely gone and the waterfront was restored as a natural preserve, resembling today’s Kingston Point Park.

The forum also included presentations about sustainable development practices for small cities by Scenic Hudson’s Jeff Anzevino; green infrastructure options to reduce storm-water run-off, which is a major cause of pollution for the Hudson and its tributaries, by Emily Vail, watershed outreach specialist at HREP; and a talk by Dennis Doyle, planning director for the Ulster County Department of Planning, that emphasized the need for the region to change its zoning laws to allow for more clustered development (as it is, zoning laws promote the development of single-family houses on spacious lots, in essence encouraging sprawl, said Doyle).