The need for and appeal of water is universal. Here in the United States, we have a tendency to take access to this building block of life for granted. We’re spoiled by its natural abundance, whether it’s the Great Lakes, the two oceans that border our country, the huge Gulf of Mexico or various, impressive rivers cutting through our land and giving life to all in their path.
Recognizing the importance of this national resource and the magnitude of its management, the federal government passed the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 to “provide for a unique federal-state partnership that is a proven basis for protecting, restoring, and responsibly developing the nation’s important and diverse coastal communities and resources.”
One of the major advocacy groups for this act (and there were many, too many to name), was the Coastal States Organization (CSO), created in 1970 to “represent state governors in oceanic and coastal affairs. The association’s membership consists of delegates appointed by the governors from each of the 35 states, territories and commonwealths having an ocean, Gulf or Great Lake boundary.”
Almost 40 years later, this act and the resulting Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs (LWRP) have enabled communities as big as New York City and towns as small as Tonawanda, N.Y., to protect, preserve, rebuild, and/or develop their waterfront in accordance with citizens’ wishes while, at the same time, ensuring they are using best practices as defined by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Ocean Service.
In short, it’s a win-win for everybody.
To shed a little light on the power and potential of an LWRP, we looked to a state that aggressively promotes its use--New York.
According to the New York State, Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources (NYS DOS Division of Coastal Resources), a LWRP “is both a plan and a program. The term refers to both a planning document prepared by a community, as well as the program established to implement the plan. The Program may be comprehensive and address all issues that affect a community's entire waterfront or it may address the most critical issues facing a significant portion of its waterfront.
As a planning document, a LWRP is a locally prepared, land and water use plan and strategy for a community's natural, public, working, or developed waterfront through which critical issues are addressed. In partnership with the Division of Coastal Resources, a municipality develops community consensus regarding the future of its waterfront and refines State waterfront policies to reflect local conditions and circumstances. Once approved by the New York Secretary of State, the Local Program serves to coordinate state and federal actions needed to assist the community to achieve its vision.
As a program, a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program is the organizational structure, local laws, projects, and ongoing partnerships that implement the planning document. This is the part of the Program that will make the difference to your community--it’s the implementation that matters.”
The core of the LWRP process is local input. All LWRPs are, by definition, voluntary programs prepared locally by the citizens and governments of the communities applying for aid. Like most public processes, the LWRP requires local governments to draft an extensive document detailing all the factors that need to be considered before any water revitalization plan can be effected and then present it to the public for discussion, analysis and approval.
New York State recommends every LWRP consider the following items:
·Waterfront redevelopment and land use
·Flooding and erosion
·Fish and wildlife habitats
·Public access and recreation
·Water-dependent uses and harbor management
Preparation of a LWRP
The NYS DOS Division of Coastal Resources says “a LWRP follows a step-by-step process, which a community can use to advance from vision to implementation. These steps include:
·Getting community involvement
·Developing a vision
·Identifying and analyzing the key issues and opportunities
·Developing partnerships with all who can help
·Refining the vision into a plan of action
·Organizing to implement the plan
·Adopting necessary laws and practices
·Undertaking project planning and feasibility
·Obtaining financing and finding markets
·Ongoing management of waterfront decision making
These steps are appropriate whether the community is large or small, whether the concern is with one issue in one area or with a wide range of issues for a community’s entire waterfront, or whether the primary goal is waterfront redevelopment or natural resource protection.”
Benefits of a LWRP
The NYS DOS Division of Coastal Resources claims a “LWRP provides numerous benefits to communities that choose to become involved, including:
·Clear direction--A LWRP reflects community consensus. As such, it can significantly increase a community’s ability to attract appropriate development that will respect its unique cultural and natural characteristics.
· Technical assistance--A LWRP establishes a long-term partnership among local government, community-based organizations, and the State, providing a source of technical assistance to prepare and implement a Local Program.
·State and federal consistency--State permitting, funding and direct actions must be consistent with an approved LWRP. Within federally defined coastal areas, federal agencies activities are also required to be consistent with an approved LWRP. This “consistency” provision is a strong tool that helps ensure all government levels work in unison to build a stronger economy and a healthier environment.
·Financial assistance--A LWRP presents a unified vision; it, therefore, increases a community’s chances to obtain public and private funding for projects. Funding for both the development and implementation of Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs is available from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund, among other sources.”
Chautauqua Lake, N.Y.
As you read this, nine municipalities (the towns of Chautauqua, Ellery, Busti and North Harmony; and the villages of Mayville, Bemus Point, Celoron, and Lakewood), bordering Chautauqua Lake in Western New York, are awaiting the results of their 60-day public review process to their jointly prepared LWRP, which includes a host of waterfront plans in each of these communities.
These plans are as minute as fixing electrical service to a waterfront park and as large as creating a “downtown revitalization plan (for the Village of Celoron and childhood home of Lucille Ball) to develop commercial area into a destination for tourists and county residents.”
The impressive document (located at http://www.nyswaterfronts.com/CL_Main.htm) is comprised of seven distinct sections and several appendixes including:
·Section I - Waterfront Revitalization Area Boundary
·Section II - Inventory and Analysis.
·Section III - Waterfront Revitalization Policies
·Section IV - Proposed Land and Water Uses and Proposed Projects
·Section V - Local Implementation Techniques
·Section VI - State and Federal Actions and Programs Likely to Affect Implementation of the LWRP
·Section VII - Local Commitment and Consultation
After the 60-day public review process runs its course, suggestions and recommendations will be evaluated and, possibly, incorporated into the final, approved LWRP, which then turns into a plan for these nine communities, as well as state and federal agencies, to follow.
What is their hope? That they’ll preserve their largest natural asset and find a way to turn it into an economic engine that will offset its declining manufacturing sector and return the area to the prominence it last saw in the early 1900s.
Helen Downey is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Parks & Rec Business. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
For More Information, Visit:
Coastal State Organization Web Site: www.coastalstates.org
NOAA Web Site: www.oceanservice.noaa.gov
The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management: www.coastalmanagement.noaa.gov