The Environmental Planning section of the Planning Department provides technical planning and policy services to municipalities, county departments and other governmental agencies and individuals regarding natural resource protection. The section also supplies technical and administrative support to various citizen committees and boards whose goals relate to natural resource preservation and include the Environmental Management Council, the Soil and Water Conservation District Board, and the Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board.
In Westchester, there are six major drainage basins, Upper Hudson River, Croton River, Lower Hudson, Upper Long Island Sound, Bronx River and Lower Long Island Sound. The planning department provides a lead role, including administrative and technical support for watershed planning efforts in the county.
Agriculture and farmland protection
The Westchester County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board was created in 1999 by act of the County Legislature. The board's mission is to maintain the economic viability of the agricultural industry and to protect the environmental and landscape preservation values associated with agriculture. Planning staff serves the eleven-member Board.
The planning department and Westchester County Soil and Water Conservation District began a water quality and habitat improvement program by restoring natural resources, especially streams and wetlands, in 1998. More recently, storm water management practices have been installed or upgraded to improve water quality. Some 35 projects have been completed or are being planned, designed or constructed. As more resources are restored, water quality will continue to improve and a more diverse community of plants and animals will be established.
Planning works with local municipal partners to educate the public about stormwater and implement best management practices for controlling stormwater to prevent pollution and mitigate flooding.
The Westchester County Citizen Volunteer Monitoring Program (CVMP) was established in 2003, with funding from the Safe Drinking Water Act distributed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The program maintains a baseline of water quality data on both lotic (streams and rivers) and lentic (ponds and lakes) waterbodies and makes this water quality history accessible to the public.
Soil and Water Conservation District
The Westchester County SWCD is a special purpose district created to develop and carry out a program of soil, water and related natural resources conservation. Environmental planners serve the seven-member citizen Board of Directors. The SWCD has developed a program with a distinct urban/suburban conservation orientation, and considers a wide range of soil and water resources conservation concerns.
Environmental Management Council
The EMC is a focal point for the citizen environmental advisory role in county government. The duties of the council are to:
- provide environmental information, advice, assistance and training
- review and comment on pending actions within the county which have environmental implications
- advise county government on environmental protection policies and sound use of natural resources
- prepare reports, maps and publications
- maintain a database and library
Environmental reviews for county projects
The Department of Planning conducts environmental reviews on all county actions, in adherence to the requirements of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, more commonly referred to as SEQR. This state law requires that all projects that involve the disturbance of natural features of built structures be evaluated to determine whether they may have a significant impact. If so, efforts must be taken to avoid the impacts. If avoidance is not possible, potential impacts must be minimized as much as possible and remaining impacts must be adequately mitigated.