The New York State Senate recently passed a series of bills designed to mitigate flooding and improve responses to natural disasters.

Spearheaded by several senators, including Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the chamber’s majority leader, the initiative consists of eight bills that address a wide swath of concerns related to flood relief and prevention. The omnibus bill covers a range of issues spanning damage compensation to monitoring rising sea levels.

“My constituents understand all too well the dangers posed by severe flooding in our communities,” State Sen. Lea Webb, who represents parts of Broome County in Albany, wrote in a statement. “Here in the Southern Tier, we have lived through multiple historic floods, which we used to call ‘once in a generation’ storms. I am proud of the legislative package advanced by the Senate Democratic majority today, as these initiatives will empower our communities and our municipal leaders with the support they need to implement flood mitigation strategies, protect their homes and shore up our infrastructure.”

A 2016 study conducted by Woidt Engineering and Consulting deemed Broome County the sixth highest flood risk out of 62 counties. The county contains 636 miles of streams, rivers and creeks, of which 222 are designated flooding hazard areas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A bill sponsored by State Sen. Shelley Mayer, who represents parts of Westchester County, establishes an Office of Flood Prevention and Mitigation, which will coordinate and direct flood prevention initiatives across the state. Its duties would include publicizing government efforts, establishing flood mitigation programs and conducting studies to improve flood response, collaborating with different government agencies to provide more comprehensive relief.

In a press release, the State Senate’s Democratic majority emphasized their goal to be proactive in storm management, acknowledging a pattern in extreme and unpredictable weather events.

“Due to climate change, regular storms now often become superstorms,” said State Sen. Pete Harckham, a sponsor of two of the bills. “We need to address this issue head-on because residents and business owners have pressing questions about property damage, avenues for assistance and recovery efforts. This new package of legislation focuses on storm management, preparedness and cost assessments.”

Other bills in the package address the vulnerabilities flooding presents for property owners. A bill put forward by State Sen. Neil Breslin calls for a study into flooding insurance availability and accessibility. The Climate Change Property Tax Assessment Relief Act, sponsored by Stewart-Cousins, would allow municipalities to grant tax reliefs to homeowners whose homes have been lost or damaged in a natural disaster.

Stephen Corbisiero, the president of Zero Hour Binghamton — a Binghamton University organization dedicated to environmental justice in the tri-city area — and a senior double-majoring in environmental studies and geography, explained the legislation’s local value.

“Binghamton is extremely vulnerable to flooding, as seen by the 2006 and 2011 floods that led to the Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers overtopping their banks, causing millions of dollars in damages to the local community,” Corbisero wrote in an email. “As a [student], it makes me thrilled to hear that the state has the opportunity to continue investing in storm protection and flood mitigation measures for the city and surrounding areas, to ensure that a future similar-level flood won’t have the same decimating impacts as the past two.”

The package represents both a commitment to storm resilience and state lawmakers’ recognition that the impact of climate change is unavoidable.

“Given that we’ve seen the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government go back-and-forth on their perceived importance of climate changes, I am hopeful that states like New York can inspire similar legislation to be passed at higher levels of government, as well as alarm other local and state governments of the limited time to act before the effects of climate change become irreversible,” Corbisero wrote.