Harp Seals in the Harbor, New Urban Waters Ambassador, and more!
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USACE Now Accepting Comments for Major Restoration Effort

USACE is seeking the public's input on its Hudson-Raritan Estuary (HRE) Ecosystem Restoration Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment

Hackensack Meadowlands. Photo by Lisa Baron, USACE

On February 27, 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District and its non-federal sponsors released the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment (HRE FR/EA) for the HRE Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study for public comment.  The Draft FR/EA recommends construction of a subset of 33 sites included in the HRE Comprehensive Restoration Plan (CRP), as well as the remaining CRP restoration opportunities for future spin-off feasibility studies.     
The plan addresses long-term and large-scale degradation of aquatic habitat across New York and New Jersey harbor estuary.  The plan includes restoration of up to 360 acres of estuarine wetland habitat, 12 acres of freshwater riverine wetland habitat, 81 acres of coastal and maritime forest habitat, 5.5 acres of riparian forest habitat, and 57 acres of oyster habitat. Two fish ladders would be installed and three weirs would be modified to re-introduce or expand fish passage along the Bronx River along with 3.83 miles of bank stabilization and 2.35 miles of stream channel restoration for the freshwater sites.  Comments should be sent to HRE_FREA_Comments@usace.army.mil by April 14th. The public is also invited to weigh-in on April 6th at 1 PM or 6 PM at the National Museum of the American Indian, 1 Bowling Green, NY, NY.  Click here for the official notice from USACE and go to the USACE-New York District’s website to download the report. 

Spotted! Vagrant Juvenile Harp Seal Visits in Middletown Township

Young seal likely broke off from breeding population near the Gulf of St. Lawrence
Photo by joseph Reynolds

Naturalist Joe Reynolds knew he found someone special when he woke a tan, plump, furry sea mammal from a morning beach nap near the mouth of Pews Creek in Middletown Township, NJ. Distinct for their spotted “harp” pattern down their backs, adult Harp seals are rarely found outside of the Arctic Ocean. This individual, a vagrant juvenile hundreds of miles from its kin, was resting on the beach much as its relatives do on floes of ice between meals of crustaceans and fish. Joe, who is also the New Jersey Co-Chair of HEP’s Citizen Advisory Committee, contacted the Marime Mammal Stranding Center, and ensured that the seal was not in imminent danger, and will soon be on its way back to the arctic. Read more about winter Harp Seal sightings in New York Harbor on Joe’s blog.

Save the Date: HEP Conference

HEP and Partners Convene Restoration Metrics and Monitoring Workshop

Shared data collection framework will help build the case for Natural and Nature-Based Adaptation Strategies

Out of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy – the tragic loss of life, the trauma endured by vulnerable communities, and the billions of dollars of property damage – a new generation of planners are advocating for nature-based techniques to mitigate the impacts of coastal flooding.

Natural and nature-based features (NNBF) are types of coastal infrastructure that can offer multiple benefits for communities in addition to reducing the risk of property damage. Reef breakwaters have the potential to provide habitat and can give local students hands-on opportunities to learn about restoration, and vegetated shorelines can form green oases in areas with limited spaces for nature. Though it’s difficult to argue against the ecological and aesthetic value of a tidal marsh over a concrete floodwall, rule-makers and regulators need hard evidence of the ecological, social- and cost-benefits in order to integrate this new form of infrastructure as a regular best practice.    

The Harbor-Estuary has benefited from a number of ventures, such as the Living Breakwaters off the coast of Staten Island that is now being designed with funding provided by the Rebuild By Design competition, and the Randall’s Island Connector in the Bronx Kill built by New York City Economic Development Corporation and New York City Parks. Still, decision makers and managers across the Harbor Estuary lack a unified framework to evaluate the efficacy and value of their projects.

A living shoreline along the Bronx Kill. Photo by New York City Parks

In order to build the case for these techniques, HEP has been working in partnership with the Science and Resiliency Institute at Jamaica Bay (SRIJB), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Hudson River Estuary Program, New York City Parks Natural Resources Group, SCAPE Landscape Archiecture, New York Sea Grant, and the Consensus Building Institute to develop a set of common metrics and monitoring protocols applicable to restoration projects across the Harbor-Estuary. The protocols will measure four key parameters for resilience--ecosystem function, hazard mitigation, structural integrity, and community benefits—and enable more targeted data collection.  Thanks to funding obtained by SRIJB from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and New York State Department of State, this partnership will be hosting a set of public workshops around New York State over the next year. 

In January, the core team and invited technical experts to attend their first workshop to kick off the process. At the workshop, the group determined which metrics are the most important and usable for four NNBF techniques (restoration of tidal wetlands, constructed reefs and breakwaters, sill-type living shorelines, and vegetated shoreline stabilization) through examining case studies of recent restoration projects in the harbor. Following the kickoff meeting, the core group is planning to convene regional workshops in Long Island, New York City, the Hudson Valley and the Great Lakes to develop early recommendations for monitoring protocols. In the future, the collaboration hopes to develop a multi-user database for monitoring data, and partner with local non-profits at pilot locations to use the new protocols and populate the database with citizen-collected data.

For more information on the metrics and monitoring effort contact habitat@harborestuary.org. *[END:IF]*

HEP Hires New Bronx/Harlem River Urban Waters Ambassador

The NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program is thrilled to introduce Sara Powell, the new Ambassador for the Bronx-Harlem Rivers Urban Waters Federal Partnership. Based out of New York City Parks, Sara is coordinating a coalition of federal, state, city, and community partners to advance improvements along the Harlem River waterfront and its watershed in the Bronx. The Tidal Exchange sat down with Sara to discuss the unique set of tools she brings to the work, her goals for the Partnership, and her favorite spot on the Harlem River.    

Tidal Exchange: What’s going to be your first step in leading the Partnership?
Sara Powell: My first big step is to put together a meeting of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership leadership team. I’m also getting up to speed on the Harlem River Watershed Plan that NYC Parks is putting together and working on getting out into the community to meet key partners face to face. I attended the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality’s Bronx Parks Speak Up a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed by the attendance and enthusiasm Bronx residents brought to the event!
TE: What’s the history of the Harlem River Watershed Plan? Where do you hope to take it through your position?
SP: So, there have been multiple planning efforts by Harlem River community members over the past twenty years, mainly focused on public access and creation of a riverfront greenway. Many of the priorities identified in past planning efforts are now being advanced through NYC Parks’ creation of the Harlem River Watershed and Natural Resources Management Plan for the Bronx (more simply, the Harlem River Watershed Plan). NYC Parks’ plan will provide a roadmap for habitat and ecological restoration possibilities in the Harlem River watershed, including locations for shoreline restoration and green infrastructure opportunities, with a particular focus on NYC parklands.

Through the Partnership, I’m hoping to help engage federal partners and identify opportunities for leveraging additional technical and financial resources in support of the priorities identified in the Harlem River Watershed Plan. For example, right now I am coordinating with USGS & other partners to support water quality data collection this summer by students from the City College of New York. This data will help us better understand water quality conditions in the Harlem River, and will also inform NYC Parks’ shoreline access planning efforts at Bridge Park South - vacant land NYC Parks owns just north of the High Bridge. They plan to eventually turn these lots into public parkland – it’s an exciting opportunity to increase public access and restore a section of living shoreline to the Harlem River, which currently is pretty much entirely hardened on the Bronx side!
TE: What do you anticipate to be the major challenges of the Partnership?

 SP: One of the things that excites me about this position is that watershed management in urban systems is so complex – there are so many different actors and needs at play. Unfortunately, that is also what will be the major challenge! I’m looking forward to learning from the Bronx River Alliance – they are a UWFP member that has had a lot of success over the past decade transforming the Bronx River corridor and greenway into an ecological, recreational, educational, and economic resource for local communities. The two watersheds are quite different, but I’m hopeful that we can replicate some of their successes on the Harlem River as well.

TE: Tell us a little bit about your work with the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association (NMRWA) in Pittsburgh. What skills and experience are you looking forward to bringing to the Harlem River?
SP: In Pittsburgh, I worked as the Monitoring & Communications Manager at NMRWA. I was responsible for overhauling the organization’s water quality monitoring protocols, coordinating all communications products, organizing stewardship events, and conducting community outreach around regional stormwater management, CSOs, and green infrastructure issues. A lot of the water quality issues in Pittsburgh are similar to the issues in New York - Pittsburgh’s waterways are heavily impacted by CSO discharges during wet weather and the sewer authority has been developing a Long Term Control Plan under a Consent Order from the Department of Justice. NMRWA was part of the Clean Rivers Campaign – a coalition of groups working to raise awareness of regional stormwater runoff issues and advocate for green solutions – and as such, one of our goals was to educate the public about how we are connected to our natural environment, and encourage active participation in watershed management through advocacy and stewardship. As Urban Waters Ambassador, I’m hoping to use my experience to get diverse partners onboard for shoreline restoration and public access improvements.
TE: Do you have a favorite spot yet on the Bronx or Harlem Rivers?
I’m excited for the weather to warm up a bit so I can really get out & explore, but so far I am fascinated by the history of the river around Spuyten Duyvil & Marble Hill, and also by the High Bridge.
TE: You first worked for a Land Trust in Westchester County when you moved to New York. That’s a little different than what you’re doing now, correct?

SP: Yes! I spent a lot of time in the woods – monitoring conservation easement properties, removing invasive bamboo, rose, and other thorny plants from the organization’s Preserves, and I even learned how to use a chainsaw! I’d say I bring a broad toolbox to this work. 

Upcoming Events & Opportunities

For more events, check out our calendar. To post your Estuary-related event in our calendar, please send us the details! For up-to date events, like our Facebook page


March 22nd  - Harlem River Watershed Confrence with Bronx Council for Environmental Quality
April 5th -  New York 2140 Public Talk, Panel Discussion and Book Signing with Kim Stanley Robinson
April 13th - Water Cooperation and Conflict: The Local and Global Challenge summit at Pace University
May 3rd  - Changing Energy Landscapes in the Hudson Valley and Watershed symposium with Hudson River Environmental Society
May 9th - Hudson River Foundation Edward A. Ames Seminar American Eels in the Hudson River Estuary: From Glass to Silver
May 23rd - HEP State of the Estuary Conference: Looking Back, Moving Forward

For human-powered boating events, check out the NYC Water Trail Association calendar.


April 30th - Patagonia Environmental Grant
May 1st - National Science Foundation CBET Request for Proposals, focusing on citizen science and crowdsourcing
September 30th - Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Funding Program

Ioby (in our backyards), a community funding platform, accepts applications for environmental projects across the nation. Deadline: rolling
City Parks Foundation grant opportunities. Deadline: Multiple




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