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Tidal Exchange: Fall 2008

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Harbor Estuary News Contents

Regional Sediment Management Plan for the Estuary (Click Here)
John F. Tavolaro

HEP Habitat Restoration Planning Grant Awarded (Click Here)

Comprehensive Restoration Plan for the Estuary (Click Here)

Restoring Injured Natural Resources in the Harbor (Click Here)
Anthony Dvarskas

HEP Briefs (Click Here)

Oil Spill Prevention and Response (Click Here)

Victories for Habitat in the Harbor Estuary (Click Here)

Atlantic Silverside (Menidia menidia) (Click Here)

Regional Sediment Management Plan for the Estuary back to top
John F. Tavolaro


Sediment is an essential and dynamic par t of the Harbor Estuary, directly impacting ecosystem health and the regional e c o n omy i n ma ny ways. Contaminated sediments adversely affect the estuarine ecosys tem through toxic effects to marine life. They affect public health and the economy by c o n t ami n a t i o n of seafood and the closing or restriction of fisheries. Contaminated sediment s are al s o responsible for the high cost of dredging and disposing contaminated sediment that needs to be removed from navigation channels. Patterns of sedimentation can impair habitats and navigation, since the quantity of sediments depositing within the estuary can be both beneficial (in maintaining wetlands) and detrimental (in filling navigation channels). Although sediment and the pollutants that contaminate it originate throughout the 16,300-square mile watershed, our management of sediment has historically taken a highly localized and narrowly focused approach—one that is largely based on the tightlydefined responsibilities of regulatory and resource management agencies and port interests. Sediment management responsibilities are spread among many different agencies, authorities and jurisdictions. Some issues, like reducing contamination of dredged material, lack specific or traditional authority to resolve them. And there is no existing regional framework in which to address these cross-jurisdictional issues. As a result, the policy and regulatory framework required to improve regional sediment management throughout the Harbor Estuary does not exist and many sediment-related problems remain unaddressed or under-addressed.

Rather than a localized issue, sediment management in the Harbor Estuary is really a regional issue that can only be successfully implemented as a joint effort between federal, state, and local entities and the public. The potential benefits of managing sediments regionally are:

• Cost savings resulting from a reduced need to dredge navigation channels and dredging cleaner sediments which do not require costly treatment

• Improved habitat quality
resulting from the cleanup of contaminated sediments

• Improved availability of habitat based on reintroduction of sediment into “sand starved” littoral systems

• Shared regional-scaled at a
management systems, models and other scientific tools to help make sediment management decisions

• Improved relationships between
agencies and the public that produce opportunities for collaboratively leveraging financial and manpower resources

• Improved predictability of the regulatory processes resulting from better intergovernmental collaboration and coordination.

The Regional Sediment
Management Workgroup

Acknowledging the need for a better management approach, an ad hoc committee, the Regional Sediment Management Workgroup, was formed to develop a plan for a Regional Sediment Management (RSM) Program that integrates various sediment management activities in the Harbor Estuary. The NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program Policy Committee approved that approach and charged the Workgroup with developing a scope and structure for the RSM Program that includes a plan with specific goals and targets to improve the ecosystem, public health and the economy, sustainability in carrying out future tasks, technical credibility and regional support.

The ad-hoc Workgroup was comprised of representatives from federal, state and local agencies, research organizations, and public interest groups with a variety of sediment related responsibilities and interests. It was a consensus-based group, in which all participants had an equal place at the table, and all issues were included for discussion. The Workgroup was led by John F. Tavolaro of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ New York District.

Findings of the Workgroup

The Workgroup determined tha t the r e we r e three major components to the regional sediment management approach: sediment quality, sediment quantity and dredged material. Specific objectives for each of these major components were established describing the challenges they present, status of current work, and recommended actions for each objective. A total of eight objectives and 45 separate actions were recommended as the consensus of the Workgroup. Some of the key recommendations include:

Establish Sediment Management Advocates at the State government level. These should be senior managers focused on facilitating regional sediment management and have the ability to bring together the various elements of their respective State towards that goal

Strengthen regional coordination and consistency on regulatory issues, watershed planning and dredged material management

Engage the public early in the process of planning and setting regional priorities for action

Develop a sediment quality map that prioritizes areas for cleanup

Accelerate the Hudson River and Passaic River cleanup projects, due to the significant impact contaminated sediments from these areas have on the harbor estuary

Identify upstream watersheds with excessive sediment loads and develop plans to reduce those loads, working closely with local groups

Update the technical information needed for decision-making through regional research, monitoring and modeling

Next Steps

To effectively implement the RSM Program outlined in the plan, a new permanent workgroup is recommended to be formed under the Harbor & Estuary Program whose sole mission would be the implementation of this Plan. This new Workgroup would include State Sediment Management Advocates or their representatives, and would repor t to the NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program Management Committee and Policy Committee as all other permanent workgroups do. Sub-workgroups would be formed to address the three priorities of sediment quality, sediment quantity, and dredged material management. v

John F. Tavolaro
is the Deputy Chief of Operations Division for the US Army Corps of Engineers New York District. He has been active in the field of dredged material management for over 30 years and has written over 20 journal articles and conference papers on the subject.

HEP Habitat Restoration Planning Grant Awarded back to top

HEP has awarded $74,933 to Groundwork Hudson Valley for “Integrating Habitat Restoration into the Daylighting Project for the Saw Mill River in Downtown Yonkers.” The Saw Mill River runs underground for about 2,000 feet before discharging into the Hudson River at Yonkers. A portion of the river will be opened up as part of the City of Yonkers downtown revitalization project. Groundwork Hudson Valley will work to incorporate habitat restoration components into the daylighting project, including recreation of a tidal marsh, installation of a fish ladder for fish migration through a planned waterfall, and reintroduction of oyster beds. In addition, the project will integrate environmental education into the new public park that will be opened around the daylighted segment of river. Citizens, environmentalists, and other stakeholders will have an opportunity to provide feedback for the restoration plan.

Comprehensive Restoration Plan for the Estuary back to top

The US Army Corps of Engineers and the Port Authority of NY and NJ, in partnership with the Hudson River Foundation and other HEP partners, have been developing a Comprehens ive Res torat ion Plan (CRP) for the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary. This plan is intended to guide ecosystem restoration efforts throughout the Estuary, allowing the whole region to work towards the common goal of creating a mosaic of important habitats to provide new and increased benefits to the Estuary. The CRP is currently being finalized and is expected to be released to the Harbor & Estuary Program and the public before the end of the year. Stay tuned for updates on this Plan.

Restoring Injured Natural Resources in the Harbor back to top
Anthony Dvarskas

Multiple oil spills and thousands of waste sites in the greater NY-NJ Harbor area have had acute and chronic adverse impacts on coastal habitats and associated wildlife and fishery resources. Human uses have also been affected, including restrictions on fishing, swimming and navigation. For example, in January of 1990, a pipeline rupture beneath the Arthur Kill spilled 567,000 gallons of home heating oil, resulting in the oiling of approximately 125 acres of salt marsh and mudflats, and killing wetland vegetation and the fish, crabs, and other organisms living in the marsh, including 700 birds.

Federal and state agencies act as trustees on behalf of the public to assess and restore natural resources injured during oil spills, hazardous material releases, or vessel groundings. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a trustee for coastal resources such as estuarine and anadromous fish and other living marine resources and their habitats, including wetlands, mudflats, and coastal streams, as well as recreational uses of those resources. In NY-NJ Harbor, NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program (DARRP) works with co-trustees such as the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the States of NY and NJ, as well as the public and responsible parties to ensure the protection and restoration of the injured natural resources through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process.

When a spill or release occurs, the Federal On-Scene Coordinator designated by the United States Coast Guard and United States Environmental Protection Agency manages the response. At that point, NOAA sends a Scientific Support Coordinator to provide scientific advice, communicate with the scientific community, and coordinate assistance for scientific studies.

Responsible parties are required to cleanup and restore the harm from their releases, as mandated by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Oil Pollution Act (OPA). Trustees coordinate with the response and cleanup agencies to ensure (1) protective cleanups that promote recovery of natural resources occur and (2) the appropriate amount and type of restoration is achieved to compensate the public for injuries to the natural resources and the services they provide.

In the states of New York and New Jersey, NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program has worked cooperatively with state and federal agencies, tribes, industry, and communities to assure long-term protection of natural resources at 52 waste sites. Settlements have resulted in the restoration and/or protection of over 600 acres of marine habitat and nearly 500 acres of freshwater or terrestrial habitats.

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment process begins with an initial evaluation of potential injuries and determination of whether remediation and restoration will be necessary. If injuries have occurred, the Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program works with the other affected trustees to determine the appropriate type and amount of restoration needed to restore lost resources and compensate the public for their lost use. The Exxon Bayway Oil Spill in Arthur Kill, mentioned at the beginning of this article, provides an important case study of the steps in this process.

A Case Study:
Exxon Bayway Oil Spill Site


The Arthur Kill runs for approximately 10 miles from Newark Bay to Raritan Bay, separating Staten Island, New York, from New Jersey. Aside from being a major shipping corridor, this tidal strait also has numerous wetlands that support populations of birds and other wildlife.

Response, Remediation and Assessment

When the pipeline lying beneath Arthur Kill ruptured in 1990, the wetlands, wildlife, and associated ecological services provided by these natural resources were detrimentally affected. As part of its mission, NOAA worked with its partners to ensure an effective response and remedy. Following the reporting of a spill in the Exxon Bayway, boom was put in place to contain the oil and limit additional contamination. Shoreline bioremediation took place through application of fertilizer, which spurs microorganisms to accelerate the breakdown of the oil. To minimize the impact of the oil upon the surrounding habitat, trenches were dug and the oil removed by vacuum (a process known as trenching). Responders also engaged in significant surface water cleanup, including skimmers that mechanically captured floating oil.

Unfortunately, the impact from the spill upon the environment was almost immediate as marsh fringes in Morse’s Creek—less than 100 yards from the rupture, and Old Place Marsh—approximately 400 yards from the rupture, were oiled and significantly affected. The Trustees embarked on an assessment to determine the extent of injuries and public losses arising from the spill. Field surveys depicted the various types of shoreline habitats and areas of high, medium, and low oiling along the Arthur Kill. Approximately 11 acres of marsh most affected by the spill were entirely removed of vegetation. After the response, remediation, and assessment phases, restoration was necessary to compensate the public for their losses of habitat, its associated wildlife, and ecological services.


With the receipt of approximately $11.5 million in restoration funds, the Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program and its partners (including Department of the Interior, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation), focused on compensating the public for the losses caused by the oil spill. To date, 53 acres of tidal wetlands have been enhanced and restored, including 17.5 acres along the Woodbridge River in New Jersey and 18 acres at Bridge Creek Salt Marsh on Staten Island in New York. As compensation for losses to the bird population, the Trustees removed invasive non-native trees and planted native birch trees on 1 acre of land to enhance the nesting opportunities for herons and egrets.

In addition to this restoration activity, the Trustees purchased 23 acres in the Bridge Creek Complex, 9.52 acres at the Goethals Bridge Pond, 78 acres in the Old Place Marsh Complex, and a 13-acre conservation easement on Shooter’s Island in the Kill van Kull. These locations are a mix of upland forested habitats and freshwater, brackish, and salt marsh environments. Located on the northwestern corner of Staten Island, these areas are part of the Harbor Herons Wildlife Complex, which provides habitat for wading birds including herons, egrets, and ibises.

The Trustees have also been actively involved in land acquisition on the New Jersey side of the Arthur Kill. Targeting the Rahway River, a tributary feeding into the Arthur Kill, the Trustees purchased 25 acres of freshwater wetlands and upland forest in Edison, NJ. The lower Rahway River provides important tidal habitat for a range of species and the health of its ecosystem impacts the state of the Arthur Kill.

Apart from these completed efforts, additional restoration work is ongoing. Work is underway to plan and design a 35-acre wetland along the Hackensack River in Jersey City. Evaluation of restoration of salt marsh at the Goethals Bridge Pond is in process.

The case of the Exxon Bayway spill represents a good example of the process under taken by NOAA and its partners when an oil spill occurs. Coordination of efforts between Trustees and, when possible, responsible parties, ensures that remediation, assessment, and restoration are completed and that the public is compensated for their losses. More information on these and other on-going DARRP projects in the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary area as well as other areas in the United States is available at www.darrp.noaa.gov.

Anthony Dvarskas
is a Natural Resources Economist with the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration. He is involved in the economic analysis related to assessment of ecological and human use losses resulting from injuries to natural resources.

HEP Briefs
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Carter Sails Off

After many years of collaboration with HEP, Carter Craft is moving on from the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. We thank him for his determined efforts as the NY co-chair of HEP’s Citizens Advisory Committee and the Chair of the Public Access Work Group. Carter’s ability to network and provide fresh insight moved public access and waterfront issues to center stage. We’ll miss you Carter.

Fall 2008 ANEP Meeting

The NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program will host the 2008 fall meeting of the Association of National Estuary Programs (ANEP), on November 17–19 in New York City. A nonprofit organization, ANEP’s goal is to promote responsible stewardship and a common vision for the preservation and restoration of our nation’s bays and estuaries. ANEP works with the 28 National Estuary Programs to enhance communication and help coordinate a national agenda. The meeting will provide an opportunity for National Estuary Programs to learn from each other, engage in fruitful discussion and brainstorming, and explore or boost collaboration among organizations. Two focus areas of the meeting’s agenda will be habitat restoration and low impact development (LID).

Oil Spill Prevention and Response
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On a sunny morning in August, a group of high school and college students and community members boarded the US Coast Guard Cutter Line, an icebreaker that is assigned to the agency’s local oil response team, and toured the Arthur Kill to find out what is being done to prevent damage from oil spills. Future City, Inc., a local community group in Elizabeth, NJ, organized the tour. During the trip, US Coast Guard Senior Chief Juan Rivera and Mike Karlovich from Conoco- Phillips Bayway Refinery in Linden, NJ explained how the joint oil spill prevention and response system works to prevent oil spills and minimize damage if one occurs.

In the US, the Incident Command System was developed by the military to respond to a variety of emergencies and this protocol has been adopted to respond to oil spills, as well. This comprehensive command structure involves numerous participants, depending on the incident. However, the chain of command and each participant’s roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, allowing for a fast and coordinated response that is especially appropriate for oil spills.

The Harbor-wide oil spill response team includes a number of government agencies, including the US Coast Guard, the US Environmental Protection Agency, NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, as well as local industries that handle petroleum products.

In addition, a number of oil companies and utilities in the harbor fund an oil spill cooperative know as Clean Harbors. The cooperative stores collective resources such as boats, booms and specialized equipment at the ConocoPhillips terminal on the Arthur Kill, which also features a plant to treat oily water collected from spills. Oil spill prevention and response relies both on best management practices and technological advances. For example, in addition to measures the companies take on their own, there are federally mandated safety requirements regarding equipment conditions and replacement, training, and procedures that regulated facilities must follow. US Coast Guard representatives periodically inspect the oil terminals, refineries, and utilities to ensure they comply with these regulations.

Personnel from the agencies, private companies, and cooperative also engage in individual and joint training that includes periodical drills to test the Incident Command System and other response parameters. An example of a technological fix for preventing oil spills is requiring that only double-hulled and double-bottomed tankers can be used to ship crude oil and other petroleum products in the United States, which will go into effect in the near future.

Even with these precautions, spills may occur. If this happens, containing the oil as quickly as possible is crucial to preventing the oil from spreading and affecting a larger area. Because oil floats on water, different types of specially-designed barriers called booms are used to confine and contain the oil as close to the leak as possible.

As a preventive measure, stationary booms must be placed around ships and barges containing crude oil and distillates such as fuel oil, heating oil, and diesel and jet fuel during discharge and loading. Vessels containing gasoline are not boomed to let the material evaporate on the water and thus limit the potential for ignition. Booms are routinely staged year-round in environmentally sensitive areas such as the mouths of streams to prevent damage to these important ecosystems. In the event oil escapes or the stationary boom fails to contain the oil due to tides or heavy wave action, the oil response team will assemble additional barriers to keep the affected area as small as possible.

Once the oil is contained, relatively small quantities can be removed with special absorbent materials that act like sponges. For larger volumes of oil, vacuum trucks and skimmer boats are typically used to collect the oil from the water’s surface. Oil spills can cause extensive environmental damage. The Exxon Bayway oil spill described in this issue of The Tidal Exchange provides a local example. Although not the largest in history, the most notable American eco-disaster is the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska. This accident drew worldwide attention to the catastrophic effects that some human activities may have on the environment and helped put more emphasis on prevention and timely response to minimize damage to the environment, including many of the measures in effect in the US today.

Policies and procedures in place at local facilities and the Incident Command System in effect in our region have helped decrease the number and size of oil spills throughout New York Harbor over the years, thus protecting the valuable resources of this important estuary. As members of the response teams and other concerned parties look for new tools and improved controls, the emphasis is always on further decreasing the number of spills and the amount of petroleum spilled.

Victories for Habitat in the Harbor Estuary back to top

Thanks to the tireless efforts of numerous local organizations and a variety of grant programs, several projects have protected and improved invaluable habitats throughout the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary since the beginning of the year. Among other benefits, the acquisition and restoration of these environmentally significant sites will help protect the habitat of numerous plants, birds, fish and other wildlife; provide erosion control; protect or improve water quality; and often provide educational and recreational opportunities.

Habitat Acquisitions

Approximately $26.5 million have been devoted to the protection of over 200 acres of land throughout the Estuary.

  • Clark Reservoir: Two parcels of land, adjacent to Clark Reservoir were purchased by Union County with funding assistance from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) Green Acres Program. The Schwarz Farm parcel, located in Clark and Westfield Townships in NJ, consists of 4 acres of woodlands and wetlands, while the St. Agnes Catholic Church property in Clark Township comprises 16 acres of woodland. Both sites will be added to Union County’s Clark Reservoir parklands

  • Dismal Swamp: A total of 69 acres of freshwater wetlands, scrub shrub uplands, and forested uplands in South Plainfield, NJ were acquired by Middlesex County within the larger 660-acre Dismal Swamp. Most of the funds for this acquisition were provided by the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Resources Program of the Port Authority of NY and NJ (PANYNJ). Leading partners in this acquisition include NY-NJ Baykeeper and Edison Wetlands Association who negotiated the acquisition and urged Middlesex County to acquire and preserve this vital habitat. In spite of its name, this is a beautiful area, home to 175 bird species, 25 mammal species, and 24 amphibian and reptiles species. The Dismal Swamp (HEP priority acquisition site RR2) has been featured in the Spring 2004 issue of the Tidal Exchange, where the reader can find additional information.

  • North Mt Loretto Woods (HEP priority acquisition site AK14) is a wooded area with ponds and wildlife. A 75-acre parcel in this site, including freshwater, forested wetland, and upland, was purchased with funds from the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Resources Program of the PANYNJ and is now under management and control of the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) for the purposes of conservation and passive recreation. The terms of an agreement between PANYNJ and the Trust for Public Land for the purchase of this site had been discussed in December 2006 and the site was finally acquired in January 2008.
  • Sharrotts Road Shoreland: This site in Staten Island, NY has been identified as a preservation priority on the state’s Open Space Conservation Plan. Three parcels totaling 25 acres of freshwater and tidal wetlands were acquired by NYSDEC with Jamaica Bay Damages Account funds. This location provides access to the Arthur Kill and will be used for passive recreation such as hiking and birding.     
  • Waackaack Creek: NY-NJ Baykeeper was the lead partner in the acquisition of 13 acres of land adjacent to Waackaack Creek in Holmdel, NJ, for which most funding was provided by the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Resources Program of the PANYNJ. Other partners include Holmdel Township, Friends of Holmdel Open Space, NJDEP Green Acres Program, and Monmouth County. The site, also known as the "Lady Slipper" tract, is part of the larger Waackaack Creek greenway project and includes forested uplands and marshes that provide habitat for many birds and plants.

Habitat Restoration Projects

Numerous local organizations have been key to making progress in the rehabilitation of the Estuary environment. Here are some of the habitat restoration projects implemented throughout the past year, made possible thanks to a variety of grant programs that have provided over $11.8 million.

  • Bronx River Park Riparian Enhancement Project: The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation Natural Resources Group researched and planned this restoration project with funds from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The project included placement of boulders into the Bronx River to act as deflectors and thus protect the river bank from currents; creation of a river bank using fill, gravel and boulders; and placement of boulders into the river to provide habitat for fish. The new bank, the upland area, and the opposite bank were planted and seeded.

  • Hudson River Park restoration: The Hudson River Park Trust restored and opened to the general public an upland plant habitat area measuring approximately 3 acres. Prior to construction, the area was an entirely paved buffer strip between a highway (Route 9A) and the Hudson River. The newly restored area contains close to 30,000 individual plants, of which 96 percent are native, to attract and support birds and beneficial insects and for educational value. Large portions of the area are off-limits to pedestrians and will only be accessed by professional horticulturalists caring for the plants. However, the entire area will become part of the Hudson River Park Trust's extensive free public education program. The project has the additional benefit of reducing runoff from vehicles into the Hudson River. Funds for this project were provided by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation through a Community Development Block Grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and NYS and NYC.

  • Idlewild Park Preserve Habitat Restoration and Trail Project: Eastern Queens Alliance, Inc. (EQA) and Idlewild Park Preservation Committee, with support from the trustees of the Dissolved Oxygen Environmental Benefit Fund (DOEBF), will prepare a fully engineered plan to restore two acres of high marsh wetlands (including restoration of natural tidal flush) in a part of Idlewild Park Preserve. DOEBF trustees include the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, NYS Office of the Attorney General, NYCDEP, NYSDEC, Connecticut DEP, Soundkeeper, and NY-NJ Baykeeper. Work completed thus far includes site preparation and initial plantings. The project will eventually include aquatic restoration, a trail, and eco-friendly boardwalks to allow for passive recreational enjoyment of the restored marshes, which host plentiful of wetland species. The Park is at the headwaters of Jamaica Bay and contains one of the largest expanses of high quality salt marsh in Jamaica Bay. EQA had previously completed the initial design for a master plan for this park, with mitigation funds by the NYC Economic Development Corporation for the construction of an Air Cargo facility at John F. Kennedy International Airport. HEP partly funded the conceptual design of a wetland restoration project that was part of that master plan. An article featuring Idlewild Park was published in the Summer 2005 issue of this newsletter.

  • Oyster Restoration Project: Baykeeper has been maintaining and enhancing two oyster reefs in the Navesink River reef (0.5 acres) and Keyport Harbor (0.25 acres) for the past five years. Oyster reefs provide habitat for small organisms such as shrimp and mud crabs which, in turn, attract large fish like striped bass and blackfish. By filtering large volumes of water, oysters help limit algae populations and improve water clarity by removing suspended sediments. The American Littoral Society and Bahrs Restaurant are partners in this project, which has been funded by NOAA through Restore America’s Estuaries. Some of the partners involved in previous years include the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Hudson River Foundation, Monmouth Boat Club, and Bahrs Landing Restaurant & Marina.

  • Plumb Beach restoration: The American Littoral Society worked with several partners and 200 volunteers to restore marshes and upland at Plumb Beach in Jamaica Bay. The group removed heavy and floatable debris including nine dumpsters worth of heavy wood, old docks, and boats. After cleaning up the area, they planted native species and installed snow fencing to protect the newly planted site. Benefits of this project include rehabilitation of habitat for fish, shellfish, and birds, and soil erosion control. Partners included National, Park Service, NYCDEP, NYC Sierra Club, NYC Audubon, Sebago Canoe & Kayak Club, and Jamaica Bay EcoWatchers. The DOEBF, NYC Environmental Fund, and several private donors (including Con Edison, Bloomberg L.P., JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup) contributed funds for the project.
  • Turtle Cove Salt Marsh Restoration, Pelham Bay Park: NYC Parks & Recreation, Pelham Bay Park Administrator's Office has received funding from the trustees of the Dissolved Oxygen Environmental Benefit Fund to restore 4 acres of tidal salt marsh in Pelham Bay Park at Turtle Cove. The project is part of a larger initiative to improve water quality in the parts of the Park that flow into the Long Island Sound and Eastchester Bay by increasing buffers of native plants that trap pollution. Engineering work has been done this year. Community volunteers will re-vegetate the land with 50,000 plants and help steward the site long-term with assistance from NYSDEC Bureau of Marine Resources and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation Natural Resources Group.

Atlantic Silverside (Menidia menidia)
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This article is part of a series of species profiles commissioned by HEP and compiled by Claire Antonucci and Peter Rowe (New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium).

The Atlantic Silverside, also called a spearing, shiner or minnow, is one of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary’s most common fish. They are an important source of food for the Estuary’s bigger game fish including bluefish, Atlantic mackerel and striped bass. They also provide food for egrets, terns, gulls, cormorants, blue crabs, and smaller fish. Still other species, like the mummichog, prey on Atlantic Silverside eggs and larvae. Commercially, the Silverside is of minor value, mainly used as bait. When pursued by bigger fish, the Silverside tries to escape by making little leaps out of the water. Unfortunately, this attracts the attention of birds. Flocks of gulls hovering, diving and feeding usually indicate a school of bluefish or striped bass is below, chasing a school of Atlantic Silversides. The Silverside’s main defense against being caught is to hide in bay grasses or to stay together in large schools. They are also quick swimmers with coloration that makes them tricky to see.

Atlantic Silversides are small, rarely exceeding 6 inches long. They have a short head, large eyes, a small, toothless mouth and a slender body with a rounded belly. The upper portion of their body is grey/green in color with a translucent to white underside. The Atlantic Silverside takes its name from the metallic silver band or stripe that runs along both sides of its body. Silversides eat small crustaceans, algae, annelid worms, zooplankton, copepods, amphipods, squid, shrimp, and insects.

Silversides breed from May to July in conjunction with specific moon cycles. During the full or new moon and the highest of the high tides, they gather in large schools to scatter their eggs along the sandy bottom of the Estuary. The eggs hatch about 5 to 20 days later depending on the temperature of the water (warmer water causes quicker hatching). Water temperature also determines how many of the larvae will become male or female. Cooler water temperatures experienced by the larvae 32 to 46 days after hatching will result in more females, with warmer water temperatures resulting in more males. When newly hatched, the larvae feed on other plankton and can be eaten by other species feeding on plankton. The lifespan for Atlantic Silversides is short—two years at best. Most die after they spawn at about one year old.

Atlantic Silversides can be found all along the Atlantic Coast of North America from the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence River to the Northeast part of Florida. They prefer to live in brackish to full strength salt water and can adjust to changes in salinity. They are often found in dense schools close to shore looking for food. In the warmer months they can be caught easily by net in the shallow waters of our local bays and creeks. They do not last long out of water. As the water gets colder they will move out into deeper waters offshore since these waters stay at a constant temperature even during the coldest winter. The Silverside is a common subject for scientific research because it is sensitive to extreme environmental conditions such as low oxygen levels, drastic temperature changes, and contaminants in water.


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