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Tidal Exchange: Spring 2006

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Spring 2006 Issue

Harbor Estuary News Contents

Restoring Soundview Park
HEP Priority Restoration Site LI10
(Click Here)
Marit Larson and Paul Mankiewicz

Combined Sewer Overflows
What's Happening in New Jersey
(Click Here)
Cathy Yuhas

Welcome Aboard for All Hands on Deck (Click Here)
Claire Antonucci

NYU's Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education
The Hudson River Teacher Education Summer Program
(Click Here)
Dr. Mary J. Leou

Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) (Click Here)
Capt. Chas Stamm

Restoring Soundview Park
HEP Priority Restoration Site LI10
back to top
Marit Larson and Paul Mankiewicz

Soundview is a one hundred eighty acre park at the mouth of the Bronx River. Standing here on a winter day, it is possible to see rafts of more than a hundred brandt, a small goose that once fed on the extensive eelgrass of the region, but now probably feeds on green algae like Ulva and Enteromorpha that grow on the mudflats. Between December and February the edge of the shallow flats and deeper channel are also frequented by loons, mergansers, and the common cormorant.

But Soundview Park shares the same history as most of the New York City coastline: landfill over intertidal marsh. Wetlands here on the East River were once connected to thousands of acres of intertidal marsh around the Bronx River and Pugsley, Westchester, and Eastchester Creeks. Where these tidal channels met the East River, the fine fluvial outwash was sculpted into wetlands and mudflats. The 1897 USGS map shows that these wetlands were hydrologically connected across the whole of what is now the “new” land of the southeastern Bronx.

Nearly all of the saltmarsh along the Bronx and East Rivers has been lost to fill and development, with the concomitant loss of capacity to filter water, trap sediments and remove pollutants. Each 100 acres of saltmarsh can remove hundreds of pounds of heavy metals and many thousands of pounds of hydrocarbons and nitrate nitrogen. For these and other ecological functions, we have come to look much more closely at opportunities for restoring remnant coastal open space. The Harbor & Estuary Program and the Long Island Sound Study have identified Soundview Park, one of the largest undeveloped parks in the south Bronx and along the East River, as a Priority Habitat Restoration Site. Here, the priority is to try to restore some of the lost biological diversity, ecological productivity, and capacity of natural processes to enhance environmental quality.

The challenge of coastal wetland restoration at most of Soundview Park can be measured by the 10 to 30 feet of fill and the mass of the rock jetties along its 1.8 mile shoreline. At the southeast corner of the park, however, where landfill ceased in the 1950s, the rock jetty is lower and forms an embayment and a smaller enclosed pond; this is the site of the old marina whose owner held out against Robert Moses’ filling, now commonly called the Soundview Lagoons. At low tide, the lagoons are transformed into 7.4 acres of mudflat, and one can observe blue and fiddler crabs, eastern mud snails, blue-finger mud and hermit crabs, and the ribbed mussel. At high tide, mummichugs, striped and banded killifish, Atlantic silversides, and winter flounder enter the lagoons providing prey for snowy egret, blackcrowned night heron, double-crested cormorant, great blue heron, terns, gulls and other birds.

Along the shores of the lagoons, protected from the wave energy of the East River by the jetty and the wreckage of an old barge, about half an acre of saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) has become established. Upslope of the cordgrass, a mix of common reed (Phragmites australis) and groundsel bush (Bacharis halimifolia) dominate construction rubble in the wet areas, transitioning into upland early successional shrubs, trees and plants tolerant of highly disturbed soil; species found here include native staghorn sumac and eastern cottonwood, as well as exotic or invasive species such as mugwort, Phargmites, tree-of-heaven, and black locust. Dumping of cars and household debris, motor-biking, and arson are among the problems that degrade the upland and coastline at Soundview Park. Despite these issues, and the dominance of invasive plant species, the Park has the capacity to contribute significantly to the forage and rearing habitat of aquatic organisms and their predators.

In 1999, with funding from Congressman José Serrano’s Office, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) began its initial study of Soundview Park as part of an integrated complex of restoration opportunities within the Bronx River watershed. In 2003, the Corps continued this work with an ecosystem restoration study at Soundview under its Section 206 Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration prog ram. The ACOE expects to commit up to $5 million dollars for restoration at Soundview, with a 35% match to these funds provided by the local sponsor, the City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation, Natural Resources Group (NRG).

Local funds were secured through a $2.4 million dollar grant from the NYS Department of State to NRG and oneto- one matching funds from the Croton Filtration Plant settlement. The general goals for both the state grant and the federal program are to restore aquatic ecosystem resources in southern Soundview Park. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is also supporting efforts to restore and establish intertidal and subtidal habitat for shellfish and oysters in the Bronx River Estuary and along the shores of Soundview Park. These funding agencies, grant recipients, and local community groups are working together to implement a comprehensive ecological restoration project at the southern end of Soundview Park that addresses the off-shore, tidal, maritime, and adjacent upland communities. Restoration objectives in the Soundview Lagoons aim to expand existing salt marsh communities by excavating fill to appropriate elevations, adding clean fill as needed, and planting thousands of salt marsh cordgrass plugs. Rock jetty modif ication is also under consideration, in order to increase access to the forage and refuge offered by the salt marsh.

The ACOE is modeling hydrological impacts to assess how changes to these barriers will affect local flow and sedimentation regimes. On the upland areas at Soundview, the objective is to re-establish native shrub and forest vegetation that will serve as a buffer to the aquatic resources, provide habitat for predatory and migrating birds, capture and filter adjacent stormwater runnoff, and offer a sustainable natural community for passive recreation and environmental education.

The benthic community has also been disrupted in the remaking of the Bronx coastline and is therefore the focus of restoration efforts. The low lying bedrock and native fluvial deposits in the estuary have been covered with municipal garbage, construction waste, and dredge spoils, destroying off-shore oyster reefs and eelgrass beds. Filling or otherwise eliminating the three-dimensional variability and relief of the intertidal areas has meant a decrease in primary and secondary productivity, as well as fish habitat. Because of this, near-shore and off-shore restoration efforts at Soundview Park are focused on re-establishing living structure: from habitat created by the growth of marsh plants themselves to reef-like structures that can provide attachment surfaces for oysters, anemones, tunicates, barnacles, and sponges, as well as brown and red algae seaweeds.

A mosaic of structures and associated multiple habitat types within the intertidal and benthic environments provides higher quality cover and niche variety for fish at larval, juvenile and adult stages of their life cycles. A critical secondary function of these structures has recently made major headlines in Indonesia and on the Gulf Coast. Reefs and marshes can dissipate a major fraction of wave energy. In the absence of such structures, coastal populations and property are vulnerable to the inevitable occurrence of large waves. By organizing and capturing sedimentation, as well as accreting calcium and biotic structure, reefs and marshes create habitat while providing perhaps the most cost effective and ecologically benef icial means of coastline protection available. In both the near and long term, the restoration of such keystone species as oysters, eelgrass, and saltmarsh cordgrass may hold the key to costeffectively enhancing water quality, increasing biodiversity and ecological productivity, and protecting the property and infrastructure our coastal cities. The Soundview project aims to prove that it could happen in the Bronx.

Marit Larson is a project manager and fluvial geomorphologist for the City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation’s Natural Resources Group (NRG). Focusing on aquatic, wetland and riparian systems, she works with community groups, institutions, and other agencies to fulfull NRG’s mission of preserving, protecting, and restoring NYC natural resources.

Paul Mankiewicz is Executive Director of the Gaia Institute, a not-for-profit organization with the mission of exploring through research, development, design and education the interrelationship between human communities and natural systems. He is a biologist and plant scientist with substantial experience in enhancing, restoring, and constructing wetland and terrestrial ecosystems.

Combined Sewer Overflows
What's Happening in New Jersey
back to top
Cathy Yuhas

There are 212 Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) points in the New Jersey portion of the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary. Discharges from these points are associated with the combined sewer systems (CSSs) of approximately 20 municipalities or other public entities known to own and/or operate a portion of a CSS. CSSs are located throughout the New York-New Jersey Harbor Complex in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Passaic, and Union Counties (see Spring 2005 Tidal Exchange for a map of CSO locations).

In 1988, New Jersey signed into law the NJ Sewage Infrastructure Improvement Act (SIIA). Three main components of the SIIA were that it (1) recognized CSOs as a major source of pollution to the coastal waters of NJ; (2) required the municipalities operating CSSs to commence abatement activities; and (3) established a NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) grant fund for the planning and design of municipal control measures for solids and floatable materials. Under the SIIA, NJDEP has awarded over $8.9 million in planning grants and $18.2 million in design grants, covering up to 90% of the eligible costs.

CSO points are regulated through the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) General Permit, which complies with the State’s Water Quality Standards and is consistent with the National CSO Control Policy, NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, and Delaware Estuary Plan. Owners and/or operators of any part of a CSS are required to have a General Permit, which has technology-based requirements such as prohibition of dry weather overflows; prevention of surface water intrusion in the CSS; control of solids and floatables; development of proper operation and maintenance plans and manuals; and inclusion of monitoring and reporting procedures.

The NJPDES General Permit was concurrently revoked and reissued on August 1, 2004 in order to develop and implement new provisions. The current General Permit maintains past requirements and compliance schedules, but also includes new requirements such as the following: development and implementation of technology-based control measures, including the Nine Minimum Control Measures from the National CSO Control Policy; developing a Long Term Control Plan, including an evaluation of alternatives for attaining compliance with the Clean Water Act (CWA); compliance with water quality standards, including those for pathogens; and protection of designated uses.

Each Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) must be adequate to meet water quality-based requirements and will include the following four elements:

• Public participation process that involves the public in the deciding long-term CSO controls

• Evaluation of the various CSO control alternatives and selection of those that will meet the CWA

• Cost performance considerations for CSO control alternatives

• Maximization of treatment of wet weather flows

A significant change to the General Permit now requires owners and/or operators of CSSs to develop and evaluate alternative measures for the control of pathogens. They must also prepare cost and performance analyses for pathogen control technologies that will reduce loadings of fecal coliform and enterococci. These cost and performance analyses are due on or before February 1, 2007.

The LTCPs will also reflect the results of pathogen modeling work currently underway as part of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process. The NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program is facilitating the development of TMDLs for pathogens by using PATH (a modification of System-wide Eutrophication Model) to model CSO impacts on water quality.

So, how do the municipalities fund these CSO abatement projects? The New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program (EIFP) assists municipalities and utilities in correcting combined sewer overflows through low-cost financing. The EIFP, a partnership between NJDEP and the NJ Infrastructure Trust, assists communities with improvements to wastewater infrastructure including combined sewer overflows. The EIFP has provided loans to communities like the City of Rahway, which separated its storm and sanitary sewer systems in order to eliminate CSOs. To date, NJDEP has awarded $182 million in loan money through the EIFP for construction of the required solids and floatables control facilities.

One example of a project that meets the requirements of the NJ General Permit is the solids and floatables control program that the North Bergen Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) conducted in order to meet the Nine Minimum Controls and the LTCP. NJDEP and EPA Region 2 were also involved in the planning and design of the solids and floatables control program. The technologies chosen - mechanical screens and a combination of in-line and end-of pipe netting - were selected based on their operating and maintenance advantages, including ease of use, durability and cost effectiveness. The North Bergen MUA created a CSO Crew responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of their solids and floatables controls program. There are benefits to the chosen technologies - forty tons per year of solids and floatables are captured and removed, preventing their discharge into the Hudson and the Hackensack Rivers.

To date, SIIA planning and design activities have been completed for all known CSO points. Presently, about 200 of the anticipated 250 solids and floatables control facilities (about 80%) have been constructed and are operating. Based upon the data collected, it is estimated that each CSO point with a control facility captures and disposes of an average of 3 tons of debris every year. Using this as a guide, it could be projected that approximately 630 tons per year of solids and floatable materials ultimately will be prevented from entering waters of the Harbor Estuary when all of the planned facilities are constructed and in operation.

Cathy Yuhas is the Technical Specialist for the NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program and a NJ Sea Grant Extension Agent with the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium.

Welcome Aboard for All Hands on Deck back to top
Claire Antonucci

Could your car, your sneakers, your children’s electronic games and your mid-afternoon chocolate bar have anything in common? Doesn’t seem possible at first, but they do. All these items, more than likely, were imported, making their way to you aboard a cargo ship bound for the shores of the New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary Complex.

Located within the Harbor Estuary Complex, the Port of New York/New Jersey is the largest port complex on the East Coast and the third largest Port in the country. It is also one of the busiest, with the amount of international cargo handled growing each year. The Port plays a crucial role in the quality of life in the region, as well as in the economy; Port-related jobs alone are estimated at over 100,000.

Despite this tremendous amount of commerce and associated infrastructure, the Estuary is an unparalleled natural treasure, providing habitat and lifegiving sustenance for fish, birds, animals and people alike.

Getting school children (and their families) to understand and appreciate this amazing resource is the goal of All Hands On Deck: A Harbor Education Program (AHOD). The program, which serves middle school children in New York and New Jersey, uses commuter ferries to get school groups out on the water for an up-close and personal field trip that relays the excitement of the Harbor and explores the inter-relationship of estuaries, ports commerce, economics and ecosystem vitality.

AHOD was originally conceived and developed by the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Office of Maritime Resources, the State’s lead agency for maritime planning, development, coordination, and education, along with a number of other partners including Nation’sPort, Seaman’s Church Institute, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, Partnership for Sustainable Ports and New York Shipping Association. The program has since become administered by the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium (NJMSC), a private non-prof it aff iliation of colleges, universities and other agencies interested in the advancement of knowledge and sustainable uses of New Jersey’s marine and coastal environment.

During an AHOD f ield trip, students learn about the natural resources of the Harbor intertwined with commerce and human needs. Using a combination of lecture, discussion, observation, guest speakers and hands-on activities, the NJMSC and its AHOD partners hope to get kids thinking about the importance of the Harbor and the need to sustain its resources for generations to come. Balancing environmental and economic concerns will remain the foremost challenge of the 21st century. Students who participate in AHOD programs begin to develop the skills needed to respond to this challenge by seeing the places where it all happens and learning about the people who deal with this difficult issue each day.

One very exciting feature of the AHOD field trip is the involvement of guest speakers. Thanks to the willingness of many volunteers, each cruise has featured at least one speaker who makes his or her professional career in a Harbor-related job. The guest speakers keep the program dynamic, providing new perspectives and unique information. Guests have been as diverse as the Estuary itself, coming from such groups and organizations as Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, Steven’s Institute of Technology, Army Corps of Engineers, US Coast Guard, NJDOT Office of Maritime Resources, New York Shipping and the NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program, to name just a few.

The NJMSC is committed to the growth of the AHOD program and works towards this goal by continuing to work with the original partners (and many new ones) to build a comprehensive ports and harbor education program for New York and New Jersey. In addition to the AHOD field trip, future “phases” of the Program include landside tours, family and informal group programs, teacher workshops and printed and web-based learning materials. A student workbook, made possible with funding from the Harbor & Estuary Program, will be directed at children in grades 4-6 and is due out in late Spring 2006. A children’s website is also under development.

The opportunity to host and grow All Hands On Deck: A Harbor Education Program is a welcome and challenging opportunity for The Education Program at the NJMSC. Expanding its range of educational services to include urban estuaries, ports and commerce, and sustainability issues is a logical next step in fulfilling The Education Program’s mission to provide compelling and comprehensive marine education services to the students, teachers, and families of the NY/NJ Harbor region.

For more information about this new initiative, including information on how you can book a trip or sponsor the program, contact Mindy McCadden-Voss, NJMSC’s AHOD coordinator, at 732-872-1300, ext. 30 or mmccadden@njmsc.org. For further information about the NJMSC and its many programs, please visit us on the web at www.njmsc.org.

Claire Antonucci is Director of Education for the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium.

NYU's Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education
The Hudson River Teacher Education Summer Program
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Dr. Mary J. Leou

The Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education was established in the Fall of 2000 within the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. The goal of the Collaborative is to provide a year-round program that stimulates public school teachers in the metropolitan New York City region to incorporate environmental education in their classrooms. The Collaborative also provides increased environmental education opportunities for pre-service teachers through direct experience in the urban environment.

To achieve this mission, the Collaborative works with educators across all grade levels and curriculum areas, delivering prog rams that help them develop the knowledge and skills required to successfully implement environmental education. Strong partnerships with a wide range of formal and non-formal science institutions, environmental organizations, government agencies, and New York City schools allow educators to gain valuable experience with teaching and learning in fieldbased settings. One such initiative is the Hudson River Teacher Education Summer Program.

The Hudson River Teacher Education Summer Program provides environmental educators with an opportunity to work with classroom teachers in expanding their understanding of the Hudson River and the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary. Through direct field experiences in scientific research, restoration and monitoring, teachers acquire knowledge and skills needed to implement ecological studies in their classrooms. As a result they are better equipped to engage their own students in f ield-based stewardship projects such as water quality monitoring, habitat restoration, and other citizen-science programs.

This professional development program was initiated in 2004 with support from the New York City Environmental Fund. During the summer, teachers participate in a 3- week intensive field-based learning experience that includes field trips, seminars, and hands-on activities in and around the Estuary. They also receive a wealth of information to use in their classrooms and begin incorporating the local environment into their own curriculum development processes.

The field experiences afford teachers the opportunity to learn as active participants in a variety of contexts; they are transformative and inspire teachers to consider environmental education as a way of engaging students in real-world science. The reflections of one participant show how the program impacts teachers: “I was inspired. I felt like I gained some ideas and tools for incorporating real-world, meaningful experiences in my work with students… I feel better prepared to help my students, many of them struggling learners, understand, be inspired by, and find alternative resources for some of the academic work they will be tackling in the year ahead.”

As part of its long-term commitment to teachers, the Collaborative continues to work closely with program participants to help them develop projects and lessons that connect students to local estuarine resources. The Collaborative has compiled an online Teacher’s Resource Guide that highlights books, websites, journal articles, and links to the many non-profit, government and scientific organizations working on issues related to the Hudson River and NY-NJ Harbor Estuary. Through collaboration and education, we can increase environmental awareness, foster stewardship and encourage sound ecological practices that enhance and protect our local estuary.

Dr. Mary J. Leou is the Director of NYU’s Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education and Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning. She also directs the Environmental Conservation Education Program at NYU. For more information on the Hudson River Teacher Education Program and Wallerstein Collaborative, please visit www.nyu.edu/wallerstein.

Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)
back to top
Capt. Chas Stamm

The NY-NJ Harbor has some of the best recreational fishing in the world. If you consider the number of species and size of fish that can be caught throughout the year you simply can not beat the Lower Hudson River and the Harbor Estuary. Starting in late March, water temperatures will begin to approach the 47 to 49 degree mark. This tells savvy New York anglers that the big striped bass will soon be on their spawning run up the Hudson.

The Hudson River is the second largest spawning estuary on the east coast. There are estimates of over 7 million striped bass coming into the Hudson during the spring spawning run. They head up river past Haverstraw, West Point, and Saugerties and find just the perfect gravel spot with just enough fresh water to discharge and fertilize their eggs, then they come back down river again. For anglers, the best part of this is that they have to swim through the Harbor to get to and come from the spawning grounds. After spawning the bass will hang around the Harbor for a time and then continue their migration. Summer finds them chasing baitfish all the way up into New England. Fall comes around and they start to come back through the Harbor again.

The striped bass is the premier game fish of the Harbor because of the potential for this creature to get very large: 40 and 50 pound bass are caught every year in these waters. They are great fighters and will strip off 100 yards of line in a hurry if you don’t have the correct tackle. Their numbers are so great in NY-NJ Harbor due to two strong factors. The first factor was the 1976 shutdown of the commercial fishery in the upper Hudson in New York State due to elevated levels of PCBs in the eggs and skin of the striped bass. This reduced the pressure from commercial harvest during the critical striped bass spawning season.

Second, New Jersey took the lead when the New Jersey Chapter of the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association (HRFA) initiated “Game Fish” status for the striped bass in 1989, legislation that became law in 1991. “Game Fish” means “No Sale,” thus eliminating the commercial harvest of the species. Most of the Harbor Estuary offers great striped bass fishing. Some places are better than others. Many details of where and when, what tackle to use and particularly what tides are all posted on the HRFA website - www.hrfa.us.

Liberty State Park in Jersey City is not only a great place to catch some of these great stripers, but will also be the host site of the Liberty Striped Bass Derby on May 6, 2006. If you would like to see some of these great fish, stop by the park on tournament day or check out the website at www.stripedbassderby.com.

Captain Chas Stamm is a licensed charter captain and member of the Board of Directors for the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association New Jersey Chapter. He served as President of HRFA NJ from 1996-1998 and currently maintains the HRFA website - www.hrfanj.org.


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