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Substantial Progress Made Toward
Restoration of the New York–New Jersey Harbor Estuary

Past and proposed restoration and conservation investments will benefit communities and help region adapt to a changing climate.
Restoration of the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary

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  • Kate Boicourt (212) 497-1015
  • Robert Pirani (917) 620-5696
NEW YORK (February 9, 2015)—The result of over $1 billion of federal, state, and local investments in conservation, restoration, and development of publicly-accessible waterfront spaces since 2009 is contained in a new report released today by the New York – New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program’s Restoration Work Group. Restoring the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary: Ensuring Ecosystem Resilience and Sustainability in a Changing Environment (pdf) presents, for the first time ever, a report card on the progress toward regional restoration and conservation goals defined in the Hudson‐Raritan Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Plan. The culmination of years of collaboration by agency officials, scientists, and civic stakeholders, the Comprehensive Restoration Plan was published in 2009 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and the New York – New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program.

Over 80 habitat restoration and land conservation projects have been completed since 2009 in the Harbor Estuary, the most densely developed urban estuary in the nation. These improvements include the restoration of over 200 acres of wetlands and creation or enhancement of over 500 acres of new parks and public spaces.

Progress toward the Plan’s 2020 goals for twelve Target Ecosystem Characteristics is highlighted in Restoring the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary. New publicly-accessible waterfront land acquired and parks opened between 2009-2014 involved over $870 million in investments, including Brooklyn Bridge Park, Lincoln Park in Jersey City, and Newark’s Passaic River waterfront. More than $240 million was spent exclusively on fish and wildlife habitat restoration efforts in comparison. Eighteen miles of previously dammed river habitat was opened up to migrating fish in the Bronx River in New York and the Raritan River in New Jersey. Oyster reefs were restored in the Bronx River, at Naval Station Earle in Raritan Bay, and just offshore of Governors Island. Large-scale island restoration projects were completed in Jamaica Bay.

There has been mixed success on other Plan goals. Only two of the proposed 20 acres of oyster reefs have been established to restore the region’s once-burgeoning oyster population. However, these pilot projects have recently been expanded and should enable progress in the future. Eelgrass restoration, important habitat for juvenile fish, has been challenging and continued water quality improvements and investigation into restoration techniques is critical to its success.

The Report identifies seven priority actions that can help achieve the goals outlined in the Plan. These priority actions stem from the input of nearly 200 participants in a 2014 symposium hosted by the Program. Priority actions highlight the challenge and opportunity of matching restoration goals with the need to adapt our coastline to climate change and sea level rise. Nature-based resiliency measures now being planned by federal, state and local agencies can meet both of these societal needs, but only if undertaken with adequate understanding, monitoring and management.

“Based on the input of dozens of public agencies and hundreds of stakeholders, this report documents past progress and the actions needed for the future,” said Robert Pirani, Director of the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program. “From herons overhead to eels beneath the waves, the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary hosts an abundance of fish and wildlife. Restoration and conservation of their habitat is also a critical means of protecting people from a changing climate and sea level rise.”

“The successful implementation of these restoration projects is a true testament to the collaboration and partnerships that have been established in this region,” said Lisa Baron, Project Manager of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Program at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Chair of the Restoration Work Group. “The advancement of the overall goals and restoration projects outlined in the Comprehensive Restoration Plan are critical elements for a comprehensive strategy to improve the resiliency and sustainability of the region’s shorelines. It has been rewarding to see these partnerships develop to share a common interest in protecting, restoring, and managing our world-class Harbor Estuary.”

Members of the Restoration Work Group include:
The Hudson River Foundation, National Park Service, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, The Nature Conservancy, New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, New York/New Jersey Baykeeper, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, The Trust for Public Land, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program was established by the Congress and the States of New York and New Jersey in 1987 to protect and restore the estuary resources we depend on and share. The Program is managed by the Hudson River Foundation, established in 1981 to make science integral to decision-making with regard to the Hudson River and its watershed and to support competent stewardship of this extraordinary resource.

For the full report or more information, visit www.watersweshare.org or contact habitat@harborestuary.org.

"The Waters We Share" is a collaborative effort developed by the New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program,
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey
and the US Army Corps of Engineers - New York District.
Photo credit in masthead: c. Don Riepe, American Littoral Society

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