Friday, January 27, 2006

In the News: Man-Made Island in Ocean Proposed as Terminal for Natural Gas

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is again making headlines in the news as a new proposal would create a 53-acre man-made island 13.5 miles south of Long Beach, New York. The recently released plan comes on the heels of another proposal to place a floating terminal in the Long Island Sound. The debate continues among environmental groups, elected officials, and energy interests as to the best way to provide access for LNG facilities without adversly impacting natural resources and increasing security risks states this NY Times article. JB

LONG BEACH, N.Y., Jan. 26 — A $1 billion plan for a liquefied natural gas terminal on a 53-acre man-made island in the Atlantic Ocean between Long Island and New Jersey was unveiled Thursday by a new company.

The announcement comes as another proposal, for a ship-like floating terminal anchored in the middle of Long Island Sound, has drawn widespread opposition from environmental groups and public officials in both New York and Connecticut.

The new plan for an island, called Safe Harbor Energy, was announced by officials of the Atlantic Sea Island Group, a privately financed company. They said they would file an application in the next few months for government approvals.

The site is 13.5 miles south of Long Beach and 19 miles east of Sandy Hook, N.J. Company officials chose the Boardwalk here for a news conference that displayed a large plastic panel with a small gray mark representing the artificial island, to show that it would be barely visible. The mark appeared to be about a third the size of cargo ships on the horizon.


Newsday's coverage...,0,2519958.story?coll=ny-main-tabheads1

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Green Roofs: A Solution for Urban Stormwater Runoff?

Green roofs have become a viable solution to many of the environmental issues that plague our cities and urban landscapes. They have the capacity to reduce energy usage, lower the impacts of the "urban heat island" effect, and most importantly to coastal cities, reduce the amount of stormwater runoff entering our waterways and oceans. The following article by the Environmental News Network explores how the green roofs are quickly becoming an affordable and economical manner for increasing environmental conservation. Also, below are two links to local efforts by Columbia Univeristy and Greening Gotham to establish green roofs in our region. JB

U.S. Greenhouse Operators Find Green Roof Niche
January 24, 2006 — By Alex Dominguez, Associated Press

STREET, Maryland — A burgeoning U.S. market for "green roofs" has greenhouse owners cultivating plants that help keep out the summer heat and winter cold while also managing storm water runoff and absorbing carbon dioxide.

Chicago put a green roof on its City Hall in 2000 and since then about 150 public and private buildings have followed, including a downtown McDonald's restaurant and an Apple computer store.

The construction of green roofs has been spurred in part by the city's green building and green roof policies, which apply to new public buildings, and private developments and structures that are subsidized by the city.


Also, in our region Columbia Univeristy has been working to research and implement pilot green roof projects in many coastal communities. More information can be found at:

Greening Gotham Site:

Friday, January 20, 2006

In the News: For Whom Will the Foghorn Blow?

Red Hook has become one of the most highly coveted pieces of waterfront real estate in our region during the past five years. Many see it as a neighborhood with vast development possibilities and undervalued property, while longtime residents seek to retain its historic maritime appeal and functionality. As the planning process moves forward, the Red Hook community will continue to develop its vision for incorporating residential, commerical, and conservation needs. This will set a precedent for waterfront revitalization regionwide states the NY Times in the following article. JB

Red Hook could've been a contender, just like Marlon Brando's character in "On the Waterfront," a film that immortalized the bleak, harsh atmosphere of the Brooklyn docks (even if it was filmed in Hoboken).

With acres of piers for hauling cargo, and sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, Red Hook should have become a leading industrial port or another charming Brooklyn village like nearby Carroll Gardens.

But a series of government miscalculations - like cutting the neighborhood off from the rest of Brooklyn with the Gowanus Expressway and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, and shifts in the waterfront economy to containerized cargo - left the square-mile peninsula with forlorn blocks pocked by tumbledown houses, unkempt lots and hollow-eyed factories.

In recent years, however, Red Hook has become a vigorous place again, so much so that it is now a contested ground for apartment developers wanting to cash in on the views, artists and restaurateurs looking for cheap space, factories seeking a haven from gentrification elsewhere and old-line residents wanting to keep the old-time flavor.


Map of Redhook...

New Publication: GIS Approach To Habitat Restoration Site Selection And Prioritization In The New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary

Identifying and prioritizing restoration opportunties in the New York - New Jersey Harbor Estuary is no easy task. Historically, a consensus driven process has been used to nominate habitat restoration and acquisition sites. However, this format leaves a large amount of room for the interpretation of where and why habitats should qualify. A new approach, introduced by Kelly Kunert while at Duke, shows how GIS (Geographic Information Systems), and existing scientific information can be utilzed as a tool in the decision-making process. JB

“To those who know it, the Hudson River is the most beautiful, messed up, productive, ignored, and surprising piece of water on the face of the earth” (Boyle 1969). This river, which is part of the equally surprising New York-New Jersey (NY/NJ) Harbor Estuary, was once described as “clear as crystal, and as fresh as milk” (Boyle 1969). The Harbor was teeming with life; it contained an abundance of fish and 350 square miles of oyster beds. Today, the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary is seen by many to be an industrial wasteland, with degraded habitat, contaminated sediments, and polluted water. About 80 percent of the harbor’s original benthic habitat and tidal wetlands have been lost. This loss accounts for approximately 300,000 acres, or an area roughly 1.5 times the current area of New York City (Steinberg et al. 2004).

Threats to habitat in the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary are a continuing problem. Recently, plans have been developed to build a NASCAR track on valuable wetland habitat on the western shore of Staten Island (Alderson 3/9/05). While it is true that the NY/NJ Harbor has suffered severe environmental degradation due to industrial pollution, urban development, and harbor dredging, it should not be written off as a lost cause. Despite its history of environmental problems, the Harbor continues to serve as a valuable economic, ecological, and recreational resource for the region. The NY/NJ Harbor Estuary currently supports many competing uses. “It is trout stream and estuary, water supply and sewer, ship channel and shad river, playground and chamber pot. It is abused, revered, and almost always misunderstood” (Boyle 1969).

The Harbor Estuary provides habitat for a number of fish and shellfish species. It is located along the Atlantic flyway, providing feeding and resting areas for both migratory and local bird species (Adams 1998). This diverse ecological habitat also serves as one of the most heavily utilized shipping ports on the east coast of the United States. The NY/NJ Harbor watershed is located in the most densely populated region of the nation, supporting a population of over 20 million people (NY/NJ HEP 1996).

Restoring the degraded habitat of NY/NJ Harbor is important to ensure that the harbor can continue to be used as an economic, recreational, and ecological resource. The NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Program (HEP) has been working with government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the public since 1996 to protect and restore habitat (Mandarano 2004). This paper discusses the measures presently being taken by the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program to restore habitat in the harbor and explores a method to improve the scientific rigor of current restoration site selection efforts using a geographic information system (GIS).

Concern has been expressed by representatives of agencies that fund and undertake habitat restoration efforts in the harbor, that restoration site selection by the HEP is not scientifically grounded (Mandarano 2004). Incorporation of a GIS into the site selection process would serve to address this issue. Moreover, the exploration of an alternate approach to habitat restoration site selection provides the opportunity to analyze and assess the current methods.


Harbor Estuary Program Page on Report

Harbor Estuary Program Habitat Workgroup

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In the News: Coast Guard says Broadwater LNG project needs more proof of safety

Liquefied natural gas, also known by the acronym LNG, and the placement of nearshore LNG terminals has been a controversial topic for many communities up and down the east coast in recent months. Several LNG facilities have been proposed in the region, including one in the Long Island Sound, with companies proposing them promising lower energy costs and cleaner fuel emissions. However, the environmental and safety aspects of the projects are still under scrutiny, as explored in this Newsday article. JB

The Coast Guard has told the company that wants to build a controversial liquefied natural gas terminal in Long Island Sound that it has not supplied adequate information to prove the project is safe.

In a Dec. 21 letter to Broadwater Energy of Houston, which has proposed the world's first offshore liquefied natural gas terminal nine miles off Wading River, Coast Guard Capt. Peter Boynton said the company needs to supply additional information on weather, tank size and strength, construction standards and the impact of leaks before the agency can evaluate whether the terminal would be safe environmentally and secure from terrorism.

Boynton, captain of the port for Long Island Sound, said some of the information supplied was for much smaller vessels and storage tanks than would be used at the facility, and weather information was for Baltimore and not Long Island as requested.

Boynton and the company described the letter as part of the regular give and take between an applicant on a big project and a regulatory agency. John Hritcko, a senior vice president of Broadwater, said the firm had begun compiling some of the requested information before the Coast Guard wrote the letter.

But critics of the project cite the letter as evidence that the project is unsafe and the company untrustworthy.

Read more...,0,7647153.story?coll=ny-top-headlines

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Exploring Our Coasts & Waterfronts: Rincon, Puerto Rico

CMRC's Sustainable Coasts Program facilitates an information exchange among coastal communities to increase knowledge and understanding of regional conservation and management practices. As part of this effort, the Sustainable Coasts Program will periodically explore the waterfronts and coastlines of regions outside the New York - New Jersey Harbor Bight. This most recent installation of Exploring Coasts & Waterfronts focuses on the coasts and conservation issues of Rincon, Puerto Rico. JB

Rincon, Puerto Rico is known as a tropical paradise to many, full of many coastal recreational activities that include swimming, diving, sunbathing, fishing, surfing, and beach combing, to name just a few. However, this beautiful natural coastline also faces several conservation and management challenges that continue to place pressures on the surrounding ecosystems and communities. The following article briefly explores the myriad of natural resources that exist in the region and discusses some of the conservation issues that continue to face the Rincon, Puerto Rico community.

Situated in the northwest corner of Puerto Rico,
the Rincon region encompasses the towns of Rincon, Aquadilla, Aguada, Ramey, and Isabela. This area is known for warm year round temperatures, beautiful beaches, and welcoming people. With water and air temperatures in the eighties in mid-winter this area is known as a travel destination for many seeking a respite from the cold winter months in the United States and elsewhere. A mere four hour plane ride from New York will quickly transport one from the snowy cities of the north to the relatively empty beaches of Rincon.

The recreational activities available in Rincon are extensive to say the least. With crystal clear tropical waters perfect for swimming, surfing, and diving and empty sand-lined beaches available for sunbathing, fishing, and beach-combing, Rincon is truly a paradise. A quick snorkeling adventure exposes an array of sealife that includes many tropical fish, several species of urchins (watch your feet!), extensive brain corals, and many forms of aquatic vegetation. The surfing is world class with great waves up and down the coast in both Rincon proper and up the coast between Aquadilla and Isabela. The wide open beaches provide ample opportunity for sunbathing, fishing, beach combing and many other sun-filled activities.

However, the rapidly developing eco-tourism industry and associated tourism has also placed great pressures on the regions infrastructure and environment, and today many conservation issues are in the forefront Rincon's future. One of the largest challenges the community is facing is development and its impacts to the coastal eco-system. The increased demand for both year-round and seasonal housing has contributed to habitat degradation in the coastal and upland zones and placed large stresses on the fragile infrastructure. One of the the largest infrastructure pressures the region has faced is wastewater management and the closely connected impacts to coastal water quality.

The region has faced these pressures in many ways so far and has put forth a good effort in making decisions at the community level to limit the impacts of development and enhance the draw of Rincon as an eco-tourism destination. At the federal level, Rincon (and all of Puerto Rico) is actually managed by
Region 2 of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Interestingly, Region 2 is also the division of the EPA that covers the waters and coasts of New York and New jersey. With EPA funding and regulation, Puerto Rico has been able to reduce many potential environmental impacts to date. In addition, the Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico (Department of Natural Resources) works to protect the coasts and waters of Rincon.

However, the biggest strides have comes from local and regional environmental and community organizations seeking to protect Rincon's coastal natural resources and promote a sustainable eco-tourism economy. One such example is an effort by the local community, the
Surfrider Foundation, and Environmental Defense to create a marine reserve in Rincon at Tres Palmas. This collaborative effort to protect some of the healthiest elkhorn coral and the surf that breaks over them, established the Reserva Marina Tres Palmas in January 2004. This marine reserve, the first on the mainland of Puerto Rico, was established through a community-driven effort to protect Rincon's coastal and ocean resources and develop an economic driver for sustainable community development. The project has made great strides in conserving the coastal marine resources of the area while informing locals and tourists alike about the value of this ecosystem and dangers of overdevelopment and improper recreational use.

Rincon, Puerto Rico is very simply a tropical paradise with great natural resources both in and out of the water. The pressures of development and limited infrastructure will continue to affect this region as long as tourists and local Puerto Ricans are attracted to the area. Hopefully though, with the help of conservation and management strategies implemented collaboratively by the different agencies and organizations that focus on the region, Rincon, Puerto Rico will continue to offer a diverse range of recreational activities and economic opportunities for many, many years to come.

For more information about Rincon Puerto, Rico...,-67.125092&spn=0.573376,1.373291&t=h

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

New York City Agrees to Reduce Nitrogen Inputs

New York City recently came to an agreement with New York State and Connecticut to significantly reduce nitrogen inputs by 2017. Nitrogen inputs have been correlated with poor water quality and the reduction of available oxygen for aquatic species. A major component of this plan will focus on minimizing the nitrogen inputs from City operated waste water treatment plants in places like Jamaica Bay and the East River. JB

After years of negotiations and litigation between New York, Connecticut and New York City, the city Tuesday agreed to greatly reduce the amount of nitrogen waste discharged into the East River and western Long Island Sound within 11 years.

The agreement stipulates the city will reduce the amount of nitrogen, which is responsible for depleted oxygen levels that have reduced marine life, from four sewage plants by 58.5 percent from 1996 levels by 2017. Ninety percent of the reduction is expected to be made by 2014.

"This is a monumental breakthrough," said David Miller, executive director of the environmental group Audubon New York. "The city is the major source of nitrogen in the western end of Long Island Sound, which is where the hypoxia is most prevalent. This is the single most significant action over the past 15 years to reduce nitrogen pollution into Long Island Sound."

Read more...,0,726834.story

Right Whales Active in New York

The diveristy and abundance of aquatic species in the nearby Atlantic ocean never ceases to amaze me. Earlier today the National Oceangraphic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Data Buoy Center (which is a great resource for wind and wave information) reported the following report of Right Whale activity off the New York coast. Despite years of degradation many species continue to inhabit the marine waters located adjacent to the highly urbanized shores of the Harbor Estuary. And with the assistance of conservation and management efforts from environmental organizations, businesses, and the general public we may one day see these aquatic animals thrive again. JB

NOAA NDBC Website Report:

Caution: Right whales are active off NY. NOAA recommends vessels reduce speeds below 12 knots, when consistent with safe navigation. For further info go to:

Human activities, principally ship strikes and fishery gear entanglements, account for approximately one-third of all known Western North Atlantic right whale mortalities. In an effort to reduce ship collisions with the critically endangered right whale, The Northeast Right Whale Early Warning System (EWS), presently called Right Whale Sighting Advisory System, was developed in late 1996. The System provides real-time right whale sighting information to the commercial shipping industry and other marine traffic from aerial and shipboard surveys conducted by several agencies and organizations and from verified opportunistic sightings. In 1998, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the U.S. Coast Guard, the Center for Coastal Studies, the MA Division of Marine Fisheries, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution , the International Wildlife Coalition, the Whale Center of New England, several whale watch companies, and a high speed ferry company, contributed sightings reports to the NE Right Whale SAS. In the years since it's inception, there has been a wide variety of reporting sources due to the expanding awareness of the plight of the right whale and their vulnerability to collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear.

NOAA Website

More on Right Whales...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

CMRC to Host Business Stewardship Workshop February 16 at Hudson River Foundation

The Harbor Estuary Business Stewardship Initiative seeks to integrate the resources of local businesses with coastal marine conservation efforts by leveraging existing human, financial and institutional assets found within corporations, small businesses and industry to increase habitat protection and restoration.

The Business Stewardship Initiative will focus on offering real mechanisms for environmental coordination that are profitable and efficient. The Initiative will develop a program which provides businesses with the opportunity to voluntarily support coastal conservation activities, such as habitat protection and restoration, and will create a structure for acknowledging participants for their positive contributions through highly visible recognition programs.

As part of the Initiative, we will review business stewardship programs region-wide, including the NY Academy of Sciences’ Harbor Project and Port Authority’s Greenports Program, and also examine efforts in other ecosystems such as Chesapeake Bay’s Businesses for the Bay. This information will be used to develop a structured program that leverages existing volunteer resources, institutional knowledge, and financial capital to increase conservation and restoration activities in the Harbor Estuary.


DATE: February 16, 2006
TIME: 1:00 – 5:00 PM
LOCATION: Hudson River Foundation

The CMRC will organize and facilitate a workshop with businesses and environmental organizations to develop Harbor Estuary Business Stewardship Program. The goal of the day will be to identify the resources and constraints of different business sectors in our region and align them with already established conservation goals. During each working session participants will prioritize the identified categories for the purposes of implementing a Business Stewardship Program.

Business Stewardship Workshop Agenda
1:00 Overview of Harbor Estuary Business Stewardship Initiative

1:15 Chesapeake Bay Program: Businesses for the Bay
Presentation by Bill Matuszeski and Mary Lynn Wilhere on B4B

2:00 Business Sectors in the Harbor Estuary
Part I - Working Session to Identify Sectors
Industry & Manufacturing
Real Estate Development
Waterfront Dependent

Part II - Available Resources
Volunteer Resources
Institutional Knowledge
Financial Capital

3:15 Conservation Targets for Business Stewardship
Working Session to Prioritize Conservation Goals
Habitat Restoration
Pollution Prevention

4:00 Related Stewardship Efforts in the Harbor Estuary
Working Session to Identify Existing Stewardship Efforts
Harbor Project

4:45 Developing the Program
Next Steps and Ways to Get Involved

For more information about the Business Stewardship Initiative and Workshop please contact JB

Executive Budget to Include Record Environmental Funding

A recent press release from New York State Governor Pataki indicates that the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) allocation in the upcoming Executive Budget will be a record setting $180 million for the 2006-2007 fiscal year. In all likelihood, this should beneficially impact local coastal and waterfront projects by adding resources available for conservation and management efforts. Hopefully, this will begin a new trend in government spending on environmental programs at the state and federal levels. JB

Budget Would Increase EPF Funding to $180 Million Annually -- $30 Million Increase Highest Level in New York State History

Governor George E. Pataki today announced that his 2006-07 Executive Budget will include a 20 percent increase for New York’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which would raise total funding for the program to $180 million – more than seven times the level in 1994 and the highest level in State history.

The Governor’s Budget proposal will call for an additional $30 million over the level of funding for the EPF in the 2005-06 budget approved by the Governor and State Legislature.

“In the past 11 years, New York State has made unprecedented investments to protect and enhance our environment, and this year I will be proposing a record level of funding for the EPF the highest level in State history, to ensure this important effort continues,” Governor Pataki said. “By providing an additional $30 million for the EPF, the State will support vital projects to protect valuable open space, encourage waterfront revitalization, reduce pollution, create and expand State and municipal parks, and preserve precious farmland.

“I am proud of the work that has been accomplished through the EPF as this program has grown from $25 million in 1994 to $150 million in 2005,” the Governor said. “I am hopeful that the Legislature will support this proposal to provide additional funding that will allow us to continue to improve our environment and the quality of life across the Empire State.”

The EPF has been a vital tool in supporting the State’s commitment to protecting open space. Since 1995, the State has invested more than $586 million to acquire and protect more than 932,000 acres. Other programs funded by the EPF include the Long Island Pine Barrens Commission, the South Shore Estuary Reserve, the Hudson River Estuary Program, municipal recycling programs, and pollution control programs.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Exploring Our Coasts and Waterfronts: The Gowanus Canal

CMRC's Sustainable Coasts Program facilitates an information exchange among coastal communities worldwide to increase knowledge and understanding of regional conservation and management practices. As part of this effort, the Sustainable Coasts Program will periodically explore the waterfronts and coastlines of the New York - New Jersey Harbor Bight (and in the future of other regions worldwide). The first installation of the Sustainable Coasts Programs explores the Gowanus Canal and surrounding community. JB

The Gowanus Canal, originally called Gowanes Creek after Gouwane of the local Lenape tribe called the Canarsee, is one of the most highly industrialized and polluted waterways in the United States. However, in recent years the Canal has started to recover and is now home to a vibrant community that incorporates the residents and businesses of Gowanus, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope and Boerum Hill. These days, local residents are often seen recreating on and around the Canal and thanks to an active local constituency, recovery and management plans are being developed and implemented to improve conservation and public access to the waterway.

The Gowanus Canal once was home to a great natural ecosystem that contained an amazing amount of wildlife and tremendously valuable habitat. Anecdotal references indicate that prior to the industrialization of the Creek, oysters and other sealife were abundant and regularly consumed by local residents, which included soldiers who inhabited the Old Stone House during the American Revolution. However, as the Creek became more developed bulkheads replaced marshes, and eventually the amount of pollution introduced to the habitat led to a significant decrease in the biological productivity of the area.

Fortunately in recent years, thanks to the support of local organizations such as the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation and elected officials in the region, the Canal has been on the rebound. One project, implemented by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection was able to repair a defunct flushing tunnel that circulates the waters of the canal and has greatly improved water quality.

Several developers have purchased real estate in the area and are in the process of creating plans for how the land will be used. Local residents, environmental organizations and the developers have already started to work together to create a vision for the Canal - some see it as a Venice of the East Coast - and the upcoming years will certainly prove critical in the planning and management of its future.

For more information...

Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation

Gowanus Canal History

Gowanus Community Draft Plan

Community Board 6

Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club

Bridges of the Gowanus Canal

Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus Map and Descriptions and CB6 Neighborhoods

NY Times: Gowanus

Friday, January 06, 2006

Protecting New York City From Coastal Hazards

The following Op-Ed was submitted by the CMRC to the New York Times in Fall 2005. The theme, coastal hazards and resource management, has been a topic of many news articles and television specials in the past year, yet the question still remains - Are we ready? JB

A hurricane packing winds of one hundred and fifty miles per hour quickly approaches the Northeast coast. The horizon rapidly darkens as torrential rains soak the soil and creek beds overflow their banks. Waves of over twenty feet crash on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean with great force, ravenously consuming sand from the region’s outermost islands. As high tide peaks, the barrier beaches are overwhelmed by a rushing surge of water almost twenty feet tall.

The Hurricane of 1938 left hundreds dead and thousands injured. This great storm damaged over 75,000 buildings and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in economic losses. However, although the storm was one of the worst on record, it missed the heavily populated metropolitan region directly to its west: another fifty miles, and Manhattan would have caught its eye.

Coastal disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis are uncontrollable acts of nature. While we cannot stop these storms from hitting land, there are two major categories of response to coastal hazard risk. First, disaster relief plans can help to prepare and protect people and property, both before, and after, a storm. Equally important, but significantly less discussed, is the role of coastal management policy making. Decisions based upon good science and implemented with strong inter-agency coordination can effectively reduce coastal flood, wind and surge impacts.

New York City and New Orleans have a lot in common. New Orleans’ importance as a commercial port and center for energy production closely parallels that of the Port of NY as a major economic driver for the region. Millions of people live within an hour drive of both cities, and housing, roadways and other forms of development dominate their respective landscapes. Natural resources abound in both cities, as anybody who swims, kayaks, surfs, fishes, or just relaxes on their shores can attest. Both cities are home to numerous aquatic and terrestrial species that thrive in the bays, rivers and uplands of their respective waterways.

Unfortunately, great cities tend to have great impacts on ecosystems and natural resources. In New York, much like New Orleans, bulkheads and seawalls have replaced gently sloping shorelines, while thousands of acres of wetlands have been filled for residential and commercial development. Shorelines have been altered so much that they no longer retain their natural ability to absorb the impacts of tidal fluctuations. As in New Orleans, New York City is now bounded by poorly engineered shorelines that are incapable of protecting citizens from large-scale flood events.

Another similarity between New York City and New Orleans is the way in which the city’s coastal resources are managed – efforts tend to be uncoordinated, characterized by short-sighted goals that too often dictated by political agendas. A lack of foresight by federal, state, and local agencies has led to the overdevelopment at the shoreline, potentially endangering thousands of residents. If anything can be learned in Katrina’s horrific wake, it is that coastal management planning frameworks need to be revised and updated to include policies that address the long-term hazards (such as a 100 year storm) facing the coastal zone. Some key priorities to protect people in urban coastal areas include the following:

Create policies that protect and enhance barrier beaches and dune ecosystems. These areas are often the first line of defense against the waves, wind and surge associated with coastal storms. Increasing the natural capacity of barrier beaches to deflect a storm’s energy will directly lead to a lower risk for residents. In places like the Rockaways and Coney Island, dunes have largely disappeared or have been destroyed by coastal development. Creating programs that restore these natural sea walls can be accomplished, most notably by using discarded Christmas trees to hold sand in place.

Marshes and wetlands found in estuaries, bays and rivers also offer great protection from coastal waves, winds, and flooding. Their ability to absorb the excess waters associated with storms is unparalleled. As a first step, remaining wetlands need to be protected from development. Next, an aggressive, region-wide plan needs to be implemented that restores damaged marshes and creates new acreage wherever possible. In New York City and surrounding environs, over 300,000 acres, or about 80 percent of natural wetlands, have been either dredged, filled or destroyed for development purposes. Further loss is simply unacceptable.

Planners and policy-makers focusing on residential and commercial development should implement more stringent guidelines for new construction, especially when it takes place in coastal flood zone areas. Policy-makers should also design incentives to create buffers between existing shorelines and new construction. This would directly reduce the flood-related risk to human lives and property. In coastal areas where revitalization is taking place, as in Greenpoint and Red Hook, storm-related hazards must be a focus of redevelopment planning guidelines.

Most importantly, Federal, state, and local agencies need to coordinate their coastal management policies. The current structure of planning and decision-making is ineffectual, with institutional overlap in responsibility, and a focus on short-term objectives for political expediency rather instead of a well-coordinated, long term strategy to manage coastal natural resources and anticipate and manage risk. Federal agencies with very similar missions often duplicate efforts and create counterproductive initiatives. At the state and local levels, standards and regulations can vary across political boundaries, without respect for the physical and ecological systems.

Furthermore, the incentive for these different levels of decision-makers to coordinate is missing. While there are many organizations and commissions at all levels – including government, non-government, and private sector stakeholders - dedicated to managing coastal resources, there is also very limited interaction and communication amongst these efforts. As a result, good science gets lost in policy decisions, which increases the risk of human failure should catastrophe strike.

The challenges of managing coastal resources and natural hazards are pertinent and very real for many cities, as we’ve seen in New Orleans – but also in New York. In Katrina’s wake, it is imperative that we examine our own preparedness for coastal hazards, both in terms of disaster readiness, and longer-term policy implications. Although New York City has not been hit severely by a storm of recent record, the Hurricane of 1938 illustrates that an event of this magnitude is not entirely out of the question. If the catastrophe in New Orleans can offer any lessons for other waterfront cities, it is that there’s no room for error in planning for coastal hazards.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hudson cleanup on agenda

The Hudson River Estuary Program recently released its "Action Agenda 2005 - 2009," a plan that establishes multiple conservation goals for protecting habitat and wildlife in the region. The article below, from the Poughkeepsie Journal, outlines some of the major points of the plan, which includes a call for extensive partnerships and $40 million in total funding. JB

If the state's blueprint for improving the Hudson River is successful, 2009 will mark not only the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage but also substantial improvement in the health of an estuary that has been severely degraded since colonial times.

The Hudson River Estuary Program has released its "action agenda." It lays out a series of goals the state hopes to reach by 2009 and beyond, with help from private groups, other levels of government and businesses.

The goals range from restoring fisheries, protecting habitats and making the river safe for swimming, to preserving scenic views and promoting river-based education and recreation.

"We tried very hard to make this a shared vision among many constituency groups and people who care about the Hudson," said Fran Dunwell, the estuary program coordinator. "This is not a situation where the state can do it alone. It will require partnerships."


See the Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda here:

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

An Ocean Agenda for New York

In Fall 2005, Governor Pataki hosted a Symposium on the future of our coasts and oceans in New York. The following editorial from the NY Times explores the implications of the Governor's actions, and suggests that we need to do more to protect our coastal natural resources in the region. JB

It's no secret that the oceans are under siege. In recent years, two major commissions - the Congressionally established United States Commission on Ocean Policy and the independent Pew Oceans Commission - have urged prompt action to end overfishing of commercially valuable species, reduce pollution from cities and farms, restore wetlands and control development along the coasts. Obviously, a problem of this magnitude requires intervention by Washington and even international organizations, but the states - which control waters up to three miles offshore - also have important roles to play.

With that in mind, some states, notably California, have recently strengthened their laws and overhauled the way they manage ocean resources. Now a coalition of environmental groups is urging Gov. George Pataki to do the same.

Over the years, New York has done much to protect its marine assets - its 1,850 miles of tidal shoreline, its many beaches and its rich assortment of distinct coastal environments, notably the South Shore of Long Island, Long Island Sound and the Hudson River estuary. But the challenges keep growing.


Fish gotta swim near Hudson River

As the development of Hudson River Park continues on Manhattan's west side many changes are taking place. Longtime resident The River Project is looking to take advantage of the changing landscape to construct a temporary aquarium near downtown. JB

New York Harbor fish might soon make an appearance on the bank of the Hudson River, if a Tribeca marine science field station gets its way.

The River Project, a 19-year old non-profit organization, hopes to build City Fish, a temporary, modular outdoor aquarium exhibit next summer on the bike path/walkway, near Stuyvesant High School. Designed with sweeping windows, passersby will be able to observe native New York Harbor fish, invertebrates and seaweed from outside, although visitors could also step
inside the 1,000-sq. ft. aquarium structure, which might open to the public as soon as next summer. Greenery will cascade down from the rooftop and decorate the ground level as well.

The River Project was displaced from its longtime home at Pier 26 for the renovation of Segment 3 of the Hudson River Park project. The Hudson River Park Trust, which is developing the park, donated park space north of Chambers St. to the River Project until renovation begins on that portion of the park. The River Project hopes to open the aquarium by July 4 and keep it open until construction begins near the bike path, which will start sometime in 2007. Last week, the organization submitted a proposal to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation for a $1 million cultural enhancement grant.

“This is basically our one chance of doing this project,” said River Project founder and executive director Cathy Drew in a telephone interview. “We’re putting all our resources into this [aquarium.]”


Monday, January 02, 2006

Coastal Events Make Headlines in 2005. What's in Store for our Oceans and Coasts in 2006?

In 2005, two major coastal events dominated the headlines and the lives of millions.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami, which actually occurred in the last week of 2004, decimated village after village throughout the coastal regions of Africa and Southern Asia. The end result was one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory. Most of 2005 was spent cleaning up the largescale destruction and planning for the future of local coastal communities while trying to understand and balance human development with natural ecosystems.,GGLD:2004-25,GGLD:en&q=2004+tsunami

Hurricane season 2005 turned out to be a record setting one for the United States, with over 30 named storms in the Atlantic and Gulf Basins. Three major hurricanes made landfall in the Gulf of Mexico causing billions in damage and taking many, many lives. Wilma and Rita destroyed life and property in Flordia and Texas respectively, but it was Katrina that, by far, did the most damage.

New Orleans and the surrounding areas took the brunt of the storm damage, with some communities under as much as 20-30 feet of water. Entire communities were literally blown away by the Category 5 (4 at landfall) storm that inundated the highly engineered coastal system with flood waters that were simply beyond the levees capacity.

The storm brought the real threat of coastal hazards to the attention of the American public, and the following hazard response of FEMA and others was seen as unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the coastal disaster. The pieces are now just beginning to be put back and place and the debate as to the future of New Orleans and it's surrounding coastal communities continues to take place.,GGLD:2004-25,GGLD:en&q=katrina

So, what is in store for our coasts and oceans in 2006? If 2005 sets any precedent (and we certainly hope it doesn't) we could be in for more significant coastal hazard events that seriously affect the well being of our communities and natural ecosystems. Now is the time to being to think about how we manage, develop, and conserve our coastal environment both around the world and here at home in the New York - New Jersey region.

At the end of the day we are as susceptible to the threats of tsunamis and hurricanes, and need to approach our coastal conservation planning with that in mind. The CMRC will be working to create solutions to these very issues in the upcoming year and look forward to your support. JB