Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Conserving our Coasts and Waterfronts: The New York - New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program

As part of the CMRC's Harbor Bight Policy Initiative, we will be exploring the programs and people involved of the conservation and restoration our coasts and waterfronts and updating their latest activities. The list of the “keepers” of our shores includes a wide array of entities such as government agencies, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, community-based organizations, businesses and even individuals. The eventual goal of this effort is to create an interactive catalog of activities, updated on an annual basis, that highlights the entities that are involved with minding our shores. The first installation of this effort explores one of our regions major conservation programs, the New York - New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program. JB

Stretching from the Tappan Zee Bridge to the Mouth of the Atlantic Ocean, the New York - Jersey Harbor Estuary is a highly valuable coastal ecosystem located in one of the most populated places on earth. The Harbor Estuary includes waterways such as the Lower and Upper New York Harbor, Raritan Bay, the Arthur and Kill van Kulls, portions of the Long Island Sound and Hudson River, and the Passaic and Hackensack Rivers in New Jersey.

An estuary is an area where salt and fresh water mix, and within the Harbor Estuary salinities (a measure of saltiness) vary as one moves closer to, or further from, the Atlantic Ocean. This in turn creates a multitude of habitats that have historically attracted numerous animal and fish species, and subsequently humans, to its shores. The amount of coastline in the Harbor Estuary is truly amazing, as the region includes hundreds of miles of natural shoreline, but unfortunately much of the ecosystem has been significantly impacted by human development. Home to miles of urban waterfront, the Harbor Estuary is constantly facing the pressures of development and pollution.

In 1987, the National Estuary Program, a Federal Program established by Congress to protect and restore our nation’s estuarine ecosystems, was created. The Program quickly identified the New York - New Jersey Harbor Estuary as an "Estuary of National Significance" the following year. Thus the Harbor Estuary Program, or HEP as it is often referred to, was born. Over the next decade the program created with the assistance of its many partners its Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP). Completed in 1997, the CCMP outlined the environmental challenges in the ecosystem and created an implementation plan for solving those issues.

In 2004, HEP created a list of Targets and Goals, inspired by the Chesapeake Bay Program, that outlined focus areas for the next decade of the program. The following Goals were identified as important to the long-term health of the ecosystem:

Goal 1 - Fishing and Swimming: All of the Harbor waters will meet the Fishable/Swimmable goal of the Clean Water Act.

Goal 2 - Habitat and Ecological Health: Preserve, manage, and enhance the Estuary’s vital habitat, ecological function, and biodiversity so that the Harbor is a system of diverse natural communities.

Goal 3 - Public Access: Ensure that all residents in the core area of the Harbor have a public waterfront access site within thirty minutes of their home for boating, fishing, swimming and/or waterfront leisure (e.g. walking, bird watching, and picnicking), without harming important habitat areas.

Goal 4 - Clean Sediment and Navigation: The Port of New York and New Jersey will be an integral and complementary part of the world-class NY-NJ Harbor Estuary, that is environmentally sustainable, economically efficient, and safe for commercial and recreational navigation.

Goal 5 - Stewardship: Everyone who lives or works in the Estuary watershed acts a steward for the ecosystem.

Another major component to the Targets and Goals was the creation of very specific targets to achieve the five goals mentioned above. A series of well developed targets very clearly outline the steps that are needed to improve ecosystem health and community access and involvement.

In order to implement the CCMP, Targets and Goals, and other efforts, HEP works through a collaborative process of workgroups and committees. The Policy and Management Committees are key decision-makers in the Program and each is composed of several agency representatives as well as members of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) and Science and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC). Several other more "focused" workgroups and committees works on specific issues that include Habitat, Nutrients, Toxics, Sediment/Navigation, and Pathogens. The Citizens Advisory Committee is the final piece of the puzzle and is the link between community-based organizations and individuals to the program.

To date, HEP has been able to make major strides in the conservation and restoration of the ecosystem. Hundreds of acres of coastal habitat have been either
acquired or restored through the Habitat Workgroup while water quality has improved due to the hard work of several partners of the Program. However, the limited budget of the Program, as well as the time constraints of partners involved in the effort, have limited the potential impact HEP is capable of. As a result, several non-profit organizations, such as the CMRC and Hudson River Foundation, have set out to find additional resources for the implementation of HEP’s Targets and Goals. Only with adequate resource will the amazing natural resources of the Harbor Estuary thrive and be enjoyed by all of its residents.

The best way to get involved with the Harbor Estuary Program is to attend a CAC or Habitat Workgroup meeting. Please view their respective webpages (listed below) and signup for their list-servs that constantly update recipients of the latest news and events in the Harbor Estuary. If you have additional questions, please email the CMRC at

For More Information:

The New York - New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program

Google Map of the New York - New Jersey Harbor Estuary

HEP Citizens Advisory Committee

HEP Habitat Workgroup

HEP Targets and Goals

Estuary Related Links

Friday, February 24, 2006

In the News: Port Agency to Break Lease in Bid to Block Dubai Sale

Ports and maritime operations play a significant role in the economy, environment, and security of our coasts and waterfronts in the Harbor Estuary. A recent deal made by the Federal government would provide a long-term operations contract to a company based in the United Arab Emirates, a deal that many have questioned on security and economic concerns. One of the six ports potentially affected by this deal would be Port Newark, which is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, our region's major maritime agency. The Port Authority's stance on the deal in essence wishes to prevent operations from being transfered to Dubai Ports World comments the NY Times in the article below. JB

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will break the lease of a big container terminal at Port Newark to stop a company based in Dubai from taking over part of the operation there, the agency's chairman said yesterday.

Anthony R. Coscia, the chairman, said the company that holds a lease on the terminal through 2030 violated the contract by selling a half-interest in it to Dubai Ports World without seeking the landlord's approval. He said the Port Authority would ask a judge in New Jersey Superior Court in Newark today to affirm its right to end the lease.

"Fundamentally, this is a landlord-tenant dispute," said Mr. Coscia, who is a lawyer. "We're terminating their lease because they sublet illegally."

Separately, the State of New Jersey sued the federal government in United States District Court in Trenton yesterday afternoon to block the Dubai deal. The lawsuit said Bush administration officials failed to fulfill their duty to fully investigate the national security implications of the transaction.

The Dubai company has agreed to pay $6.8 billion to buy Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation, a port operator based in London. One of the subsidiaries it would acquire, P & O Ports North America, owns half of the company that operates the Port Newark Container Terminal.

Read more:

More on Port Operations Deal:

Port Authority of New York & New Jersey:

Thursday, February 16, 2006

CMRC Press Release: Stewardship Initiative Brings Together Businesses And Conservation In The Harbor Estuary

Press contact: The Coastal Marine Resource Center of New York, 646-515-9290 If you are not a member of the press, please write to us at info@thecmrc.org or see our home page.


NEW YORK, NY (February 16, 2006) – Leaders from the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary business and environmental communities joined forces today at the Hudson River Foundation to kick-off a Stewardship Initiative that seeks to integrate the resources of the private sector with efforts to conserve and restore this dynamic but often neglected ecosystem.

The Business Stewardship Initiative is a collaborative effort spearheaded by the Coastal Marine Resource Center of New York, the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program, and the Chesapeake Bay’s Businesses for the Bay Program to leverage resources found within local businesses to increase conservation, restoration, and public access throughout the region.

A diverse range of organizations participated in the event including representatives from AIG Insurance, Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Credit Suisse, East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corporation, Environmental Resources Management, EPA Performance Track, Fordham University, Hudson River Estuary Program, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, Monmouth University, NY Shipping Association, NY Water Taxi, NY/NJ COAST, NYC Cruise Terminal, NYC Soil & Water Conservation District, Port Authority of NY & NJ, Patagonia, Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, and Verdant Power LLC.

The NY – NJ Harbor Estuary is home to one of the largest business communities in the world. An extensive network of businesses employs millions of residents and adds billions of dollars to the local economy. Unfortunately, these entities can also contribute to habitat degradation and reduced ecosystem health. By offering real mechanisms for environmental coordination that are profitable and efficient, and acknowledging participants for their positive contributions, the Stewardship Initiative hopes to provide businesses with the opportunity to voluntarily support coastal conservation regionwide.

For More Information Contact:
Joel Banslaben, Executive Director
Coastal Marine Resource Center of New York
Tel: 646-515-9290

Monday, February 13, 2006

Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan

Jamaica Bay is home to a wide array of wildlife and amazing coastal habitat only a stones throw away from downtown Manhattan. Located in the southeastern-most portion of New York City, bounded by Brooklyn to the northwest and Queens to the northeast and south, the region has long been long known for its world-class fishing and numerous recreational opportunities that include swimming, kayaking, windsurfing, and birdwatching just to name a few. However, the ecosystem has also endured high levels of pollution and habitat degradation in recent centuries, a byproduct of development and treated (and sometime untreated) wastewater. The good news is that the Jamaica Bay Task Force, created by Local NYC Law 71, is working to better understand the environmental issues of the region and will eventually create a plan for restoring and conserving this amazing coastal resource. JB

Sandwiched between the Rockaway Peninsula and the "mainland" of Kings (Brooklyn) and Queens Counties, Jamaica Bay is a estuarine oasis in an urban landscape. Home to millions of people the region is one of the most densely populated on earth. The great natural resources of Jamaica Bay have attracted many local New York City residents to its shores for recreational and commercial activities, but have also led to a degradation of its habitat and wildlife. Jamaica Bay is truly an urban environment with great potential for restoration, and with the right planning and management it may be able to continue providing protection and foraging grounds for the multiple animal and plant species that inhabitat its shores.

Jamaica Bay connects to the Lower New York Harbor and Atlantic Ocean via Rockaway Inlet to its west. The region is an estuary, and as such the salinity of the waters in the Bay range from completely fresh to entirely saltly, with the average salinity falling somewhere in between. With this range in salinity comes a wide range of species both in-and-out of the water. In the water, a multitude of fish species including striped bass, flounder, and fluke to name a few can be found side-by-side with various crab species, tons of invertebrates, and even the occasional seal and sea turtle! As well, the area is known for its world class birdwatching, and depending on the day or even the season one can observe everything from great egrets, blue herons, and raptors to piping plovers, seagulls, and many species of waterfowl.

The lands surrounding Jamaica Bay are owned by several different agencies, organizations, and individuals. One of the biggest landowners is the Federal Government which operates the
Gateway National Recreation Area. In addition, there are several city parks that can be found throughout the estuary including Marine Park and Edgemere Park. One of the biggest landholders is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as they operate JFK International Airport in the northeast corner of the Bay. Individual landowners comprise the majority of the remaining real estate, and some parcels still are undeveloped to this day, although some large development projects are planned or being implemented throughout the region.

Due to the intense development of the region, many pollutants have been added to the system and a high percentage of the estuarine habitat has been lost. One of the main sources of degradation historically has been from the multiple wastewater treatment plants in the Bay. During dry weather most of these plants release only treated wastewater, and impacts to the natural environment are limited. However, during higher than usual rain events the system becomes overloaded and raw sewage is released into the waters of several inlets and creeks that fringe Jamaica Bay. Fortunately, the
NYC Department of Environmental Protection is working on many projects to eliminate the amount of wastewater entering the ecosystem.

Another major cause for concern in Jamaica Bay has been the loss of various sea and marsh grasses that were traditionally found throughout the Bay. Marsh loss in general has perplexed local scientists and residents alike, with numerous hypotheses being put forward as to why and
how the grasses and marsh habitat have been lost. Some of the leading rationales include, an increase in boat wakes, sea level rise, and many more. Eutrophication, or over-nutrification of the Bay is also seen as leading to poor water quality and habitat degradation in the region.

In 2002, multiple stakeholders came together to form the
Jamaica Bay Task Force (JBTF). The JBTF is a coalition brought together by the City Council to review the multiple environmental issues of the Bay and create a management plan to restore and conserve its amazing natural resources. The partnership includes many members of the local environmental community including NYCDEP, Port Authority (PANYNJ), US National Parks Service (NPS), local community boards, and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) to name a few. Many non-profit organizations have been involved with the process including NRDC and the Friends of Gateway. Part of the JBTF process includes multiple public meetings, one of which took place at York College in Jamaica Queens on February 9, 2006. A full report on the JBTF is expected on September 1, 2006 when NYCDEP is required to complete the Watershed Protection Plan and submit their findings to the Mayor and the Speaker of the Council.

For more information:

Jamaica Bay Task Force

Jamaica Bay Research and Management Information Network

Friends of Gateway

Jamaica Bay Wikipedia Page

Advisory Committee

Gateway National Recreation Area (National Parks Service)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In the News: Commission Leaders Say Government Must Act Fast to Save Oceans

Leaders representing both the Pew Oceans Commission and US Commission on Ocean Policy recently identified that national policy-makers were not doing nearly enough to implement the recommendations of their studies. In a recent joining of the groups, both gave Congress and the Bush Administration a "D+" on the topic of creating far-reaching ocean policy that will immediately impact the conservation of our coasts and waterways. Commission leaders are now strongly urging for a more proactive approach in the upcoming year writes the Environmental News Network. JB

Note: New York State recently conducted a Ocean and Great Lakes Symposium that recorded similar findings to the National level commissions. See http://www.nrdc.org/media/#0201b for more information and stay tuned for updates.

WASHINGTON — Leaders of two expert commissions that spent years examining the nation's ocean policies give the Congress, Bush administration and governors a near-failing grade for not moving quickly enough to address hundreds of their recommendations.

The presidential panel chaired by James Watkins, a retired Navy admiral and former energy secretary, recommended in September 2004 creating a new trust fund, boosting research, improving fisheries management and consolidating federal oversight among 212 recommendations in its 610-page final report, the first federal review of ocean policy in 35 years.

The privately funded Pew Oceans Commission chaired by Leon Panetta, former President Clinton's White House chief of staff, reached many of the same conclusions a year earlier.

Now, members of the former commissions have joined forces, saying the government's "D+" effort so far could imperil the oceans' health and abundance if the problems are left untended much longer.

"We're hopeful that 2006 is going to be a banner year for ocean policy reform," Watkins said Thursday. "The crisis now is to prevent an irreversible situation five to seven years from now, that will grow exponentially if we don't get on these things."

Panetta agreed: "We're unified in saying to the administration and the Congress, 'We've got to wake up and deal with this crisis facing our oceans.' "


In the News: Sleeping Beauty - Governors Island

Just a few hundred yards off the southern tip of Manhattan lies a mostly uninhabited island with grand plans for both development and conservation. Governors Island, which recently became property of the City of New York after centuries of Federal ownership, is a controversial piece of waterfront real-estate located in heart of an urban metropolis. Several different agencies, organizations, and individuals have a myriad of ideas of what should become of this undeveloped island. While some are calling for hotels, theaters, and high-rise residential condominiums, others are calling for conservation and increased public access states this recent NY Times article. JB

GOVERNORS ISLAND, 172 acres of American history lying just off the southern tip of Manhattan, is terra incognita to most New Yorkers. Commuters, glimpsing it from the Staten Island Ferry, see only an array of abandoned modern buildings and two unpromising landmarks: a white ventilation tower belonging to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, and Castle Williams, a grim 19th-century fortification, dark red and pierced by black windows.

The island had belonged to the Army since the 1800's. The Coast Guard took over in 1965 but left in 1997, and it's been moldering ever since. Only within the past few months, after years of neglect and delay, has this stark backdrop to a cross-harbor commute emerged as a major concern for the city.

Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff has labeled redevelopment of the island a top priority for Mayor Bloomberg's second term. "Everyone recognizes that to achieve the island's potential," Mr. Doctoroff said, "we have to spend wisely now."

Later this month the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, known as Gipec, the state and city entity responsible for oversight of the island, will choose consultants to help it supervise planning for the island. And on Feb. 15, Gipec will solicit formal proposals from interested developers.

Some financing is finally on the horizon. On Jan. 12, Gov. George Pataki announced that his 2006-07 budget request would include $30 million, and the mayor has asked for $30 million more in his current budget to pay for urgent repairs to the island's most frail structures. These improvements, Mayor Bloomberg indicated in his Jan. 26 State of the City speech, will pave the way for a grand design, soon to materialize. "We will select a specific plan for the future of Governors Island," he said, "that makes the most of its spectacular location, beauty and history."


Overview of Proposals

Google Map of Governors Island

Thursday, February 02, 2006

In the News: Sea deals another blow to LBI dunes

Many of our coastal communities from Cape May to Montauk face serious coastal erosion issues this time of year as Nor'easters continue to batter their shores. Sand is continually pulled offshore in a natural process that creates sandbars to protect the landward beaches and dunes, leaving waterfront homes at risk. This process leads to a debate on the topic of sand replenishment and the benefits and impacts of spending millions of dollars to protect property and businesses. In Long Beach Township in New Jersey, the issue recently came to a head after another round of coastal storms removed much of the remaining sand from the township's shores. The Asbury Park Press writes that the Army Corps of Engineers is ready to implement a renourishment plan but many in the local community are unwilling to provide the public access that is required to go forward. JB

LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP - Two Ocean Boulevard homes, assessed at $2.1 million each, gave new meaning Wednesday to the phrase "waterfront property."

Wind-driven waves from a mild cold front Tuesday night and Wednesday morning swept sand from under the homes, leaving 6 feet of supporting bulkhead pilings exposed and 6-by-6 beams dangling 2 feet from the nearest solid ground.

Township Commissioner Robert Palmer said municipal officials approved an emergency appropriation of $150,000 to pay for sand to be trucked in to rebuild the 18- to 20-foot dunes that overnight were worn down to half their size, swept away by the ocean.

In the North Beach section, 20-foot dunes were also severely damaged, appearing sheared in half, Palmer said, though no homes were threatened.

This most recent case of erosion again focused attention on the multimillion-dollar beach replenishment and storm protection project that is pending in five of the six towns that share the island. The project is in jeopardy because many homeowners have refused to sign access and work easements needed to do the work. Long Beach Township needs approximately 600 easements. As of last week, the township had about 50.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Chesapeake Bay's Businesses for the Bay Program: A Model for Business Stewardship

The CMRC will be focusing the majority of its efforts in 2006 on the development of a Harbor Estuary Business Stewardship Initiative. In addition to the upcoming Business Stewardship Workshop, the CMRC and our regional partners will be working with representatives from the Chesapeake Bay's Businesses for the Bay Program to learn from their very successful experience and facilitate the creation of a business stewardship model for the Harbor Estuary. Today, we briefly explore the Businesses for the Bay Program as a great example of the progress that can be achieved when businesses and conservation goals come together. JB

The Chesapeake Bay's Businesses for the Bay Program is one of the few "business stewardship" programs in the United States that combines the resources of the private sector with coastal conservation efforts. Over the past ten years, the B4B Program has been able to leverage the assets of local businesses to reduce pollution, increase participation, and improve the amazing natural environment of the Chesapeake Bay. The B4B Program has accomplished these great results by creating a voluntary pollution prevention and awareness campaign that has over time attracted over 700 businesses to the program.

Businesses for the Bay is a voluntary team of forward-looking businesses, industries, government facilities and other organizations within the Chesapeake Bay watershed that is committed to implementing pollution prevention in its daily operations and reducing the releases of chemical contaminants and other wastes to the Chesapeake Bay.

The Businesses for the Bay Mission is to build support for pollution prevention among all businesses throughout the watershed while their goal is to contribute to the long-term improvement of the quality of the Bay and its rivers through widespread, voluntary implementation of pollution prevention practices throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The amazing success of the Businesses for the Bay Program is truly illustrated by the amount of businesses that have joined the program over the past ten years. As of February 2006, 708 local
Chesapeake Businesses have joined the effort. For a full list of participants go to http://www.chesapeakebay.net/b4bay.htm (go to "Awards").

One of the key components of the Businesses for the Bay Program has been its reward and recognition program to award those businesses that have excelled in their conservation efforts. The
Businesses For The Bay Excellence Awards recognize Businesses for the Bay participants for their outstanding work in pollution prevention programs to help protect the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. The positive benefits of this type of recognition program have certainly attracted many additional businesses over time with its awards in categories such as "Outstanding achievement in Pollution Prevention" and "Partner of the Year."

For a full list of 2005 Business Stewardship Awards go to:

The Chesapeake Bay's Businesses for the Bay Program is an excellent model for incorporating businesses into the coastal conservation and management process. As the Harbor estuary develops a similar program, we will be looking forward to working with representatives of the B4B Program to establish a framework based on the Chesapeake's great successes and are excited about integrating the resources of our local private sector entities into the conservation targets and goals of the Harbor estuary community.

For more information on the Chesapeake Bay Program...


CMRC Business Stewardship Initiative