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2009 Hudson River Summit

Revitalizing and sustaining the river valley environment for the benefit of all its residents

collage of three Hudson River images

On June 8, the 2009 Hudson River Summit brought together hundreds of regional, state and national leaders to focus on strategies for revitalizing and sustaining the Hudson River valley's environment for the benefit of all its residents. Organized by the Hudson River Estuary Program, this dialogue about the future of the river was co-sponsored by Historic Hudson River Towns, Clearwater, Hudson River Foundation, Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, The Hudson River Environmental Society, The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, The Nature Conservancy and others.

Conference Materials:

Conference Agenda:

  • 10:00 Registration and networking
  • 10:30 Building a Common Vision for the Hudson River Estuary: Commissioner Grannis and Summit participants will discuss The State of the Hudson 2009 and the Discussion Draft Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda 2010-2014, initiating a dialogue on the future of the river in this Quadricentennial year.
    • Welcome: Pete Grannis, Commissioner, NYSDEC; Dennis Suszkowski, Chairman, Hudson River Estuary Management Advisory Committee; Barney Molloy, conference co-host, Historic Hudson River Towns
    • Making a Difference: The Estuary Action Agenda--Where have we been? Where are we going? What are the key challenges for the future? Fran Dunwell, Hudson River Estuary Coordinator, NYSDEC
    • How Can the Federal Government Become a Partner? Congressmen Hinchey, Congressman Hall
    • Dialogue: Participants and pres
  • 12:00-1:00 Lunch
  • 1:15 Panel 1 Discussion: Revitalizing the River at a Time of Institutional, Political, Financial and Environmental Change
    • Moderator: Barney Molloy, Historic Hudson River Towns
    • Ned Sullivan, Scenic Hudson
    • Roland Lewis, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance
    • Jim Tripp, Environmental Defense
    • Gerald Benjamin, SUNY New Paltz
    • Jeff Rumpf, Clearwater
    • Questions for Panel 1: At this time of great change, what are your suggestions for making new progress on the work we started with the last Action Agenda? What new partners do we need to bring in? What new approaches should we consider?
  • 2:15 Panel 2 Discussion: Sustaining People, Ecosystems and Natural Resources
    • Moderator: Dennis Suszkowski, Hudson River Foundation
    • Katie Dolan, The Nature Conservancy
    • Alex Matthiessen, Riverkeeper
    • Katy Dunlap, Watershed Alliance
    • Stuart Findlay, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
    • Bill Conners, NYS Fish and Wildlife Management Board
    • Questions for Panel 2: What issues should the Action Agenda focus on and why? What needs to be done to protect the river and the valley and provide the quality environment that supports the needs of the people?
  • 3:15 Panel 3 Discussion: Agency Partners--How We Can All Play a Role
    • Moderator: Jim Tierney, Assistant Commissioner for Water and Watersheds, NYSDEC
    • Mark Castiglione, Hudson River Valley Greenway
    • Paul Beyer, NYS DOS
    • Gina D'Agrosa, Westchester County
    • Erik Kulleseid, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
    • Mario Del Vicario, Chief, Watershed Management Branch, EPA Region 2
    • Colonel Nello Tortora, Army Corps District Engineer, NY District (invited)
    • Pete Grannis, Commissioner NYSDEC
    • Questions for Panel 3: What can government do better to protect the river? What gaps do you see, what opportunities?
  • 4:15 Wrap Up: Visions for the Future
    • Kent Barwick, ourhudson.org
    • Fran Dunwell, NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Coordinator
  • 4:30 Adjourn

Summary of Major Themes and Comments

On June 8, the 2009 Hudson River Summit brought hundreds of regional, state and national leaders together at the historic Hotel Thayer at West Point Military Academy to focus on strategies for revitalizing and sustaining the Hudson River Valley's environment for the benefit of all its residents. Organized by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's Hudson River Estuary Program, this dialogue about the future of the river was co-sponsored by Historic Hudson River Towns, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Hudson River Foundation, Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, The Hudson River Environmental Society, The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, The Nature Conservancy and others.

The following is a brief summary of the major themes and comments received throughout the day.

General Estuary Program Scope /Approach:

We need to

  • Take a team approach and work together to find issues in common, upriver and down river; i.e. brownfields, contaminants, land preservation, making a connections between the environment and the economy. The Summit brought together many agencies to the same podium.
  • Present the Action Agenda and supporting information in user-friendly language that helps people understand the benefits to human society of a healthy and balanced ecosystem. Find creative ways to get the word out; ie. develop a documentary.
  • Expand the geographic scope to the entire watershed so that NY Harbor, the upper estuary, upper Hudson and the Mohawk are better linked. -- Up-river projects affect everything down stream.
  • Make the Estuary Program more diverse in its inclusion of minorities and in its outreach to partners and communities. Provide training and help make connections between state, federal and local agencies. Conduct a jobs analysis for the new action agenda.
  • Provide for personal experiences with the river and engage the people who will take action to change their communities from the ground up. Promote educational opportunities through internships, SCA, and universities.
  • Garner the "We'll do it ourselves" spirit of the Hudson Valley. Work together to get the resources to do what we need to do. Government can't do more without an army of concerned citizens. Our identify is about overcoming adversity, preserving the republic, winning. Our time is now-- catch the moment.

Water Resources and Aquatic Habitat:

We need to

  • Acknowledge that the Hudson River is a working river and there will be conflicts. We need to understand these conflicts and the magnitude of potential impacts in quantitative terms.
  • Protect and attend to our water needs and water sources including watersheds and aquifers.
    Note: the Hudson Valley serves the water supply needs of itself as well as New York City.
  • Be cautious about drinking water withdrawals from the Hudson. Viewing the Hudson River as an endless water supply will lead to development; waste water treatment needs, and moves away from water conservation.
  • Address ongoing water management issues including: CSOs, the incremental decline in tributary water quality and increase in impervious surfaces. We need to slow the water down, spread it out, and soak it in.

Land use protection, development, revitalization:

We need to

  • Commit to land acquisition to advance all Action Agenda goals in the Valley and in the Harbor.
  • Address the scenic impacts of shoreline and ridgeline development at the state and local levels.
  • Promote the adaptive reuse of historic structures in waterfront revitalization programs.
  • Provide training to local governments to better integrate natural resources into local decisions.
    Direct development towards population centers. Promote sustainable, smart growth patterns of development, green strategies for green infrastructure and transportation, revising current land use regulations where needed.

Natural Resource Protection, Ecosystem Benefits:

We need to

  • Support restoration of the estuary's fisheries through implementation of the Acton Agenda's 12 goals.
  • Better communicate the value of wildlife-based recreation, hunting and fishing to the state's and local economies.
  • Continue to improve our understanding of how the river's ecosystem functions and link this with the social sciences to promote changes in human behavior.

River Access, River Transportation:

We need to

  • Create the infrastructure needed to facilitate transportation on the river; i.e. barge traffic, ferry commuting, and the availability of public marinas to assure access to the river for everyone.
  • Continue to promote and develop access over the railroad tracks on both sides of the river, Metro North on the east side and CSX on the west.

Climate Change, Energy Issues:

We need to

  • Make sure we have healthy intact ecosystems, water, land, forests to be prepared for adaptation to climate change.
  • Upgrade technology at power plants; reinvesting and providing incentives to redo old antiquated facilities that will ultimately benefit fish, air and water.

Executive Summary of the Discussion Draft Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda 2010-2014

A. How is the Hudson doing? The State of the Hudson 2009

The Hudson River and its watershed form a dynamic ecosystem that supports a variety of human needs and sustains a rich natural environment. It has dramatically changed over time. Studying its past and present condition helps us chart a direction for the future. For over a century, the Hudson has benefited from an active conservation movement that has protected scenic landscapes, historic sites, forests, wildlife and water resources. In many ways the river is much better than it was one hundred years ago. In other ways, things have gotten worse. Some changes are permanent and can never be reversed. Revitalizing and sustaining the river valley for the benefit of all its residents is the task at hand and requires an understanding of both the rhythms of the natural world and the needs of our people. Here's where we stand today:

Water quality:
The Hudson has become cleaner over the last forty years. To continue progress we need to clean up toxic leftovers from the past, upgrade sewage treatment, control polluted runoff, and prevent new contaminants from entering the ecosystem.

River Habitats:
Dredging, filling, and shoreline development caused massive loss and alteration of river habitats into the 1970s. We must protect remaining habitats to nurture the fish and wildlife that depend on them and to sustain benefits they provide to human communities.

River Fish & Wildlife:
Eagles and egrets are up, shad and sturgeon are down, and alien invaders are here to stay. We must protect habitat, adopt stringent fisheries conservation measures, and prevent the establishment of other invasive species.

Tributary Streams that Flow to the Hudson:
Since 1972 we have cleaned up the most degraded tributaries, but now healthy streams are stressed by runoff and the pollutants it carries, while floodplain development and dams compromise stream habitat. Further improvements will depend on decisions made by hundreds of communities and thousands of landowners.

Landscape and Land Use:
One hundred years of conservation have preserved world famous scenic landscapes and significant natural resources such as water supplies. The population and economic growth attracted to this landscape must be guided by the need to conserve these natural assets.

The Living Landscape-Biological Diversity and Ecosystems:
Ongoing threats to the Hudson Valley's biological diversity include climate change and sprawl that fragments habitat, promotes the spread of pests, and disrupts natural processes sustaining people and wildlife. It is crucial that more municipalities and landowners adopt new patterns of development.

The People of the River Valley:
Growing numbers of citizens, organizations, and institutions are taking action to improve the health of the Hudson. The river shaped our past; we now shape its future. Our power to alter the Hudson must be informed by striving to understand the vital role the river plays in our lives.

B. What needs to be done now? The Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda

In 2005, the state's Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda established 12 long-range goals for revitalizing and sustaining the river valley for the benefit of all its residents and sets targets and action steps to achieve them. The Action Agenda is not a state agency "plan" in the formal sense of the word but a statement of where the state and its citizens want to be. The June 2009 Discussion Draft Action Agenda 2010-2014 identifies the following priority actions for the next four years:

The River
Goals 1, 2, 10 & 11 addresses the need to restore our signature species of fish, conserve the aquatic habitats which sustain them, remove toxic contaminants from the water and sediments, and improve water quality for swimming, fishing, drinking water and other benefits. Needed actions include:

  • implement fish recovery plans for shad, herring, sturgeon and striped bass
  • address the impacts of water withdrawing facilities, such as power plants
  • complete the mapping of key habitats and begin habitat restoration projects
  • improve guidance on shoreline erosion control options to make them more ecological
  • detect, monitor and where possible control new harmful aquatic invasive species
  • prepare for sea level rise and its consequences on human communities and natural systems
  • update water and sewer infrastructure and disinfect wastewater where needed
  • adopt new "green" approaches to reducing the impacts of run-off
  • manage sediments coming into the river from streams
  • reduce the inputs of contaminants such as metals, pesticides, PAHs, dioxin and PCBs

The Valley
Goals 3, 4, 5, and 6 address the need to conserve the rich diversity of plants animals and habitats of the valley, restore our streams, protect our famed landscape and scenery and address the changing climate of the valley. Needed actions include:

  • Conserve habitat connections that make our ecosystem resilient in the face of change
  • Increase groundwater infiltration to protect stream flows and conserve water supplies
  • Manage stream corridors and floodplains so that people and ecosystems are safe
  • Increase the amount of conserved land for scenic vistas, habitats and recreation
  • Help communities become "Climate Smart"
  • Improve land use decision-making to reduce the sprawling patterns of development and strengthen our cities, hamlets and community centers

The People
Goals 7, 8, 9 and 12 address the need to provide access to the Hudson for recreational uses enjoyment, enhance public understanding of the river and enjoyment of it, revitalize the waterfront communities of its shoreline and celebrate our successes. Needed actions include:

  • Complete the Greenway Trail
  • Upgrade our deteriorated docks and build new ones
  • Provide river access for people whose needs have not been adequately served
  • Build connections for richer and more diverse river experiences
  • Serve the needs of educators and students by creating curriculum, training programs and facilities
  • Continue to revitalize waterfront communities and support enhanced planning
  • Track our progress and celebrate our accomplishments