Hudson River Estuary Benthic Mapping Project
Using Benthic Mapper
Benthic Mapping Project
Section 11-0306 of the Environmental Conservation Law, known as the Hudson River Estuary Management Act directed DEC to develop a management plan for the Hudson River estuarine district and its associated riparian zones. DEC formed the Hudson River Estuary Program, which led to the development of a Hudson River Estuary Management Plan.
Benthic Mapping and the Hudson River Estuary Management Plan
The Hudson River Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda calls for protecting and improving the health of the Hudson River estuary while ensuring compatible human uses within the river's ecosystem. The Plan characterizes the most important problems affecting the Hudson River and identifies specific recommendations for actions to improve the estuarine ecosystem. In particular, the Plan commits the State to conduct a submerged habitat inventory to define nursery areas most in need of protection for Hudson River fishes, blue crabs, and food chain species (Commitment 3 of Hudson River Estuary Management Plan).
The Benthic Mapping Project's estuary bottom habitat mapping is one of several projects that support the submerged habitat inventory. In addition, the project seeks to provide data relevant to spill response, navigation, restoration planning and monitoring in an estuarine setting, contaminant track-down, and sediment transport.
Geographic Scope of Benthic Mapper
The Benthic Mapping Project plans to map the entire estuary from the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to the Federal Dam at Troy, using a suite of remote sensing tools to image the floor of the estuary and a suite of sediment sampling tools to determine the relationships among sediment characteristics, animals that live in or on the sediment, and the features imaged by remote sensing.
In 1998 and 1999, the initial phase of the Benthic Mapping Project mapped 40 miles of the Hudson River Estuary (about one third of the area of the estuary). This phase included four areas: 1) a reach north of and including the Tappan Zee Bridge, 2) Newburgh Bay, 3) the reach from Kingston to Saugerties, and 4) the reach from the City of Hudson to the south end of Schodack Island. The data from this first phase is presented here in Benthic Mapper. While an additional third of the estuary was mapped in 2001 and the New York Harbor was mapped in 2002, the data for these phases has not yet been incorporated into a data product such as Benthic Mapper.
Benthic Mapping Sponsors and Partners
DEC has contracted with Columbia University to generate acoustic benthic images, acoustic subbottom profiles, ground penetrating radar profiles, sediment samples, and sediment classification maps of the estuary. Columbia University has developed a team of experts with scientists from Columbia University, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook, Queens College of the City of New York (CUNY) School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and the Institute of Ecosystems Studies. In addition the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Services Center in collaboration with the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences provided sediment profile imagery, and the US Geological Survey provided support for shallow water reflection profiling and ground penetrating radar studies.
Most of the funds for the Benthic Mapping project were provided by DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program. Other organizations contributing financial support include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Columbia University and the Hudson River Foundation .