Introduction To The Hudson River Programs Of State And Federal Agencies
Given the Hudson's great array of natural, cultural, historic, and economic resources, many New York State and federal agencies and programs have responsibilities on the river and can offer assistance in meeting citizens' needs and interests. On this summary page are brief descriptions of these programs. Use these to begin an exploration of a river that has been transformed in recent decades from vilified sewer to vital engine of ecological and economic productivity, where one can find parks and historic sites that memorialize the Hudson's role in the Revolution, illustrate how a young republic found cultural identity in art inspired by Hudson Valley landscapes, and celebrate the vision of pioneering conservationists.
Much of DEC's work on the estuary is coordinated by the Hudson River Estuary Program. The Estuary Program is built on partnerships with many other federal, state, and local programs. The Program works to conserve and restore the Hudson's extraordinary natural heritage, scenery, and mystique. This is done through projects founded in science and carried out in ways that support the Valley's citizens. Specific means of achieving these objectives are detailed in the goals and targets of the Estuary Program's Action Agenda.
This program is responsible for managing tidal wetlands on the Hudson south of the Tappan Zee Bridge. The extent to which sea water pushes into the Hudson Estuary varies with tidal currents and with changes in the volume of freshwater runoff (see The Hudson: A River that Flows Two Ways). Writing laws to take account of these shifts is difficult, so the DEC has made the Tappan Zee Bridge the dividing line in applying regulations governing marine versus freshwater habitats. The Marine Habitat Protection section of the DEC's Division of Marine Resources administers those rules south of the bridge, which spans the Hudson between Nyack and Tarrytown.
Contact the staff of this program to view aerial photography and maps of all the Hudson's tidal wetlands. The section's website offers information on the ecological and economic values of tidal wetlands.
The tidal wetlands found in estuaries are critically important habitats, providing nursery grounds for valuable fish species, filtration of pollutants, flood control, and opportunities for education and recreation. The Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, established in 1982, protects four exemplary wetland sites on the estuary. Spaced along the river from the brackish Tappan Zee to tidal freshwater shallows north of the City of Hudson, these sites provide ideal settings for education and comparative research and are places of great beauty and biological richness. The Hudson River Estuary Program is working closely with the Research Reserve to map the entire river bottom in order to better understand the location of critical underwater habitats within the estuary. The Reserve is managed in partnership by DEC and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
DEC Hudson River Fisheries Unit
Research within the Hudson River Fisheries Unit focuses on migratory fish including American shad, river herring, striped bass, American eel, and Atlantic sturgeon, which travel the 152 miles of the Hudson River Estuary from the George Washington Bridge in New York City to the Federal Dam located in Troy. Effective management of these species must take into account their movements throughout the estuary and the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The Unit also gathers data on resident species including the shortnose sturgeon and black bass.
DEC Natural Resource Damage Assessment Unit
The DEC has established a special program to assess the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs] on the natural resources in the Hudson River. While the Hudson has benefited from decades of cleanup efforts, it still bears a legacy of past pollution, most notably PCB contamination. These toxic PCBs entered food webs in the river, leading DEC to close some commercial fisheries and the New York State Department of Health to issue fish consumption advisories aimed at recreational anglers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has listed 200 miles of the Hudson as a federal Superfund site due to PCB pollution. In 2001, EPA's Hudson River Reassessment Program issued a Record of Decision calling for cleanup of PCB hotspots. The trustees of the Hudson's natural resources - DEC, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - are conducting a Natural Resource Damages Assessment of the impacts of PCB contamination in the river. This process will compensate the public by restoring lost or injured natural resources and human uses of those resources. For fish consumption advisories and information on EPA Superfund sites, please use the Links Leaving DEC's Website in the menu on the right side of this page.
NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation
Many of the Hudson Valley's loveliest landscapes and most notable historical resources are managed by New York State's Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). One can walk the river's eastern shore and gaze out at the Esopus Meadows lighthouse from the Mills-Norrie State Park in Staatsburgh, or choose a loftier perch with superlative views of the Catskills at Olana, painter Frederick Church's Persian-style mansion near the City of Hudson. Explore the valley's Revolutionary War history at Washington's Headquarters in Newburgh or Stony Point Battlefield in Rockland County, site of "Mad" Anthony Wayne's daring raid. Both the OPRHP and the DEC maintain boating access sites on the Hudson. For more information about New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, please see Links Leaving DEC's Website in the menu on the right side of this page.
In New York's Department of State, the Division of Coastal Resources assists Hudson River communities in preparing Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs (which essentially describe a community's vision for its waterfront), harbor management plans, and small watershed plans. It also provides technical and financial assistance to carry out local waterfront plans, including implementation of local laws and design and construction projects. The Division also reviews the consistency of state and federal actions with the management objectives of thirty-six designated Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats and six Scenic Areas of Statewide Significance in the Hudson River Coastal Area. For a link to the New York Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources please use the Links Leaving DEC's Website in the menu on the right side of this page.
The five bridges operated by the New York State Bridge Authority facilitate travel across the river, and also offer wonderful views of the Hudson. The bridges also provide nesting habitat for the peregrine falcon. The Authority's website has a picture gallery, historical information about the bridges, and virtual bridge walks that include views from the cables of its suspension bridges. For a link to the New York State Bridge Authority, please see the Links Leaving DEC's Website in the menu on the right side of this page.
The Hudson River Valley Greenway was created by state law in 1991. The Greenway promotes voluntary regional cooperation in thirteen counties bordering the Hudson from Waterford in Saratoga County to Battery Park in Manhattan. Authorized by the New York State Legislature in 1991, the Greenway supports local and regional planning efforts that address natural and cultural resource protection; economic development, including tourism, agriculture, and redevelopment of urban areas and commercial waterfronts; public access; and heritage and environmental education. These programs are administered by the Hudson River Valley Greenway Communities Council and the Greenway Conservancy for the Hudson River Valley, both within the executive branch of New York State government and based in Albany. Each is overseen by a board of directors representing numerous public and private constituencies and interest groups in the region. The public is welcome and encouraged to participate in the programs and regular meetings of the Council and the Conservancy. For a link to the Hudson River Valley Greenway, please see the Links Leaving DEC's Website in the menu on the right side of this page.
NYS Hudson River-Black River Regulating District
High flows have historically caused damaging floods in cities along the upper Hudson. Low flows caused by droughts allow salty sea water to push up far up the estuary, creating problems for communities that take drinking water from the Hudson. The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District was created to address these concerns, chiefly by means of a reservoir system in the Adirondacks. The system includes the largest reservoir in the state - the Great Sacandaga Lake - created by the Conklingville Dam on the Sacandaga River. For a link to the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, please see the Links Leaving DEC's Website in the menu on the right side of this page.
The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area
Congress designated the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area in 1996 to recognize the national importance of the valley's history and resources. The Heritage Area is managed by the Hudson River Valley Greenway. The cities, towns, and rural landscapes of the region display exceptional surviving physical resources spanning four centuries. They highlight themes of settlement and migration, transportation and commerce, the fight for independence, and the aesthetic value of the landscape, along with the significant contributions of unique individuals, communities, and institutions - among them landscape architects Andrew Jackson Downing and Alexander Jackson Davis, painters Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, the Knickerbocker writers, Dutch and Huguenot settlements, early labor cooperatives, and the first women's secondary school. For a link to the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, please see the Links Leaving DEC's Website in the menu on the right side of this page.
An American Heritage River
On the Hudson, the American Heritage River Program is managed by the US Natural Resources Conservation Service of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Hudson became an American Heritage River in 1998, one of only fourteen rivers nationwide to be so honored by the president of the United States. The Hudson's unique place in American history and culture, its role in the birth of the modern environmental movement, and the marked improvements in its ecological health over recent decades all contributed to this designation. As an American Heritage River, the Hudson benefits from the services of a River Navigator, a person specially chosen to facilitate the application of existing federal programs and resources to the needs of this river. For a link to the American Heritage River, please see the Links Leaving DEC's Website in the menu on the right side of this page.
The New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program
Growing public concern for the health of the New York/New Jersey Harbor and Bight ecosystem led the EPA to establish the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program in 1988. Representatives from both the public and private sectors collaborate on issues facing the harbor including toxics, pathogens, dredging, and floating debris issues. For a link to the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program, please see the Links Leaving DEC's Website in the menu on the right side of this page.
U.S. Geological Survey
The U.S. Geological Survey in New York State operates real-time monitoring stations on the Hudson and its tributaries. The stations on the estuary track tides, water temperature, and specific conductance. A salt front data page has links to these stations, a map showing the location of the salt front, and a graph which allows the conductance readings to be converted to salinity. Other links on this page go to real-time flow data for tributaries and the upper Hudson. For a link to the salt front data page, please see the Links Leaving DEC's Website in the menu on the right side of this page.
The National Ocean Service is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the principal federal advocate for coastal and ocean stewardship. It develops the national foundation for coastal and ocean science, management, response, restoration, and navigation. Of practical interest to users of the Hudson are its online tide prediction tables and information about ordering and interpreting nautical charts. For links to the National Ocean Service webpage, tide prediction tables and nautical charts, please see the Links Leaving DEC's Website in the menu on the right side of this page.
The New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the Hudson's shipping channel at its authorized depth. This requires dredging in Haverstraw Bay and much of the Hudson between Kingston and Albany. Its navigation support mission includes operation of the Troy Lock and Dam connecting the Erie and Champlain Canals to the Hudson estuary. The District also has a major role in environmental regulation. Corps of Engineers permits are necessary for placement of dredged or fill material in the river or adjacent wetlands. Building a pier, wharf, bulkhead or other water-related structure in the Hudson may also require a federal permit from the Corps. For a link to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, please see the Links Leaving DEC's Website in the menu on the right side of this page.