SUMMARY: The Hudson Raritan Estuary (HRE)- Hackensack Meadowlands Feasibility Study was initiated in 2003 and was subsequently integrated into the Hudson Raritan Estuary (HRE) Feasibility Study in 2013. The feasibility phase has been completed and resulted in the HRE Comprehensive Restoration Plan (CRP) (Volume 1- 2016) which was adopted by the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Program serving as the blueprint and master plan for restoration with partners in the region. The Final HRE Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment (FR/EA) (April 2020) and Chief’s Report (May 2020) recommended the construction of 20 individual restoration projects, including two (2) projects in the Hackensack Meadowlands (Meadowlark Marsh and Metromedia Tract). The HRE Recommended Plan will restore a mosaic of 621 acres of habitat that will reduce long-term and large-scale degradation in the HRE. These projects were authorized for construction in the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 for a total first cost of $420,473,000 and fully funded cost (escalated to mid-point of construction) of $598,042,000 (FY21 Price Level). The Pre-Construction Engineering and Design (PED) Phase of each project will be initiated pending appropriations. See the project placemat on the web link below for the specific restoration projects and habitats and engineering designs for each site. All documents can be found at: https://www.nan.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental/Environmental-Restoration/Hudson-Raritan-Estuary/.
DESCRIPTION: The Hudson Raritan Estuary (HRE) is within the boundaries of the Port District of New York and New Jersey and is situated within a 25-mile radius of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. The HRE feasibility study area includes 8 Planning Regions: 1) Jamaica Bay; 2) Lower Bay; 3) Lower Raritan River; 4) Arthur Kill/Kill Van Kull; 5) Newark Bay, Hackensack River and Passaic River; 6) Lower Hudson River; 7) Harlem River, East River, and Western Long Island Sound; and 8) Upper Bay. The Hackensack Meadowlands Feasibility Study Area is located within the Newark Bay, Hackensack River and Lower Passaic River HRE Planning Region.
The HRE and HRE-Hackensack Meadowlands feasibility studies’ purpose was to identify and document water resource related problems, existing conditions and factors contributing to environmental degradation within the estuary and specifically the Hackensack Meadowlands in order to develop potential solutions aimed at ecosystem restoration. The overall objectives of both studies were to restore ecological function and diversity that have been lost or degraded as a result of human activities.
The USACE and multiple non-federal sponsors commenced HRE, the HRE- Hackensack Meadowlands and four (4) other concurrent ecosystem restoration feasibility studies in the 1990s and early 2000s that focused on the restoration of different areas of the HRE. In an effort to streamline parallel efforts, and maximize efficiencies, resources and benefits, the feasibility studies were integrated into the HRE Feasibility Study effort between 2013 and 2015. The HRE Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment (FR/EA) fulfills the authorizations of all six (6) feasibility studies.
Implementation of the HRE Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study’s recommendations will enable the USACE, its non-Federal cost-sharing sponsors, and other regional stakeholders to restore and protect lost or degraded aquatic, wetland and terrestrial habitats within the HRE study area. These activities will be accomplished by implementing various site-specific ecosystem restoration projects formulated within the context of an overall strategic plan.
HRE- House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Resolution dated April 15, 1999, Docket Number 2596.
STATUS: The HRE Reconnaissance Report was completed in January 2001 and detailed a federal interest in restoring the HRE. A Feasibility Cost Share Agreement was executed with the NJ Meadowlands Commission (NJMC), now the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority (NJSEA), in April 2003. Data collection (including fisheries surveys, hydro-geomorphic evaluation, geotechnical and HTRW contamination data collection, cultural investigations, topographic surveys, benthic community investigation, avian surveys and geophysical investigation) occurred between 2001 through 2008.
In 2004, the USACE, USFWS, and NJMC conducted the Meadowlands Environmental Site Information Compilation (MESIC) to identify and catalog existing data focused on 48 sites within the Meadowlands. The Meadowlands Comprehensive Restoration Implementation Plan was also prepared in 2005 providing a menu of comprehensive, ecosystem-based actions that address the problems affecting the aquatic environs and associated habitats of the Hackensack Meadowlands. A draft programmatic environmental impact statement was also prepared.
A total of 48 restoration opportunities were identified, with 18 of the sites identified as “critical restoration opportunities” for restoration in the future. Progress was suspended in 2012, when funds were no longer available. The study was inactivated and a subset of these “critical restoration opportunities” was subsequently advanced and integrated into the HRE Feasibility Study in 2013.
In parallel, the USACE identified a need for a strategic plan as a first step of the HRE Feasibility Study. With participation of the regional stakeholders, the USACE and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey developed a Comprehensive Restoration Plan (CRP) that now serves as the master plan and blueprint for future restoration within the HRE region. The CRP provides the framework for an estuary-wide ecological restoration program by utilizing restoration targets -Target Ecosystem Characteristics (TECs) established through a collaborative effort among the region’s stakeholders in 2005 through 2007. The CRP Program goal was to develop a mosaic of habitats that provide society with renewed and increased benefits from the estuary environment. Each TEC is an important ecosystem property or feature that is of ecological and/or societal value including restoration of coastal wetlands, shellfish/oyster reefs, eelgrass beds, waterbird islands, public access, maritime forest, tributary connections, shorelines and shallow habitat, fish crab and lobster habitat, reduction of contaminated sediments and improvement of enclosed and confined waters. The CRP provides a strategic plan to achieve the TEC goals, identify potential restoration opportunities and mechanisms for implementation. The Draft CRP was released in April 2009 and was adopted by the New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program (HEP) as the path forward for restoration in the future. Following intensive public outreach, CRP Version 1.0 was released in June 2016.
The HRE Feasibility Study recommended specific restoration projects throughout the HRE Study Area, including Hackensack Meadowlands, that advance the CRP goals and provide solutions for water resource problems. Feasibility activities included the evaluation of a subset of priority CRP sites including ecological functional assessments, preparation of restoration alternatives, engineering designs and cost estimates, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Environmental Assessments and Cost Effectiveness/Incremental Cost Analysis (CE/ICA) for each site. In addition, other restoration opportunities outlined in the CRP were recommended for further feasibility study investigation which would require subsequent Congressional construction authorization. A total of 33 sites were recommended as the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) in the Draft Integrated FR/EA released for public review in February 2017 following the TSP Milestone accomplished in August 2016.
The District had coordinated with the Vertical Team to address policy comments and completed additional tasks to confirm the TSP and ensure policy compliance (tasks included update of costs, ecological benefits, relative sea level change analysis and Planning Region CE/ICA evaluations). Following completion of these tasks, the Agency Decision Milestone (ADM) was held on September 5, 2018 and 13 sites were removed from further consideration.
Final feasibility level activities were completed for the remaining sites and the Final Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment was submitted to HQUSACE on 11 February 2020 for review and approval. The State and Agency review occurred March 16, 2020 through April 15, 2020. The Chief’s Report was signed by LT General Todd Semonite on 26 May 2020 and was authorized for construction by Congress in the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 in December.
The Recommended Plan includes restoration at 20 individual project locations including two (2) projects in the Hackensack Meadowlands (Meadowlark Marsh and Metromedia Tract). The HRE Recommended Plan will restore a mosaic of 621 acres of habitat that will reduce long-term and large-scale degradation in the Hudson Raritan Estuary for a total first cost of $420,473,000 and fully funded cost (escalated to mid-point of construction) of $598,042,000 (FY21 Price Level).
The Recommended Plan includes:
• Restoration of approximately 381 acres of estuarine wetland habitat (including six miles of tidal channels), 50 acres of freshwater riverine wetland habitat, 27 acres of coastal and maritime forest habitat, 39 acres of shallow water habitat and 52 acres of oyster habitat.
• Two fish ladders would be installed and three weirs would be modified to re-introduce or expand fish passage (24 miles) and control flow rate and water volume along the Bronx River.
• A total of 1.6 miles of stream bank and 72 acres of stream bed and channel would be restored.
New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority (formerly Hackensack Meadowlands Commission)
Ms. Lisa Baron
P: (917) 790-8306 and 646-385-1429 (cell)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District
Programs and Project Management Division, Civil Works Programs Branch
NJ U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez
NJ U.S. Sen. Corey Booker
NJ-09 Rep. William Pascrell, Jr