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Army Corps of Engineers announces Chiefs Report signing for the New York & New Jersey Hudson Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Study

Projects now eligible for Congressional Authorization
Published May 29, 2020
Updated: May 29, 2020
Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, USACE Commanding General and 54th U.S. Army Chief of Engineers, recently signed the Hudson Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Study Chief's Report

Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, USACE Commanding General and 54th U.S. Army Chief of Engineers, recently signed the Hudson Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Study Chief's Report. The Hudson-Raritan Estuary (HRE) is designated as an estuary of national significance under the Environmental Protection Agency's National Estuary Program. The HRE is located within one of the most urbanized regions in the United States. Over 13 million people live within 25 miles of the Statue of Liberty, the approximate center of the estuary, including the highly urbanized cities of New York, and Jersey City, Newark, and Elizabeth, New Jersey. The study purpose is to evaluate the causes and effects of significant, widespread degradation in the estuary; to formulate and evaluate potential solutions to these challenges; to recommend a series of near-term construction projects with federal interest; and to identify potential opportunities for future study under the HRE authority. The signing of the report progresses the project to Congress for authorization.

Stakeholders are celebrating the recent signing of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chiefs Report which recommends 20 ecosystem restoration projects throughout the New York & New Jersey Harbor Estuary. Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, Chief of Engineers, signed the report for the Hudson Raritan Estuary (HRE) Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study making it eligible for congressional authorization.

The Corps' New York District and multiple non-federal sponsors commenced six (6) concurrent ecosystem restoration feasibility studies in the 1990s and early 2000s that focused on the restoration of different areas of the harbor estuary.  In an effort to streamline parallel efforts and maximize efficiencies, the six feasibility studies were combined into a larger comprehensive study for the estuary--the HRE Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study. The Chief's Report signed this week identifies a strategy for restoration, developed through a multi-agency collaborative effort.

The Recommended Plan includes restoration at 20 individual project locations that will restore a mosaic of 621 acres of habitat that will reduce long-term and large-scale degradation in the Hudson Raritan Estuary.  The plan includes:
• Restoration of approximately 381 acres of estuarine wetland habitat (Restoration of 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.

“The signing of the Chief’s Report for the NY and NJ Hudson Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study means we are one critical step closer to strengthening the resiliency of our coastal communities and restoring and protecting the NY- NJ Harbor Estuary’s vast ecosystem for years to come,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Thank you to the U.S. Army Corps and all those involved in developing this restoration plan and for working to increase the health and safety of our communities.”   

“Thriving communities depend on healthy ecosystems,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. “That is why we must invest in critical projects like this that not only restore critical habitat and remediate environmental degradation, but also make our communities more resilient and adaptable to the changing climate. This project will enhance some of New Jersey’s most vital estuaries in the Newark Bay, Hackensack River, Passaic River, and the surrounding area, which will improve water quality, benefit marine life, and help to mitigate flooding for surrounding homes, businesses and communities. I thank the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their dedication to this project and I will continue fighting for the federal resources we need to improve our region’s environment and quality of life.”
"The release of the Chief's Report for the Hudson Raritan Estuary project is a major achievement, decades in the making, and I commend the Army Corps and its local partners for getting us to this point," said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "I will fight in Congress to get this project authorized and funded so that the Army Corps can move forward with the critical design and construction work to restore the wetlands and ecosystems that are so important to the long-term environmental sustainability of our region."

“Restoring New Jersey’s unique ecosystems will help strengthen the ecological health of our region while taking an important step towards mitigating the increasing threats of climate change and sea level rise,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “I thank the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and their partners for their dedication to this project, and remain committed to securing the federal resources needed to protect the health and safety of New Jersey communities.”

“This Chief's Report is a monumental achievement,” said Col. Thomas Asbery, Commander of the Army Corps’ New York District. “The innovation and synergy of combining six separate feasibility studies into one, not only satisfies 4 different study authorizations, but allows contraction of activities across all of the studies that has now brought us to a comprehensive restoration plan for the estuary. It is truly impressive to see that ten different committed study and construction sponsors and partners are ready to move individual projects forward immediately upon authorization. We know of the long felt impacts of over 400 years of human activity within the NY/NJ Harbor. The 20 restoration projects, will advance the ecological health of our World Class Estuary”

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “The Hudson Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study is critical to improving the health and vitality of the New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary and the vast ecosystems it supports. The recently completed study is the culmination of decades of scientific analysis and stakeholder engagement, and the projects it identifies will help communities throughout the region bolster climate change protections, strengthen coastal resiliency, and improve overall environmental quality. We thank the Army Corps of Engineers and our partners in New York City and New Jersey for their ongoing efforts to protect the estuary for future generations.” 

"The release of this report is a significant milestone for the Hudson Raritan Estuary,” said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe. “We are proud to support efforts to restore important coastal ecosystems in one of the most highly urbanized and densely populated regions of the nation. These projects will benefit a wide variety of wildlife, improve the quality of life for residents, and make the region more resilient to the effects of climate change and sea-level rise. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with our federal and local partners on this important effort."

DEC Region 2 Director Steve Zahn said, “The Hudson Raritan Estuary Program is a transformative regional ecosystem restoration plan that promises vital ecological uplift, enhanced coastal resiliency, climate change mitigation, and new public engagement opportunities. This was a true team effort and I’m proud of the work DEC has contributed to this program and grateful to the Army Corps and all of our terrific partners helping to move these critical projects from ideas to implementation.”

“DEP is proud to continue our work to revive and protect Jamaica Bay and the Bronx River along with our partners at the Army Corps of Engineers and New York State,” said NYC DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “The construction of new marsh islands, perimeter wetlands and additional oyster restoration projects will not only improve the health of the waterways, they will help to absorb storm surge and improve the resiliency of shoreline neighborhoods.”

“The Hudson Raritan Estuary is an incredibly rich and vibrant ecosystem, right at the heart of the nation’s largest metropolitan area,” noted Robert Pirani, Director of the New York – New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program. “First the success of the Comprehensive Restoration Plan —a collaboration of over 120 partners that provides a shared blueprint for restoration and now the completed Feasibility Study will help the region’s fish, wildlife, and people to realize its important benefits. We look forward to seeing the proposed projects break ground.”

“We would like to sincerely thank our non-federal sponsors, for actively participating with the Corps in plan formulation, engineering and environmental analyses, and report documentation for the recommended plan and final feasibility study,” said Lisa Baron, Army Corps’ New York District project manager.

“This is a major milestone that completes the Corps’ long planning process,” said Peter Weppler, New York District’s Chief of Environmental Analysis Branch. “The Corps is encouraged by this signing and is also reminded that this is one very important step towards the region’s ultimate goal of restoring our “world-class estuary.” 

The Chief’s Report will now undergo further review by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and Office of Management and Budget before formal submittal to Congress.

Public Affairs

Release no. 20-035