The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District personnel recently attended the 16th annual Estuary Day at the Peterstown Community Center in Elizabeth, N.J.
This year’s event theme was partnerships, with over 200 students and teachers engaged in group discussions about the importance of environmental stewardship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM), and USACE New York District’s initiatives to sustain key partnership in creating a comprehensive restoration plan for a World Class Estuary.
The annual event was organized by Future City Inc. and sponsored by Elizabeth River/Arthur Kill Association, with a number of other partnering agencies including the City of Elizabeth Mayor’s Office, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Kean University, New York/New Jersey Baykeeper, Office of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Office of Rep. Albio Sires (NJ-13), New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Hispanic Commission, New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, Infineum, Phillips 66, and DuPont.
During a welcoming ceremony the City of Elizabeth Mayor, Christian Bollwage, honored Kerry Kirk, manager of constituent services, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, for her environmental activism in the community. Welcoming remarks were given by respective leadership, whose efforts help assemble this annual event each year.
“A key initiative enabling our efforts to create a world-class estuary has been the development and sustainment of great partnerships with stakeholders” said Joseph Seebode, chief, Programs and Project Management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New York District. “As we continue to move forward with improving the environment, ensuring safe navigation, and reducing the risks of floods and storms, it’s vital we maintain these partnerships at all levels. Sharing information and educating students at forums like Estuary Day is an important function of our partnership as we inspire the next generation to carry on with improving the vital environmental, social, and economic role of the harbor estuary to our region."
“The City of Elizabeth is proud to partner in a program that provides students with a chance to learn why our estuary is so vital to all life,” said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “I hope each young person that attends this forum leaves with a better understanding of how important it is to work together to build a strong green foundation for our neighborhoods. Furthermore, I encourage students to continue utilizing their talents for science, technology and engineering to make a difference and transform lives.”
Amanda Switzer, project manager, USACE New York District, talked with students about the many ways the New York District is involved with environmental sustainment and restoration.
“One of the many cool ways the Army Corps has participated in the creation of a world class estuary is by removing dredge material from Federal Navigation Channels, such as the Arthur Kill right here in Elizabeth, and beneficially reusing it to restore historically degraded wetlands which are critical in sustaining biologically diverse habitats in the region,” said, Switzer.
Students took notes and asked questions about the Army Corps environmental initiatives while interjecting some of their own educational experience from previous environmental research.
The event featured a classroom setting where each group of 10-15 students ranging from 7th to 12th grade sat through 15 minute intervals learning about various environmental missions from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New York District, U.S. Coast Guard, New York and New Jersey Bay Keeper and local community based environmental associations like the Elizabeth River/Arthur Kill Association.
There were also activities set aside where students tested water samples from the Elizabeth River for contaminate levels. Students were also able to speak with individuals whose careers potentially coincide with many of the student’s future paths, discussing the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, also emphasizing partnerships and sustaining relationships along the way.
Overall the 16th Annual Estuary Day has brought together federal, state, and local partners in an effort to educate environmental stewards of tomorrow, while also enlightening students about the variety of environmental perspectives and the importance of partnerships when accomplishing goals in maintaining a world class estuary.