Tim Lamorte

Hindering the Hudson

Tim Lamorte
Hindering the Hudson

Last week, National Geographic posted a story on its website about a 14-foot sturgeon that researchers using sonar spotted in the Hudson River last June, near Hyde Park. 

The story, written by Andrew Revkin, soon spread on social media, especially among individuals and organizations concerned about the health of the Hudson.

The story’s headline and subhead used the words “hope” and “revival” to describe the reaction to the sturgeon sighting.

Earlier this week, however, there was more concern than hope during an information session hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.

The March 12 forum focused on the Corps’ six alternatives to curb coastal flooding around New York Harbor. Of the six, two include the construction of in-water barriers that could hinder the tidal flow of the Hudson.

In Alternative 2, a barrier would span the mouth of the harbor, between Sandy Hook, N.J. and Breezy Point, N.Y. In Alternative 3A, a barrier would be parallel to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, between Staten Island and Brooklyn. The barriers would include gates that could be opened and closed.

The Corps released the alternatives last summer — 12 days before the first of five public information sessions. In response to pushback, the Corps extended the public comment period from 30 days to 122 days.

The Corps received 4,250 comments, including 2,065 submitted through the website for Riverkeeper, the nonprofit dedicated to protecting the Hudson. Riverkeeper has been an opponent of barriers and a proponent of shoreline measures.

In response to the comments, the Corps released a 1,600-page interim report on Feb. 19. The report estimates the cost and construction duration for each plan, including $118 billion/25 years for Alternative 2, and $47 billion/18 years for Alternative 3A.

The Corps expects to select a tentative alternative in January 2020, solicit additional public feedback, announce a final decision in July 2020, issue a final report in March 2021, and submit its decision for Congressional approval in July 2022.

The information session in White Plains was the first of eight. The last will be held April 17 in the Bronx.

The sturgeon, which are endangered, spend most of their lives in the ocean and return the Hudson to spawn. Riverkeeper and other critics of the proposals contend that barriers could impede migrating fish as well as the river’s ability to flush sewage and other contaminants into the ocean.

To submit comments to the Corps, send an e-mail to nynjharbor.tribstudy@usace.army.mil.

Tim Lamorte is an award-winning journalist who has spent almost two decades documenting life along the Hudson River.