Eighteen years later, the river that flows two ways is again among the most endangered in the United States.
On April 16, an annual list of 10 endangered rivers was released by American Rivers, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC. The Hudson was listed as number two, behind the Gila in New Mexico and before the upper Mississippi. The Hudson also made the list is 1996, 1997, and 2001.
The Hudson is endangered again because of two proposals, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to build storm surge barriers to curb coastal flooding around New York Harbor. Opponents contend the barriers would hinder the tidal flow of the Hudson, impeding the migration of fish and the flushing of sewage and other contaminants into the ocean.
In one proposal, for $118 billion, there would be a barrier between Sandy Hook, N.J. and Breezy Point, N.Y. In another proposal, for $47 billion, there would be a barrier parallel to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, between Brooklyn and Staten Island. The barriers would include gates that could be opened and closed.
The Corps is also considering three other options, including a proposal for shoreline measures only, such as dunes, floodwalls, and levees, which would not hinder the Hudson.
In the wake of the list’s publication, American Rivers and Riverkeeper issued a press release that includes the following quote from John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper’s patrol boat captain and vice president of advocacy.
“We cannot — must not — allow these barriers to be built. The twice-daily tides are the essential respiration and the heartbeat of this living ecosystem. The mouth of the river must remain open and unrestricted, as it has been for millennia. The Hudson has never faced a threat even close to this magnitude.”
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.
Tim Lamorte is an award-winning journalist who has spent more than two decades documenting life along the Hudson River.