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Governor Cuomo Announces Nearly $1 Million to Improve Water Quality and Bolster Flood Resiliency in Hudson River Estuary Watershed

Funds Will Help Hudson River Communities Remove Dams, Replace Culverts and Restore Habitats for American Eel and River Herring

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced funding totaling $910,631 for seven projects to help reduce localized flooding and restore aquatic habitats in tributary streams of the Hudson River Estuary. To date, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Hudson River Estuary Program has awarded 477 grants totaling $18.1 million in shoreline protection and improvement projects for communities.

"We are committed to creating more resilient communities and supporting projects that harden New York's natural infrastructure against whatever Mother Nature throws our way," Governor Cuomo said. "With this funding, we are helping local communities create a more sustainable environment, improve water quality, and conserve New York's valuable resources."

The grants will help Hudson communities plan for dam removal and culvert replacement projects to restore aquatic habitat for American eel and river herring - ocean species that migrate into the estuary and then into streams to spawnor complete their life cycle. Removing these stream barriers also will benefit resident fish such as trout and will help communities with existing and projected impacts of localized flooding by removing constrictions.

Hudson River Estuary Program Grants have been awarded to the following organizations ($595,233 total):

Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District, Orange County:

  • Brown's Pond Dam Removal, $350,000 - This grant supports community and stakeholder outreach meetings, final project permitting, and removal of the deteriorated Brown's Pond dam on the Otter Kill Creek in the town of Hamptonburgh. The grant also includes restoration of the former stream shoreline, a site information kiosk, and educational tours. Removing the dam will eliminate the hazard to road and residential property and will reconnect at least 14.5 miles of stream habitat for American eel and many other fish and wildlife species.

Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester counties:

  • Riverkeeper, Planning for Dam Removal, $245,233 - Riverkeeper project will help restore natural stream habitat for fish such as American eel and river herring whose upstream migration is impacted by dams and artificial barriers that are no longer needed or are poorly maintained. Riverkeeper will partner with DEC to reach out to the owners of dams and other stream barriers and educate the public on the benefits of converting waterbodies back to natural states.

In partnership with the NEIWPCC, DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program is also funding five projects totaling $315,398 to help identify problems affecting the health of tributary streams. The NEIWPCC partnership projects include:

Albany, Dutchess, Greene and Ulster counties:

  • Road-Stream Crossing Inventory, $41,850 - Tighe & Bond Engineering will document and evaluate road-stream crossings within the towns of Coeymans, Esopus, Fishkill and New Baltimore to improve water quality, reduce flood risks, and reconnect stream habitat for fish in the Hudson River estuary.

Columbia, Rockland, Greene counties:

  • Road-Stream Crossing Assessment and Municipal Outreach, $45,629 - Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Rockland, Columbia and Greene counties will assess and inventory public road-stream crossings. The Lower Hudson Coalition of Soil and Water Conservation Districts will help communities prioritize replacement of culverts or bridges to reduce flooding hazards and improve fish passage.

Columbia County:

  • Green Brook Road-Stream Crossing Survey Evaluation and Prioritization Project, $29,953 -Trout Unlimited will identify and prioritize road-stream crossing replacement projects within the Green Brook watershed in the town of Chatham to improve fish passage and reduce flooding hazards. The projects will be included in the Comprehensive Plan that is currently being developed by the town. Trout Unlimited also will prepare conceptual and construction-ready engineering designs to remediate the top three problem culverts within the inventory which, if fixed, will provide the greatest improvement for American eel and other vulnerable fish such as trout.

Orange County:

  • Watershed and Flood Mitigation Assessment of Saw Kill, $99,498 - Princeton Hydro will to help the towns of Cornwall and New Windsor and the village of Cornwall-on-Hudson in the Lower Moodna Creek watershed. It will propose local flood risk-reduction methods such as improvement or replacement of bridges and culverts or dam removal, and will identify ways to reduce flooding risks through conservation of wetlands and forests.

Dutchess County:

  • Watershed and Flood Mitigation Assessment of Moodna Creek, $98,468-Fuss and O'Neill will evaluate and develop flood reduction strategies in the Saw Kill Creek watershed, working in the town and village of Red Hook, town of Milan, and town of Rhinebeck. It will also assess the potential of wetland and forest conservation to reduce flood risk.

The Hudson River estuary watershed has more than 1,500 dams and 10,000 culverts. These grant-funded projects are part of an ambitious plan to identify and prioritize which aquatic barriers are the most detrimental to fish habitat and pose flood-risks, in order to help communities focus resources at the most beneficial locations. In 2016, the Estuary Program and partners removed dams that restored herring runs in the Wynants Kill in Troy, and reconnected more than five miles of habitat for trout, eel, and other species on the Wappinger Creek in Clinton, Dutchess County. The program has also funded culvert replacements on municipal roads, resulting in better connected streams and roads more resilient to flooding.

Funding is provided by the State's Environmental Protection Fund and is administered under DEC's 2017 Hudson River Estuary Grants Program and in partnership with the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission through Requests for Proposals.

State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos "Partnering with local communities, environmental groups and civic organizations, New York has significantly improved the environmental health of the Hudson River estuary. Governor Cuomo has made record investments to protect the river, create new and expanded recreation access, and improve community resiliency."

Susan Sullivan, NEIWPCC Executive Director, said, "NEIWPCC is pleased to be able to help Hudson River Estuary communities in reducing localized flooding and improving passage for aquatic organisms."

Senator Tom O'Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "New York State's ongoing investment in water quality and restoration projects in communities statewide will make a great difference for future generations. This latest round of funding focuses on one of the state's most important and iconic waterways, the Hudson River Estuary. I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Cuomo and all of my legislative colleagues to help secure a stronger environmental future in every region of the state."

Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "By ensuring that these important habitats are restored and protected, we are creating more sustainable communities across New York. I commend Governor Cuomo and all of the local communities involved for their efforts to create healthier and more resilient water bodies along the Hudson River."

Now in its 15th year, the Estuary Grants Program implements priorities outlined in DEC's Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda: clean water; resilient communities; a vital estuary ecosystem; estuary fish, wildlife and habitats; natural scenery; and education, river access, recreation, and inspiration. To view the Action Agenda and for complete details about the new grant funding, visit DEC's website at www.dec.ny.gov/lands/5104.html.