Don’t Miss the Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count!

What lurks below the surface of the magnificent Hudson River? Find out for yourself! This weekend, New Yorkers have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the slippery, wriggly residents of the Hudson by participating in the Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count.

Now in its fifth year, the fish count is a one-day event organized by the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program. At 19 sites, from Saratoga to Brooklyn, participants will catch aquatic critters using seines, minnow traps, and rods and reels. After documenting and examining the haul, the fish and other organisms are returned to the water.

Citizen participants in the Fish Count may watch from shore or jump into available waterproof waders and help pull in the nets. Visit the DEC’s website to find a sampling site near you!

Counting the Catch

The first seining net pulled in nearly a hundred Atlantic silversides.
Atlantic silversides, caught during the 2015 fish count. Photo credit: Emily Manley / NYER.

The Hudson River’s range in salinity and habitat types supports a wide array of fish and other wildlife. More than 200 fish species have been documented, including several that migrate into the river from the Atlantic Ocean each spring to spawn.

Over the last four years, the fish count has recorded 47 species of fish, including striped bass, white perch, stripers, spottail shiners, Atlantic silverside, and three species of herring: the alewife, blueback herring, and American shad.

In 2015, NYER attended the fish count at Brooklyn Bridge Park—here’s what we saw!

For a complete account of the fish caught during the 2015 count, download the 2015 Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count results (PDF 19KB).

New Support for the Beautiful -and Essential- Hudson River Estuary

Almost half of the Hudson River is an estuary, a combination of ocean tides and freshwater. The Hudson River Estuary stretches 153 miles, from Troy to New York Harbor. The River itself runs 315 miles, flowing south from Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondacks.

“Estuaries are among the most productive of Earth’s ecosystems,” says the state Department of Environmental Conservation in a wonderful description of the Hudson River:

“The estuary feels the ocean’s tidal pulse all the way to Troy. Push a stick into the beach at the water’s edge, or note the water’s height on a piling or rock. Check back in 20 minutes. Is the water level the same? The estuary usually has two high and two low tides in twenty-four hours…

The estuary’s productivity is ecologically and economically valuable to much of the Atlantic Coast; key commercial and recreational species like striped bass, bluefish, and blue crab depend on nursery habitat here. Bald eagles, herons, waterfowl, and other birds feed from the river’s bounty. Tidal marshes, mudflats, and other significant habitats in and along the estuary support a great diversity of life.”

Much Healthier but Still Vulnerable

After decades of hard work by citizens groups and government agencies, the Hudson River is one of the healthiest estuaries on the Atlantic Coast. Nonetheless, it is still threatened by multiple pollution sources -ranging from raw sewage releases to accidental oil releases from power plants. Check out our recent article on the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which sits on the banks of the estuary.

The progression of climate change will also impact the estuary and the wildlife it supports.

To that end, the state DEC has just announced the release of $770,000 in funding for communities in the Hudson River Estuary. The funding will help these communities design and plan projects that will improve water quality, increase flood resiliency, and conserve natural resources throughout the estuary.

For example, the city of Kingston is to receive $22,000 so it can develop a natural resources inventory that will “identify areas to protect, including water resources, habitats, wildlife and natural areas important for climate resilience.”

eastern bluebird
The Eastern Bluebird, which nests close to the Hudson River Estuary during the summer. After diminishing in number, the Eastern Bluebird has been making a comeback in recent years.

Funding for the projects comes from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund, a “pay-as-you-go” source of capital funding which is replenished by proceeds from the Real Estate Transfer Tax, along with other state revenue streams, like the Bottle Bill.

The Environmental Protection Fund has been a source of controversy because it is periodically raided. Since its establishment in 1993, almost $1 billion has been “swept” from the Environmental Protection Fund to the state’s General Fund for budget relief.

An estuary with an agenda

The 18 projects that will receive funding are part of the Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda, which is being implemented over a five year period by the DEC, in partnership with other state agencies and the federal government.

The Action Agenda has six goals for the estuary:

  1. Clean water;
  2. Climate Resilient communities;
  3. A vital estuarine ecosystem;
  4. Conservation of fish, wildlife, and habitats;
  5. Preservation of the river’s natural scenery; and
  6. Enhanced opportunities for education, river access, recreation and inspiration.

Support at the community level is critical to the success of the Action Agenda, says the state.

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Residents help to conduct a fish count in the Hudson River. Credit: New City Patch

Dedicated citizens, along with local municipalities, non-profit groups, academic and scientific institutions, businesses, trade organizations, conservation groups, and landowners are key partners in the effort to keep the estuary healthy for generations to come.

Take a look at the projects that will receive funding………..

Hudson River Shoreline Flooding Plans

City of Kingston, $49,684 to convene a Sea Level Rise Implementation Learning Group to collaborate on implementing key actions of the Flooding Task Forces in the village of Piermont, village of Catskill, city of Kingston and the town of Stony Point.

Village of Catskill, $25,500 for a Hudson River Shoreline Flooding Plan including an analysis of potential changes to the village’s local zoning code to address resiliency issues.

The Nature Conservancy, $50,000 to continue a project to assist local communities to participate in the Hudson River Comprehensive Restoration Plan (HRCRP) process in the Hudson River Restoration Study Area from the Troy dam to the Piermont Marsh.

Flood Adaptation Planning for Water and WasteWater Infrastructure

Village of Catskill, $42,500 to complete a Risk and Engineering Review of the village of Catskill Wastewater System, and to implement recommendations from “Resilient Catskill Report of the Catskill Waterfront Resilience Task Force.”

Green Infrastructure Planning

Albany Water Board (City of Albany Department of Water and Sewer), $50,000 for an Albany Pool Communities Feasibility Assessment for a Green Infrastructure Banking System. This project will create a tool box of options that one or more communities can rely on to encourage and promote the development of green infrastructure.

City of Yonkers, $50,000 to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the storm water system and green infrastructure strategies to reduce the burden on the system.

Siena College, $25,277 complete a green infrastructure planning report for the Patroon Creek Watershed.

Watershed Stewardship Planning

Orange County Water Authority, $50,081 to develop a watershed management plan for the Monhagen Brook Watershed.

Riverkeeper, $49,999, to update two watershed management plans for the Wallkill River and the Rondout Creek.

Bard College, $44,779 to support the development of a science-based community stewardship Saw Kill Watershed Community Group focused on the management of the SawKill Watershed.

Hudson Valley Regional Council, $50,000 to develop regionally applicable educational materials, guidance documents and fact sheets about the legal, regulatory and policy issues pertaining to drinking water source protection, stormwater management, the maintenance and restoration of streams and riparian buffer protection and restoration.

Stream Restoration and Resiliency Planning

Ulster County, $47,000 to develop a comprehensive culvert assessment that includes a GIS/modeling analysis and a field assessment and prioritization report for the county.

Town of New Castle, $50,000 to produce the information needed to undertake removal of the Upper Minkel Pond Dam and restore the natural stream channel and surrounding wetland.

Hudson River Shoreline Stabilization Plans

Village of Hastings-on-Hudson, $41,650 to implement a Hudson River Shoreline Stabilization Plan to address ongoing erosion issues at a site on the outer bend of the Hudson River.

New York Restoration Project, $50,000 to develop a shoreline plan to guide the ongoing reclamation work at Sherman Creek Park.

Natural Resources Inventory and Planning

City of Kingston, $22,000 to develop a natural resources inventory that will identify areas to protect, including water resources, habitats, wildlife and natural areas important for climate resilience.

Town of Rochester, $50,000 to assist the Towns of Rochester and Wawarsing to connect ecological and recreational assets for an open space plan.

Town of New Lebanon, $21,520 to develop a Natural Resources Conservation Plan with information from the New Lebanon Comprehensive Plan, Open Space Inventory and Estuary Program Habitat Summary.

 

Hudson River Fish Count Nets Aquatic Critters at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Catch, count, identify, release: that was the refrain last weekend on a rocky Hudson River beach in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Beneath the hulking shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, and despite the rumble and shake of endless trains clattering above, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Steve Stanne expertly led a group of volunteers and curious bystanders in the art of the Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count.

Hidden Below the Surface

Now in its fourth year, the fish count is a one-day event each summer during which naturalists at multiple sites along the Hudson catch fish to show visitors the variety of fascinating creatures usually hidden below the river’s surface. This year 17 sites, from Saratoga to Brooklyn, were sampled.

More than 200 fish species call the Hudson estuary and its watershed home, and over the past three years, volunteers have recorded at least 37 of them during the count.

This year at the Brooklyn site, volunteers took the seine nets out a handful of times. They counted, identified, and documented everything pulled in, and then returned all the creatures to the river. At the end of the event, the tally included hundreds of Atlantic silversides, plus striped bass, bluefish, porgy, a lady crab and a blue crab, comb jellies, and even a lined seahorse!

According to Stanne, this year’s fish count netted a total of 33 species across all sites, “the highest number recorded on any of the four Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Counts to date.” Two of the species found in Brooklyn—the porgy and the lined seahorse—were new to the count list completely.

Photos from the Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count

The DEC's Steve Stanne and a volunteer take the seine net out into the Hudson.
The DEC’s Steve Stanne and a volunteer take the seine net out into the Hudson. Photo credit: Emily Manley / NYER.
Clearwater's Key to Common Hudson River Fishes: our guide for the afternoon.
Clearwater’s Key to Common Hudson River Fishes: our guide for the afternoon. Photo credit: Emily Manley/NYER.
Pulling the seine net on shore.
Pulling the seine net on shore. Photo credit: Emily Manley / NYER.
Catch, count, identify, release!
Catch, count, identify, release! Photo credit: Emily Manley / NYER
The first seining net pulled in nearly a hundred Atlantic silversides.
The first seining net pulled in nearly a hundred Atlantic silversides. Photo credit: Emily Manley / NYER.
Close-up of an Atlantic silverside.
Close-up of an Atlantic silverside. Photo credit: Emily Manley/NYER.
Our first mystery fish of the day turns out to be a scup, otherwise known as a porgy.
Our first mystery fish of the day turns out to be a scup, otherwise known as a porgy. Photo credit: Emily Manley/NYER
A male ladycrab (yep, that's right) also found its way into our net.
A male ladycrab (yep, that’s right) also found its way into our net. Photo credit: Emily Manley/NYER
Steve Sanne and volunteers take the net out again, this time with help from a curious onlooker.
Steve Stanne and volunteers take the net out again, this time with help from a curious onlooker. Photo credit: Emily Manley/NYER
What did we find this time?
What did we find this time? Photo credit: Emily Manley/NYER
A striped bass!
A striped bass! Photo credit: Emily Manley/NYER
A striped bass and bluefish, held up for closer inspection.
A striped bass and bluefish, held up for closer inspection. Photo credit: Emily Manley/NYER.
The one we've all been waiting for: a lined seahorse!
The one we’ve all been waiting for: a lined seahorse! Photo credit: NYSDEC

Reporter’s Notebook: Taking a Moment to Appreciate Our Beautiful Hudson River

It lives right beside us, but how often do we get to soak in the beauty of the 315-mile long Hudson River?

Last weekend I was really fortunate to go hiking along Breakneck Ridge, which is about an hour and a half north of New York City, and traverses a section of the Hudson Highlands.

The trail looks down into a deep gorge where the Hudson crosses the “mountainous and forested Hudson Highlands” from roughly Peekskill to Newburgh. West Point overlooks the river there, and Bear Mountain Bridge spans this section.

I couldn’t get over the beauty and the scale of this part of the river. It’s truly majestic.

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Looking north from Breakneck Ridge. Photo credit: Sarah Crean

And there is so much more to see.

The upper course of the Hudson has many waterfalls and rapids. The middle course, between Newburgh and Albany, has the Catskill and Shawangunk mountains on the west side and large, historic estates, such as the Roosevelt home at Hyde Park, on the east bank.

Think About a Day Trip Along the Hudson

One way to experience the beauty of the Hudson is to go to Cold Spring, NY (an hour and twenty minutes from NYC’s Grand Central on Metro North).

From there, there are great options for folks of all ages and hiking abilities. All of these options are free and many are reachable by walking; you just need to get to Cold Spring.

Cold Spring has a beautiful beach and park along the river where families can barbecue and swim. There are also hiking trails close to the river, which are great for kids.

little stony point
Little Stony Point in Cold Spring, NY. Photo credit: Rivertown Kids for the Environment

If you want to get up into the mountains, you can hike Breakneck Ridge, which is hard work but the views are stupendous. If you’re afraid of heights (like me), a few sections of the trail can be pretty unnerving because you are scrambling up rocks above steep drops. But friendly hikers helped me along when I got stuck.

Sarah breakneck ridge
NYER reporter and fearer of heights, Sarah Crean.

On the way back down from Breakneck Ridge, my friend and I stumbled across something in the woods which would warm any NYC resident’s heart.

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Old New York City drinking water pumping station outside Cold Spring, NY.

We had come across an old, seemingly abandoned, water pumping station that was part of the city’s water supply system. Today, New York City gets its drinking water from both the Catskill/Delaware and Croton systems, spanning 200 miles to the north of the city.

A City website describes:

“In 1905 the Board of Water Supply was created by the State Legislature. After careful study, the City decided to develop the Catskill region as an additional water source. The Board of Water Supply proceeded to plan and construct facilities to impound the waters of the Esopus Creek, one of the four watersheds in the Catskills, and to deliver the water throughout the City. This project, to develop what is known as the Catskill System, included the Ashokan Reservoir and Catskill Aqueduct and was completed in 1915.”

pump house II
New York City seal on old water pumping station outside Cold Spring, NY.

The Hudson: Majestic but Vulnerable

As I looked out at the Hudson, it was hard not to think about the threats to its health. Just a few days ago, a transformer fire at the nearby Indian Point nuclear power plant caused an oil leak into the river.

Oil containment in the Hudson River deployed off Indian Point. Photo credit: Philipstown.info

There is also the growing rail transport of crude oil along the western side of the Hudson. Watchdog group Hudson Riverkeeper reports that “as much as 7 billion gallons of crude oil could move by train through New York State annually under current and proposed permits as the nation’s “virtual pipeline” for crude oil expands.”

And there is the ongoing issue of raw sewage releases into sections of the river from combined sewer overflow points. Every year, says Riverkeeper, more than 27 billion gallons of raw sewage and polluted stormwater are discharged out of 460 overflow points into New York Harbor alone.

manhattan cso hudson river
Combined sewer overflow release point into the Hudson River, Manhattan. Photo credit: Riverkeeper

Protecting the river is more critical than ever as our population increases, and broader environmental challenges, like climate change, continue to unfold.

A few interesting facts about the Hudson River

The source of the Hudson River: Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondacks. Photo credit: Reddit.com
  • The Hudson River begins in Lake Tear of the Clouds on Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains, and flows generally south to the Upper New York Bay in New York City;
  • The river is tidal from New York City to Troy (150 miles upstream), this section of the Hudson is considered to be an estuary;
  • Connects with the Great Lakes and with Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River via the New York State Canal System;
  • Navigable by ocean vessels to Albany and by smaller vessels to Troy;
  • Its chief tributary is the Mohawk River, which flows into the Hudson in the Capital District, a few miles north of Albany.

Reporter’s Notebook: We All Live Downstream- an encounter on the Hudson

This past Sunday I stopped overnight in beautiful Cold Spring, New York. The village of Cold Spring—which has an incredible spot on the banks of the Hudson River—is in Putnam County, just north of Westchester.

In the morning, I decided to take a walk along the river. The sheer scale of the river, and the views across it, looking toward the soaring bluffs on the Hudson’s western side, are pretty breathtaking.

But what captivated me, as someone who has lived in New York City for over two decades, is how accessible the river was, and how inviting it seemed. From where I stood on the shore of Little Stony Point Beach, you could literally walk right into the river.

The Hudson River from Cold Spring. Photo credit: Sarah Crean.
Little Stony Point Beach, Cold Spring, N.Y. Photo credit: Sarah Crean

There were no embankments or railings or cement structures. The river was right there, waiting. It was easy to imagine that this is what the shore of the Hudson had once been like all along the western edge of Manhattan.

Many were drawn to the river the day I visited. There were people throughout the half-mile stretch of beach, playing music, barbecuing and swimming.

Encountering the SeaChange Climate Justice Flotilla

As I walked along Little Stony Point Beach, I passed two amazing, but fragile-looking canoes, covered with drawings.

I wanted to keep moving but it was impossible not to ask what these canoes were. Both vessels flew flags and it was clear they were being used for a major journey. What I had stumbled across was a Climate Justice Flotilla.

Artwork on SeaChange canoe showing flotilla entering New York City. Photo credit: Sarah Crean
Artwork on SeaChange canoe showing flotilla entering New York City. Photo credit: Sarah Crean

The canoe “pilots,” Amaranta Herrero and Kevin Buckland, explained to me that a fleet of hand-made, full-scale, paper boats is traveling down the Hudson, from Troy to New York City. The “SeaChange” flotilla is to arrive in New York City as the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit gets underway and environmentalists from across the country come together for the September 21st People’s Climate March.

The project was initiated by 350.org and Mare Liberum, which describes itself as a Brooklyn-based boatbuilding collective.

The SeaChange Flotilla. Photo credit: Sunita Prasad
The SeaChange Flotilla. Photo credit: Sunita Prasad

The flotilla is making several stops on its 160-mile journey, visiting riverfront communities like Albany, Newburgh-Beacon, Hudson, and Peekskill. Every stop has significance. The stop in Peekskill on Tuesday, for example, focused on Indian Point and the question of nuclear power.

Herrero, Buckland, and the rest of the flotilla had been in Newburgh the night before I encountered them. They said they met with local residents and activists to discuss the escalation of crude oil rail shipments along the Hudson. They had also gathered to hear a presentation from Riverkeeper on an oil heating facility proposed for New Winsdor/Newburgh that could potentially handle crude from the Canadian tar sands.

Herrero and Buckland noted that as they visited communities along the Hudson, they were learning about the threat of parallel disasters: local and global. The use of the Hudson as a path for crude oil shipment threatens the river, Hudson Valley residents and the climate, they said. Ultimately, “we all live downstream,” Buckland observed.

The SeaChange Flotilla arrives in New York City tonight at the Inwood Canoe Club. The flotilla will circumnavigate Manhattan on Saturday and Sunday. You can follow the flotilla’s progress, find out where they will be landing and how to join them here.

I asked Herrero what it had been like to paddle a fragile canoe in such a wide and powerful river. One of the canoes had capsized in the Hudson, she answered. “Our trip is unpredictable, like the environment,” Herrero said.

A Local Issue: Sewage Releases into the Hudson

It was surprising to me how a brief walk along the shore of the Hudson could raise so many questions about how we relate to our environment. During my walk on the beach, I also encountered large pipes extending into the river from the shore. I had passed the village’s local sewage treatment plant on my way down to the river, and wondered whether the pipes were an outflow point for the plant.

Drainage pipe into the Hudson River. Photo credit: Sarah Crean
Drainage pipe into the Hudson River. Photo credit: Sarah Crean

As we reported last week, water quality throughout New York State is impacted by the fact that sewers and sewage treatment plants can become overwhelmed by rain, leading to the release of raw, untreated sewage into local waterways.

I have not yet been able to confirm that the pipes are outflow points for the Cold Spring Wastewater Treatment Plant, but I have located the state permit that confirms the plant can release effluent into the Hudson. Once wastewater is treated, it re-enters local waterways.

The longitude and latitude coordinates for Little Stony Point Beach, which is considered an “informal beach”, do seem to match the coordinates of the effluent release site mentioned in the town’s permit.

The night before I arrived, the mid-Hudson Valley had experienced heavy rain. Hopefully, there had been no need to release untreated sewage from the pipes on Little Stony Point Beach into the river.