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Hudson-Raritan Estuary Planners and Managers Explain Remediation Concept During Harbor Tour

Hudson-Raritan Estuary Planners and Managers Explain Remediation Concept During Harbor Tour

On September 9, 2009, I met with a group of planners and project managers from the New York District Corps of Engineers for a boat tour of some of the area encompassed by the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Plan.

Energy was high, because all on the tour are working on aspects of the project, with the goal of restoring the estuaries to function alongside the world class harbor, with all ecosystems coexisting–including human, animal and plant life

They were all aware of the feat they were accomplishing–juxtaposing wildlife habitat, parks and wilderness-type pathways within one of the largest cities and ports in the world.

The Hudson-Raritan Estuary of New York and New Jersey is more than 42,000 square kilometers (16,216 square miles), making it one of the largest estuaries on the East coast. With more than 20 million residents living nearby, it is also one of the most urbanized, and home to the Port of New York and New Jersey, a major hub of commerce vital to the regional economy.

An estuary is defined as an area where fresh water from rivers mixes with the salt water of the sea. Fresh water is supplied to the Hudson-Raritan Estuary from the Hudson, Hackensack, Passaic and Raritan Rivers, which drain major watersheds of New York and New Jersey.

For almost 400 years, the estuary and its watershed have been transformed by industrialization and residential growth, with adverse physical, chemical and biological impacts on both the waters of the estuary and its surrounding land.

More than 80 percent of the wetlands in the harbor have been lost over time, said Lisa Baron, project manager of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Restoration Study.

We met at the North Cove Marina at the World Financial Center marina in Lower Manhattan where the Corps vessel Hocking was waiting for us. William Slezak, P.E., chief of the Corps New York and New Jersey Harbor Programs Branch, explained that in 1999, Congress directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an environmental restoration study throughout the New York and New Jersey estuary. The Hudson-Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Study (HRE) Draft Plan was published in March 2009 in two volumes, and explains in detail all the elements of the plan, which will co-exist with the port’s 50-foot channels, four major marine terminals, and roads, bridges, buildings and other structures of human habitation and commerce.

Also on the tour were: Lisa Baron, Passaic Restoration project manager; Salvatore (Sam) DiDato, project manager and Area Engineer at the District’s Metro Area office; and Tom Shea, project manager for the NY & NJ Harbor Deepening Project, who has worked on the project since its inception in 1996. In addition to working on navigation issues in the Port of New York and New Jersey, Tom has worked on the Bayonne Bridge Air Draft Impact Analysis, the Mamaroneck-Sheldrake River Flood Damage Risk Reduction Project and two coastal engineering projects for the Kuwaiti Naval Forces, through the Corps’ Middle East District.

Joe Myers is captain and Ronald Greenbaum is assistant captain of the Hocking. Also aboard were Vincent Elias, public affairs officer, Harbor Programs; and Joanne Costagna, Ed.D., New York District technical writer-editor (a frequent contributor to IDR).

We set off into the harbor, passing vintage Dutch vessels in town for a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Dutch landing on Manhattan Island; past the Statue of Liberty, and past the Global Marine Terminal on the Port Jersey Channel, with its line of old subway cars forming a reef and breakwater off the shoreline.

Along an inlet in Jersey City is the waterfront of Clean Earth Dredging Technologies Inc.’s Claremont Dredged Material Recycling Facility (DMRF). This facility is an integral part of the estuary program which has as a goal 100 percent beneficial re-use of all materials dredged in the project area. At Clean Earth, contaminated material is processed and stabilized by mixing it with Portland cement and removing debris, changing it from a problem to a resource.

The engineered structural and non-structural fill material has been used in 16 different types of applications. Among them are mine reclamation, landfill closure, infrastructure improvement, brownfield development projects and golf course contouring. The company recycles or beneficially reuses approximately 98 percent of the material it processes.

Lisa Baron is the Project Manager of the Lower Passaic River Restoration Project and the Hudson Raritan Estuary Restoration Study–which will define the plan to restore the entire NY/NJ Harbor Estuary. She was formerly with New Jersey Department of Transportation, and joined the Corps of Engineers in November 2007.

One of the goals of the Hudson Raritan Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Plan is to restore 1,200 acres of coastal wetlands by 2015, and 12,500 acres of degraded wetlands in the estuary by 2050, she said.

“We are in a bay that used to be a salt marsh,” she said, indicating the vast stretch of open water we were passing through, and pointed out the Bayonne Golf Course, which was created using four million cubic yards of material from the Kill Van Kull channel deepening projects. A bike path runs around the perimeter, and the waterfront is filled with wetland grasses and birds.

The next major feature we saw was the Bayonne Bridge, completed in November 1931 as the longest steel-arch bridge in the world. Today, the Port is grappling with the problem that the bridge’s 151-foot clearance will not accommodate the post-Panamax ships that will start arriving in 2014 when the Panama Canal expansion is complete.
We motored under the bridge, which was sufficiently high to allow clearance for the Hocking, and approached the Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Dredge 54, working in area 5 of the Kill Van Kull 50-foot deepening project. We watched a number of dredging cycles by the dredge using a 50-cubic-yard Cable Arm Clamshell bucket, and picked up a crew member for a ride back to Manhattan, before motoring on to the Arthur Kill where Donjon’s excavators had just finished up the day working beside a terminal. The scow it had just filled passed us on the way, heading into Newark Bay to wait out an approaching storm.

The seas were already high when we headed back, this time with salt spray all around as we plowed through higher and higher seas.

Back at North Cove Marina, we thanked Captains Joe Riley and Ronald Greenbaum for the tour, and walked in a group back toward the Federal Building, passing the World Trade Center site on the way. It was the weekend of the eighth anniversary of the Trade Center attack, and all in our group except me had been within blocks when it had happened.

In a 2007 Sports Illustrated article, writer Michael Farber, a Bayonne native, was amazed at the lush green Bayonne Golf Course, and compared it to a country known for its beauty: “The (Bayonne Golf) course might whisper Ireland, but the tableau is unabashedly American-leisure and work, starched collar and blue collar, sylvan calm and a city with its head down and eight hours to put in,” he said–a description that will apply well to the finished estuary envisioned by the planners and project managers who were on this harbor tour.


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