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Environmental Trust Fund Information

List of Approved Projects for the Champlain Hudson Environmental Research and Development Trust


First Priority Hudson River Projects
  1. Field sampling and analysis of adult and juvenile resident and migratory fish habitat distributions

    Description: This project will identify important habitat areas for resident and migratory adult and juvenile fish within the upper Hudson River Estuary. A variety of habitat types over a large region in the river will be sampled including shallow vegetated and unvegetated areas, shoals, open channel and backwaters. Juvenile and adult fish community composition and abundance will be compared across all habitat types to determine relative importance of each habitat to each fish species and community. This work will lead to identifying specific locations that will serve as reference sites for developing design parameters and target conditions for restoration sites throughout the region.

  2. Analysis of preferred habitat characteristics for migratory and resident larval and juvenile fish

    Description: This project is an in-depth study of the biotic and abiotic characteristics of important habitats identified in project #1 and similar ongoing research on larval fish. Plant communities, water chemistry, benthic fauna, sediment characteristics, flow regimes, along with a variety of other measures will increase our understanding of the preferred habitat types and how they function. This information will be used to guide the design of future projects that restore similar types of habitats. There will be fewer, but more intensively studied sites than in project #1.

  3. Analysis and summary of existing tracking and mapping data

    Description: This project involves combining data gathered by three separate and existing projects: high resolution, deepwater benthic mapping and Atlantic sturgeon and American shad tracking information collected by the NYSDEC. Position data on individual fish collected as part of on-going fish telemetry work will be spatially referenced to benthic mapping data. Statistical analysis of how spatial distributions of classes of benthic environment are related to spatial distributions of tagged fish will be done. Project will seek to identify deep water habitat (as defined by sediment environment and sediment type) preferences throughout the river for sturgeon and shad.

  4. Modeling transport of upper estuary fine grain sediment and contaminants

    Description: Model transport of upper estuary fine grain sediment and contaminants to predict how habitat restoration designs will affect sediment management and contaminant distribution in the upper estuary. This information is needed to guide design of restoration projects that will benefit migratory fish species while minimizing impact to sediment management plans and contaminant distribution in the estuary. Modeling work will address three challenges: 1) to effectively predict local conditions at the scale of ~10 meters while at the same time including significant factors throughout the estuary watershed that might affect local conditions; 2) to model ice scour, and 3) to properly model fine-grained sediment transport and deposition which include some physical properties not found in coarser-grained sediment transport. This last is important in that contaminants are generally associated with fine-grained mud.

  5. Hudson River Habitat Restoration plan- Implementation of a migratory fish spawning and juvenile refuge habitat restoration project.

    Description: A secondary channel refuge habitat restoration project will be implemented in the upper estuary consistent with the goals of the Draft Hudson River Habitat Restoration Plan. The restoration project will be implemented consistent with the Society of Ecological Restoration International’s (SER) “Guidelines for developing and managing ecological restoration projects, 2nd Edition”, (2005). Total project costs may include baseline and post construction monitoring of restoration and reference sites, design, implementation and land acquisition costs. Mitigation funding may be used for any part of the project cost, or used as matching funds for state or federal habitat restoration grants.

Second Priority Hudson River Projects
  1. Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon tracking

    Description: This project entails tagging juvenile and adult life stages of Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon with acoustic tags, and tracking fish movements using mobile hydrophones mounted on boats. Deploy and use arrays of fixed receivers to monitor habitat utilization at high resolution within the array study area. Tag 30 to 40 fish for each life stage for each species each year. The purpose of this work is to expand knowledge of how individual fish species use different parts of the Hudson River Estuary’s varied habitat (in terms of water depth, salinity, and bottom type) at different times of the year and at different life stages.

  2. Adult American shad tagging and tracking

    Description: Tag adult American shad with acoustic tags and track fish movements in the estuary using mobile hydrophones mounted on boats. Deploy and use arrays of fixed receivers to determine habitat utilization by the tagged fish at high resolution within the array study area. Tag and monitor 30 to 40 fish each year. The purpose of this work is to expand knowledge of how individual fish species use different parts of the Hudson River Estuary’s varied habitat (in terms of water depth, salinity, and bottom type) at different times of the year and at different life stages.

Third Priority Hudson River Projects
  1. Shallow water mapping

    Description: Complete shallow water benthic mapping to map the bathymetry and sediment environment of the waters less than 4 meters deep in the Hudson River Estuary from the harbor at New York City to Troy. The purpose of this project is to develop a detailed description of the physical environment in which fish live, and to support management activities related to fish and wildlife management and contaminant transport. Project will include development of databases and products consistent with techniques used in prior Hudson River shallow water mapping, building on the Hudson River benthic mapping project, including use of several different types of sonar to measure water depth and sediment character at 1-meter horizontal resolution, supplemental sediment cores and grabs, and sediment profile imagery, to create detailed bathymetric maps and interpretive maps of sediment type and sediment environment.

  2. Hudson River Estuarium

    Description: Provide funding for the construction and operation of the Hudson River Estuarium, a field research station currently being developed at Pier 26 in Manhattan. The facility will house and support scientists performing field studies within the estuary, and will serve as a hub for the collection and transmission of remote sensing data.

  3. Hudson River habitat restoration plan- Implement a second migratory fish spawning and juvenile refuge habitat restoration project

    Description: Implement a secondary channel refuge habitat restoration project in the upper estuary consistent with the goals of the Draft Hudson River Habitat Restoration Plan. Restoration project will be implemented consistent with the Society of Ecological Restoration International’s (SER) “Guidelines for developing and managing ecological restoration projects, 2nd Edition”, (2005). Total project costs may include baseline and post construction monitoring of restoration and reference sites, design, implementation and land acquisition costs. Available mitigation funding may be used as matching funds for state or federal restoration grant applications.

Fourth Priority Hudson River Projects
  1. Sturgeon habitat and forage

    Description: Project will include field studies to determine dietary habits of sturgeon and the relationship between benthic biota and benthic characteristics. Sturgeon will be captured and stomach contents sampled, on location prior to release. Location information will be spatially referenced to Benthic Mapping data identifying benthic characteristics (sediment composition and dynamics). Evaluation of benthic fauna using shallow cores collected in the field will correlate benthic community compositions with sediment environment and observed dietary preferences of the target species. Project will help identify priority areas and habitat type for feeding sturgeon.

  2. Recreation fishery survey

    Description: Project will include field survey of anglers utilizing the Hudson River Estuary to identify catch composition, total catch, total effort, and catch rates during ice free season. Fish populations and fisheries are likely to respond to any construction or operational impacts. A fishery survey is an economical way to assess change to a wide range of fished species. Earlier surveys will be used as a baseline for change analysis, post- installation.

  3. Hudson River habitat restoration plan- Implement a third migratory fish spawning and juvenile refuge habitat restoration project.

    Description: Implement a secondary channel refuge habitat restoration project in the upper estuary consistent with the goals of the Draft Hudson River Habitat Restoration Plan. Restoration project will be implemented consistent with the Society of Ecological Restoration International’s (SER) “Guidelines for developing and managing ecological restoration projects, 2nd Edition”, (2005). Total project costs may include baseline and post construction monitoring of restoration and reference sites, design, implementation and land acquisition costs. Available mitigation funding may be used as matching funds for state or federal restoration grant applications.

First Priority Bronx, Harlem and East River Projects
  1. Bronx Kill Habitat Restoration

    Description: Restore habitats in and along the Bronx Kill by softening the shoreline, creating wetlands, and removing flow impediments in order to benefit migratory and resident species affected by cable construction and operation.

  2. Bronx River Fish Passage

    Description: Implement dam removal or bypass projects along the Bronx River to improve fish migration, in order to benefit migratory and resident species affected by cable construction and operation.

  3. Harlem River Designing the Edge Project

    Description: Reconfigure existing vertical shoreline structures along the Harlem River to create habitat complexity, and provide refugia for migratory and resident fish species in order to compensate for habitat disturbance associated with cable construction and operation.

  4. Oyster Bed Development and Restoration

    Description: Oysters are “ecosystem engineers,” creating a complex environment that supports a diversity of aquatic organisms. Oysters help to moderate the concentration of phytoplankton in the water, thereby benefitting other marine life by reducing the competition for dissolved oxygen. Once ubiquitous in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary and New York Harbor, decades of overfishing, disease and pollution almost eliminated the oysters that once blanketed those areas. Recent water quality improvements have enabled efforts to restore this vital element of the Estuary.

    Restoration of oyster beds in New York waters, including areas of the Hudson River, is one of the key targets in the Army Corps of Engineers’ Comprehensive Restoration Plan for the Hudson-Raritan Estuary. Pilot oyster reefs were constructed as part of the Oyster Restoration Research Project (“ORRP”), a partnership of more than 30 entities. Ongoing two-year studies of the pilot reefs conducted by the ORRP have shown positive results that warrant further investigation consistent with the Corps of Engineers’ Comprehensive Restoration Plan. The initial two-year studies of pilot oyster reefs are expected to be completed in the spring of 2012. An infusion of funds from the Trust would allow the City to conduct additional studies of existing pilot oyster reefs consistent with the Corps of Engineers’ Comprehensive Restoration Plan, including (i) a comprehensive evaluation of the ecosystem services and water quality benefits that the oyster reefs provide, and (ii) an examination of oyster larval development, disease resistance, and obstacles to oyster reproduction. Also, ongoing studies of the pilot oyster reefs have demonstrated that larval oysters “planted” at the reefs may be lost to hydraulic transport. With the Trust funding, new methods to reduce such losses would be studied within the existing footprint of the Soundview Park pilot reef in the Upper East River in the Bronx. If approved as presently proposed, the HVDC Transmission Facility will be installed in the bed of the East River as the cables are laid between the Hudson River and the East River.

    Timing: Data collected from the two-year pilot oyster reef study to be completed in the spring of 2012 will be used to evaluate the feasibility of oyster reef expansion, particularly at the Soundview Park in the Bronx. This evaluation of the pilot project studies, together with any additional data or other relevant information obtained during the period between completion of the initial pilot oyster reef studies and CHPE Project construction financial closing, will be reviewed again at Project construction financial closing. If warranted by that review, and approved by the Trust Governance Committee, the process necessary to enable pilot oyster reef expansion may be initiated.

  5. New York Harbor Contaminated Sediment Assessment

    Description: Sediments in the Hudson River and New York Harbor are contaminated with many harmful chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenols (PCB)s. The disturbance (i.e. dredging) and disposal of contaminated material is problematic, as it is harmful to the environment, and expensive. Since sediment contamination may impact benthic communities and other aquatic species, it should be considered and evaluated as part of certain restoration and remediation projects. An understanding of how sediment contaminant levels change over time is important for a variety of purposes, including the conduct and evaluation of sediment remediation efforts and informing policies on where and how to dispose of contaminated dredged material. The contaminated sediment assessment project will develop, update and refine our understanding of how the quality of dredged sediments level of sediment contamination changes over time by efforts including, for example: (a) collecting sediments and quantifying contaminant levels, including the levels of substances of concern for dredged material management; (b) determining which sediment areas are currently toxic and the identity and level of their contaminants; and (c) how the quality of dredged sediments may change over time, including, for example, by burial by cleaner sediments entering the system or transport to other parts of the system. The project initially will focus on contaminant load in, and transport through, the Hudson, Harlem and East Rivers. These areas include part of the present configuration for the route of the CHPE cables. This project will be conducted over a period of approximately two (2) years. The information produced from this project will be presented in a final report that will inform the Design Guidelines for Shoreline Enhancements project, for example, by factoring information regarding the nature and extent of contamination into shoreline restoration projects, as well as future efforts to restore or enhance aquatic habitat in the study areas.

  6. Develop design guidelines for shoreline enhancements

    Description: The shoreline and shallow areas of the waters surrounding New York City have been heavily altered over the centuries to meet human demands. These alterations were driven almost exclusively by engineering and economic considerations with little regard to the ecological needs of those waters, aquatic species and the aquatic habitat. As a result, the City’s shoreline has a significantly reduced capacity to provide important habitat for aquatic species, to reduce wave energy, and limit nutrient and sediment delivery from the watershed to the Harbor Estuary. This proposal is based on the observation that new designs for engineered structures in the shore zone that meet engineering and economic requirements, and that enhance and rehabilitate ecologically-degraded shore-zone ecosystems are necessary to guide shoreline restoration projects.

    To increase our understanding of the ecological functions of shore zone ecosystems, to facilitate future shoreline restoration projects, including those upriver shoreline projects that are currently in progress, and to enhance and protect aquatic habitat and aquatic species in City waters, this project will develop: (a) a classification scheme specific to the urban shoreline habitats of New York City; (b) a comprehensive shoreline and shallow waters characterization and habitat map; and (c) design guidelines and recommendations for managing the City’s shoreline and shallow waters to enhance the ecological function of City waters. This work will be conducted over a period of approximately three (3) years and will create a final report that will be used to guide the design and location of shoreline enhancement projects.

    The design guidelines presented in the report may be evaluated and/or otherwise implemented at locations along the shorelines of the Hudson, East and Harlem Rivers. Shoreline areas near the Project may also be the subject of potential future funding requests, if determined to be feasible, to enhance habitat or water quality in the Project area. Such activities along those rivers may include, for example: (a) selection of one or more locations that would be suitable for a pilot or larger-scale project that would demonstrate and study the effectiveness of ecological enhancement measures identified in the guidelines (such potential sites may include, for example, open space located at the mouth of the Harlem River and Roberto Clemente State Park); (b) monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of existing shoreline enhancement measures (e.g., Harlem River Park); and (c) incorporating shoreline enhancements into certain CNY permitting processes for shoreline construction projects. This project will build off, and complement, the Sustainable Shorelines effort underway north of New York City. The two projects share similar goals and, where practical, can exchange information and coordinate efforts.

First Priority Lake Champlain Projects
  1. Development and Implementation of Fish Population and Recreational Fisheries Surveys

    Description: The shallow, eutrophic South Lake section of Lake Champlain favors warmwater species and is the primary area of concern for potential impacts from cable installation. An increase in turbidity due to construction activities is the main concern for the South Lake fish community. Eggs and larval and juvenile fish are the most susceptible life stages to increases in turbidity, therefore impacts to adult populations and sportfisheries resulting from construction activities may not be evident for several years. In order to gauge the potential impacts of cable installation on the Lake’s warmwater fish community, a comprehensive monitoring program for the lake, with an emphasis in South Lake, should be developed and implemented. The monitoring program should be comprised of studies focused on: 1) obtaining up to date angler creel and opinion information; 2) assessing the characteristics and potential impacts of black bass tournaments; 3) the status of important sport- and panfish populations such as walleye, yellow perch, black bass, northern pike, and muskellunge; 4) the status and ecology of Species of Greatest Conservation Need such as sauger and mooneye; and 5) assessing the fish community dynamics for the lake, including assessments of forage and invasive fish populations. These studies will aid in the development and implementation of management recommendations for the aforementioned species. The monitoring program will be consistent with the guiding principles, nearshore fish community sub-goals, and information priorities in the Strategic Plan for Lake Champlain Fisheries (Fisheries Technical Committee 2009).

  2. Fish Habitat Assessments

    Description: Protecting and restoring fish habitats is critical to the proper management of fish populations in Lake Champlain and is a guiding principle in the Strategic Plan for Lake Champlain Fisheries (Fisheries Technical Committee 2009). In addition, habitat quality and connectivity are important criteria in determining the potential impacts of certain stressors, such as expansion of invasive species or increases in turbidity. In Lake Champlain, there is a need to identify locations and characteristics of important habitats for critical life stages of a number of migratory and resident fish species. Habitat assessments should focus on percids, esocids, black bass, rainbow smelt, lake trout, landlocked salmon, steelhead, lake sturgeon, and mooneye. In addition, there should be an assessment of the links between deep water benthic habitats and the pelagic fish community. This will involve an assessment of mysid shrimp abundance and the impacts that invasive fish such as alewife may be having on these organisms. Information will be used to document current habitat suitability and connectivity, and identify habitat restoration goals for restoring and managing resident and migratory fish.

  3. Critical Habitat Restoration

    Description: Restoration and maintenance of critical fish habitats is essential to improve and sustain productive fisheries and is a key component of fish community conservation. Management actions to increase fish production and expand distribution should incorporate identification, protection and restoration of spawning, nursery, or other critical habitats (Fisheries Technical Committee 2009). Lake Champlain has experienced substantial habitat degradation due to the damming of rivers, nuisance invasive species, loss of shoreline wetlands, and sedimentation and contamination from adjacent land use practices. Habitat restoration goals and target restoration areas will be identified in the Fish Habitat Assessment project (Project 2). This project will involve the implementation of priority critical habitat restoration projects identified in Project 2. The selected restoration projects will be consistent with the guiding principles and healthy fish community sub goals of the Strategic Plan for Lake Champlain Fisheries. Projects will need to include intensive pre and post condition monitoring to identify project outcomes and adaptive management opportunities. Projects may include, but are not limited to, installation of reefs, improving connectivity between habitats (including fish passage) and submerged aquatic vegetation restoration and will provide benefits to both the resident and migratory fish communities. Priority will be given to projects benefiting lake sturgeon, sauger, whitefish, landlocked salmon and other rare or game fish species.

  4. Aquatic Invasive Species Management

    Description: Aquatic invasive species can have tremendous ecological impacts (e.g., dense water chestnut growth limits littoral habitat in the South Lake and expanding alewife populations may prevent successful natural reproduction of walleye). Also, combining invasives with other stressors that impair habitat quality can have profound detrimental effects on fish populations and has resulted in the declines of several species native to Lake Champlain that are now listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern (Fisheries Technical Committee 2009). Controlling aquatic invasive species is a means to improve habitat quality, manage existing habitats, and reduce risks to important fish populations. Management activities may include removal of aquatic invasive plants, developing a program to minimize the risk for introduction of invasives via the Champlain Canal and other connecting waters, recreational boats, and fishing practices, and developing and implementing research, monitoring, and control programs for invasive species such as spiny water flea, zebra and quagga mussels, sea lamprey, and alewife. Removal of aquatic invasive plants will result in changes to the plant communities of managed areas. Aquatic plant community responses should be assessed in these areas.