Archive for the ‘New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’ Tag

One Last Summer for Clear Views of the TZB

It was five years ago that three companies responded to the state’s Request for Proposal with approximately 750,000 pages packed into about 70 boxes, and by a 4 p.m. deadline in late July.

Lots of numbers.

The following year at this time, oyster harvesting was completed, dredging was underway, and you had one last chance to capture a clear view of the Tappan Zee Bridge on film.

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Mom had her second follow-up appointment with the orthopedic surgeon last week, and Friday I brought a pair of her shoes and socks to the nursing facility. It was the first time in three months that she wore both, and she was excited.

I was sitting sideways in the back of the ambulette on the return trip speaking with mom and the driver, Henry, who said he can’t wait for the new bridge to open because reliability is imperative for him.

“I see the new bridge many times a week because I pick up people in Rockland,” Henry said. “Sometimes I am stuck in traffic with someone in the ambulette, and we are late for where we are going.”

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The week before last, I witnessed the aftermath of large truck that overturned onto its right side where the Exit 5 ramp makes a sharp turn to meet Route 119. Numerous EMS vehicles, police cars, a truck recovery vehicle and officers were at the scene. It’s a dangerous curve for cars that often back up beyond that point — although it’s a two-lane merge — when Route 119 is congested.

Additionally, as I wrote in a recent article, White Plains is not one of the seven Metro-North stations that participates in its Guaranteed Ride Home program. I still feel ARUP was incorrect to map a commuter bus route from Rockland County to White Plains.

Watch for latest project details in this Thursday’s Rockland County Times.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2017

Riverkeeper and Project Officials continue Discussions, hopeful for Out-of-Court Resolution

Talks continue between Riverkeeper, Inc., and project officials, who seek non-legal resolutions for violations Riverkeeper said result from the bridge project.

The watchdog group put the Thruway Authority and Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC on notice shortly after Christmas for violating the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act.

Riverkeeper criticized them for activities that caused resuspension of sediment on the river floor leading to turbid water and an increase in sturgeon mortalities.

Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Inc., representing Riverkeeper in this matter, said it “would be willing to discuss effective remedies for the violations noted in this letter.” If the Thruway Authority and TZC want to settle, then they must initiate discussion within 10 days of receiving the letter to arrange a meeting and complete negotiations before the 60-day period ends.

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Since then, “The Thruway Authority and Tappan Zee contractors have both reached out to us to discuss the serious issues raised in our two notice letters,” Riverkeeper and Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic said in a statement.

The productive talks will resume to find a solution without legal action.

“However, as of now, no new measures have been implemented at the project site to reduce sturgeon mortality or sediment resuspension violations, so Riverkeeper remains prepared, if necessary, to go to court,” the statement said.

Media specialist Leah Rea said Riverkeeper’s call to the National Marine Fisheries Service to provide immediate protective measures in the construction area is gaining public support. It estimates nearly 35,000 people nationally and worldwide signed the online petition, Help Protect the Hudson River’s Endangered Sturgeon Now.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

Riverkeeper Gives Thruway Authority and Bridge Builder Notice of Pending Lawsuit

These aerial photos taken in 2013 and 2015 show how Tappan Zee Bridge project activities have caused the resuspension of bottom sediments, causing plumes of turbid water, in visible contrast to natural conditions of the Hudson River estuary./Lee Ross

These aerial photos taken in 2013 and 2015 show how Tappan Zee Bridge project activities have caused the resuspension of bottom sediments, causing plumes of turbid water, in visible contrast to natural conditions of the Hudson River estuary./Lee Ross

Watchdog group Riverkeeper, Inc. put the Thruway Authority and Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC on a 60-day notice of intent to sue (collectively “Project Owners”) as permittee and contractor, respectively, responsible for project activities.

The notice contends the “Projects Owners violated their Incidental Take Statement and the Environmental Species Act (ESA) by causing the illegal take of Atlantic and shortnose sturgeons in the Hudson River Estuary.”

Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said the group intends to hold the state to its promise for “the most environmentally friendly bridge construction project ever” as it has on three previous occasions. “This project simply cannot be built on the backs of the endangered, iconic Hudson River sturgeon.”

“There is no credible scientific evidence that the project activities have negatively impacted the sturgeon populations,” Thruway Authority spokesperson Jennifer Givner said Saturday via statement.

Givner said since construction began (in January 2013) “the project team has taken unprecedented measures to protect endangered sturgeon and other aquatic life in the Hudson River and reduce resuspension of sediments due to vessel movements.”

These include using bubble curtains during pile driving to reduce underwater noise, extensively monitoring, tracking and studying sturgeon habitat, armoring the construction and dredge access channel, and substantially monitoring water quality.

Gallay disagreed. “There is no other credible explanation for the 20-fold increase in reported mortality of endangered sturgeon since construction began,” he said.

The original permission given the Thruway by National Marine Fisheries Service allowed killing two Atlantic and two shortnose sturgeon during the entire five-year project based upon the best available science on the critically-low sturgeon populations in coastal waters and the Hudson Estuary.

These aerial photos taken in 2013 and 2015 show how Tappan Zee Bridge project activities have caused the resuspension of bottom sediments, causing plumes of turbid water, in visible contrast to natural conditions of the Hudson River estuary./Lee Ross

These aerial photos taken in 2013 and 2015 show how Tappan Zee Bridge project activities have caused the resuspension of bottom sediments, causing plumes of turbid water, in visible contrast to natural conditions of the Hudson River estuary./Lee Ross

Riverkeeper maintained no progress can be made to further protect federally endangered sturgeon so long as the Authority denies evidence that let NMFS to reinitiate an ESA review of the project’s impact. Its notice “relates to clear and repeated violations of the NYS DEC permit which specifies that project related activity of any kind must not re-suspend contaminated river bottom sediments beyond a 500 foot permitted mixing zone.”

An aerial photographer documents numerous occasions when this zone “has been greatly exceeded. This issue is cut and dried. The photographs don’t lie.” In a necropsy report dated June 26, 2015, Cornell scientists said a dead sturgeon was discovered on June 4, 2015, by Tappan Zee constructors approximately one mile upstream of construction activities for the New NY Bridge at Tappan Zee.

In July Riverkeeper called upon the National Marine Fisheries Service to act immediately and protect the Hudson River fish while investigating an increase in sturgeon fatalities. It describes a massive injury to the Atlantic sturgeon and states: “What caused this trauma is unknown. One possibility, given the appearance of sharp force trauma, would be a watercraft propeller,” the scientists said.

Riverkeeper said in the four years prior to construction, six dead sturgeon were reported, and since construction started, 122 were reported.

It said necropsies on two sturgeon recovered by bridge construction crews close to the construction site in June 2015 (Atlantic sturgeon) and August 2015 (shortnose sturgeon), found that the deaths were likely caused by vessel strikes. A third sturgeon (shortnose) found by construction crews, in May 2014, was deemed possibly killed by a vessel strike.

In 2013, when construction began in earnest, 25 sturgeon deaths were reported. In 2014, 43 were reported. And so far in 2015, 46 have been reported.

The Authority maintained vessel strikes caused by propellers are more likely caused by the thousands of non-project related recreational and commercial vessels and not to the project’s 40 propeller driven vessels, and said reported sturgeon mortalities happen throughout the Hudson River, not specifically in the project area.

Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Inc., representing Riverkeeper in this matter, said it “would be willing to discuss effective remedies for the violations noted in this letter.” If the Thruway Authority and TZC want to settle, then they must initiate discussion within 10 days of receiving the letter to arrange a meeting and complete negotiations before the 60-day period ends.

My article originally appeared in the Rockland County Times December 24, 2015.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Repost from Riverkeeper, Inc.: Fisheries Service agrees to re-examine Tappan Zee Bridge project as reports of dead sturgeon continue to mount

While the three-month dredging period began Riverkeeper, Inc. called upon the National Marine Fisheries Service to act immediately and protect the Hudson River fish while investigating an increase in sturgeon fatalities.

Six sturgeon fatalities throughout the estuary were reported to the state Department of Environmental Conservation between 2009 and 2011 — and nearly 13 times that amount (76 sturgeon fatalities) were reported between 2012 and 2014 (since construction began). See full Riverkeeper article here.

The following is reposted with permission from Riverkeeper, Inc.

Sturgeon photographed at beach in Upper Nyack on April 20, 2013/Photo: Daniel Wolff

Sturgeon photographed at beach in Upper Nyack on April 20, 2013/Photo: Daniel Wolff

Ossining, N.Y. – The National Marine Fisheries Service is re-examining the impact of the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project on endangered Hudson River sturgeon, following a petition by Riverkeeper that highlighted an alarming increase in reported sturgeon deaths. Riverkeeper continues to call for federal action to protect the fish.

Records kept by New York State show a continuing surge in the number of sturgeon found dead along the Hudson River Estuary since the massive construction project began. The timing of the mortality increase aligns almost exactly with the start of bridge construction in 2012.

During 2012, when crews began installing test piles for the new bridge, eight sturgeon deaths were reported to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. That was more than in the four prior years combined.

In 2013, when construction began in earnest, 25 sturgeon deaths were reported. In 2014, 43 were reported. And so far in 2015, 46 have been reported.

sturgeon chart

In the four years prior to construction, six dead sturgeon were reported. In the four years since construction started, 122 were reported. Since the start of construction, reported mortality has increased more than 20 times.

Often, sturgeon were found cut in half, gashed or severed at the head or tail due to vessel strikes. Necropsies on two sturgeon recovered by bridge construction crews close to the construction site in June 2015 (Atlantic sturgeon) and August 2015 (shortnose sturgeon), found that the deaths were likely caused by vessel strikes. A third sturgeon (shortnose) found by construction crews, in May 2014, was deemed possibly killed by a vessel strike.

Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, representing Riverkeeper, petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) July 9 to renew its examination of the bridge project and take immediate additional action to protect sturgeon from dangers posed by construction activities. The federal agency, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is responsible for protecting endangered marine species.

Riverkeeper has learned that the Fisheries Service, as requested, has “reinitiated consultation” with the Federal Highway Administration, the lead agency for the bridge replacement project.

“We are pleased that the Fisheries Service has agreed to review the bridge project in light of the increased sturgeon mortality since 2012. However, ‘reinitiating consultation’ will not, in itself, increase protection for the sturgeon in any way whatsoever,” Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain John Lipscomb said. “It remains to be seen whether the Fisheries Service will require the contractor or the Thruway Authority to modify construction activity in order to provide additional protection for sturgeon.”

Before construction started, the Fisheries Service closely studied the project’s potential threat to endangered Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon. In a series of “biological opinions,” it concluded that the bridge replacement project was “likely to adversely affect, but not likely to jeopardize the continued existence” of Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon so long as sturgeon impacts were kept within the confines of an “Incidental Take Statement.” It allowed that dredging and pile driving would likely cause the deaths of two shortnose sturgeon and two Atlantic sturgeon over the anticipated five-year course of the project, and that if “take” remained within these numbers, the project would not likely further jeopardize the two endangered sturgeon species.

This toll was deemed the “incidental take,” permitted by the Fisheries Service and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. While NMFS allows the deaths of two sturgeon from each species, it specifies that none of the mortalities may be adult Atlantic sturgeon, and no mortality should result from vessel strikes.

In weighing the threat from vessel strikes, NMFS assumed that all project vessels would travel at “slow speeds, less than 6 knots” (6.9 miles per hour) in the construction zone. Riverkeeper has observed project vessels routinely traveling at much faster speeds in the zone, including wide areas of shallow water where sturgeon are in close proximity to vessels and their dangerous propellers. NMFS states that “sturgeon may also be better able to avoid slow moving vessels than fast ones.”

The reality is, the DEC records indicate that more than 50 percent of the sturgeon found dead had signs of vessel or propeller strikes.

Riverkeeper seeks enforcement of the speed limit and other protective measures that are best determined by fisheries experts but that could include propeller cages or jet-powered boats to reduce the risk to sturgeon.

By reinitiating consultation, the agency will determine whether increased protections are necessary to protect sturgeon from bridge construction activities, and if so, what those protections should be. According to the Fisheries Service, this process should be completed later this fall.

Riverkeeper Petition to National Marine Fisheries Service

Exhibits: DEC spreadsheets on sturgeon mortality reports, 2007-2014

DEC spreadsheets on sturgeon mortality reports, 2015

DEC spreadsheets on sturgeon mortality reports, September 2015

DEC spreadsheets on sturgeon mortality reports, October 2015

Sturgeon necropsy report, June 2014

Sturgeon necropsy report, November 2014

Sturgeon necropsy report, June 2015

Sturgeon necropsy report, September 2015

© 2009-2015 Riverkeeper, Inc., 20 Secor Road, Ossining, New York 10562. Call 800-21-RIVER or email info@riverkeeper.org.

Oyster Harvesting Program Underway

Friday was the fourth day of a weeklong process of moving 200,000 oysters out of the construction area, and relocating them in the Hudson River roughly three-quarters to one mile south, where they will thrive.

Courtesy of O’Rourke/New NY Bridge

Courtesy of O’Rourke/New NY Bridge

As with sturgeon monitoring and tagging, oyster harvesting is part of the state Department of Environmental Conservation Final Permit requirements, which contains $11.5 million for mitigation and restoration to protect the Hudson River and minimize the project’s environmental impacts.

About 13 acres of hard bottom/shell habitat will be relocated prior to August 1, when dredging begins for a three-month period.

Riverkeeper, Inc. and Scenic Hudson will also be involved with monitoring the construction as the project moves forward; check back for updates and additional information.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

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