Archive for the ‘Riverkeeper’ Tag

Grants Awarded to Hudson River Communities

park

Exciting news for seven villages came via $1.5 million in state grants to fund recreational, cultural and infrastructure projects.

Keeping its environmental commitments for the bridge project, the Thruway Authority partnered with the New York Department of State, Riverkeeper, Inc. and Scenic Hudson.

In Westchester:

Tarrytown will receive $300,000 for new playground equipment, furnishings, safety surfacing and brook stabilization at Patriots Park, while Sleepy Hollow’s $246,000 will build a Hudson River Plaza waterfront park. Irvington will use its $187,090 for streetscape improvements to its Theater District.

In Rockland:

Piermont’s $250,000 grant will raise and repave Ferry Road against future storm damage, while Nyack plans to build a pedestrian bridge over the inlet between Memorial Park and its public boat launch and marina with the $195,000 it will receive.

South Nyack will use its $163,200 grant to renovate the tennis courts, and build a shade canopy for the children’s playground, at Franklin Street Park, and Upper Nyack’s $158,710 will build a new sidewalk along North Broadway.

All parties said these positive moves will revitalize the communities, help ensure their access to the river and enhance and improve their recreational opportunities.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

Recapping the 2015 Year in Bridge

birthday-1-700x525While the New NY Bridge project had its “firsts” the Tappan Zee Bridge took center stage when kids at one elementary school made birthday cards and a banner. Last summer I wrote about how the Quonset hut used by those who built the bridge is tied into its history.

I enjoyed working with Brian Conybeare, who resigned in October, and I look forward to working with new Director of Communications Khurram Saeed.

tableEducational outreach is highlighted in the premier issue of CRIXEO Magazine, a subsidiary of Medallion Media Group (publication date early 2016). There’s more: look for the New NY Bridge project next month in Westchester Magazine’s Ultimate Guide 2016. Guess who wrote both?

With the Nyack viewing area open — it was the most popular post on this blog! — what’s difficult to see while driving is clearly visible from the shore via monoculars . . . speaking of which, the project’s website got a new look.

Prof. Ted Zoli talks abt pile cap placement/© J Rosman 2015

Prof. Ted Zoli talks abt pile cap placement/© J Rosman 2015

Despite a close call with seasickness I breathed enough clean air to capture the I Lift NY super crane’s first lift and placement. Neither that nor nasty weather weeks earlier deterred me from watching as part of the state trooper’s barracks was demolished.

No matter that we wait to drive on the first span; outgoing Executive Director Robert L. Megna told the Thruway Authority Board the new bridge will open in 2018 for less than $4 billion ($3.98 billion to be exact).

barge removed2Another exciting day was watching the crane place the first girder assembly. Other milestones: Phase 1 pile driving was completed in June, we saw the start of main span tower construction, planned dredging was done by September, and the first concrete deck panel was put in place.

The steel girder assemblies reached a one-mile point from the Rockland shoreline, the first concrete road deck panels were placed, and the crane made its first girder assembly placement for the westbound span (we’ll drive on this next year).

The toll advisory task force and a new executive project engineer were named.

Aided by blue jump forms, the towers gradually rise./NYSTA

Aided by blue jump forms, the towers gradually rise./NYSTA

As the towers were rising in September the Thruway’s response to my FOIL request about last year’s concrete batch plant mishap was continuously delayed . . . until the Thruway Authority decided it was (a) too close for comfort and asked to make it go away or (b) really didn’t have the information I’d been looking for since last December.

Dropping its appeal to use Clean Water Funds didn’t free the state from Riverkeeper, Inc.’s watch: earlier this month it put the Thruway Authority and the bridge builder on legal notice about increased Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon death.

It numbered days will include one last winter, per Megna’s decision to postpone opening the first span until spring 2017. Year four officially starts January 18.

Did I miss something? I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Three Months of Dredging: August 1 – October 31

Weeklong process: moving 200,000 oysters out of project area before 2013 dredging/NewNYBridge

Weeklong process: moving 200,000 oysters out of project area before 2013 dredging/NewNYBridge

Tomorrow starts the second stage of three-month (to Halloween) dredging in the Hudson River with round-the-clock operations.

“All excavation will be done in shallow water to the east side of the Federal Navigation Channel. Various barges will be anchored outside of the Federal Navigation Channel downstream of the bridge,” the Local Notice to Mariners reported.

“Operations will be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Vessels on scene will monitor VHF-FM channels 13 and 16,” it continued. “Mariners are urged to use extreme caution and transit the area at their slowest safe speed to create minimum wake after passing arrangements have been made.”

Mariners are advised to transit the main channel, reduce wake and use extreme caution while transiting the area in the vicinity of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Detailed information — including the Coast Guard’s weekly Local Notice to Mariners, excerpted and in its entirety — is listed under Boater Safety Information on the New NY Bridge website. A LNM primer is here.

Project officials report the dredging deepens the water level near the project site and removed an estimated 187,960 cubic yards of sediment from the bottom of the Hudson River.

The specially-designed environmental clamshell buckets will send less sediment back into the river. Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) trained its field personnel how to protect sturgeon, including how to “safely retrieve, keep alive and return to the river” any fish accidentally caught during the three-month period.

“Obviously our concerns remain the same and the timing is urgent,” Riverkeeper, Inc. Media Specialist Leah Rae said. “We are calling on the National Marine Fisheries Service to act immediately to protect the fish while they investigate this dramatic increase in vessel strikes.”

Project officials say staff will be supervised by the NMFS to make sure the fish are protected; however, Riverkeeper is wary.

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.

After testing the mud, TZC will process and dispose of it an offsite location. Approximately two feet of gravel (thing giant fish tank) will be placed in the dredged channel so boats and vessels don’t kick up sediment.

“If even one sturgeon mortality were caused by a project vessel strike that would exceed the project’s allowable take,” Rae said.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

New York State Drops Appeal for NNYB Loan

Governor Cuomo’s administration dropped its appeal to secure $511 million from the Clean Water for the New NY Bridge project following the the Environmental Protection Agency’s September 16 decision.

eligibleIn his May 8, 2015, letter state to EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck, state DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens confirmed mutual agreements. (1) The EPA will amends its decision, deeming $1.2 million for the Oyster Bed Restoration and $100,000 falcon nest box relocation eligible for Clean Water Funds, and

(2) “The DEC and EFC hereby withdraw their appeal of the Agency Decision and agree not to pursue further appeals or reviews, in either an administrative or judicial forum, of EPA’s determination of ineligibility, under the CWSRF, of the remaining projects subject to the Agency Decision,” Martens wrote.

“The environmental measures that are included in the New NY Bridge project will proceed as planned and we remain committed to building the new bridge in an environmentally responsible manner,” Thruway Acting Executive Director Robert L. Megna said in a statement.

ineligible“Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic and its clients are pleased that the Governor has dropped his administrative appeal,” its Supervising Attorney Daniel Estrin said.

EANY executive director Peter Iwanowicz praised the Cuomo administration’s decision to drop further appeals to use the funds. “This agreement follows the science and federal law,” Iwanowicz said.

The clinic looks forward to working with the state and its communities to ensure that the $480 million in clean water funds “will be appropriately put to use to improve New York’s water quality and restore its rivers,” Estrin said.

Called the decision “a big win for clean water in New York,” Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said, “WWe are pleased that the Governor has dropped the appeal over the $480 million in proposed Clean Water Act loans that EPA had disallowed, and we thank the EPA for its role in fostering this result.”

“Riverkeeper will do its part to assure that these funds are now directed back to their lawful purpose: to improve water quality in New York and restore our rivers,” Gallay said.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Appeal to Use Clean Water Funds and a Lawsuit to Protect Them Continue

Rebar cages near Westchester side/© Janie Rosman 2015

Rebar cages near Westchester side/© Janie Rosman 2015

While the Thruway Authority Board appeals the Environmental Protection Agency’s September 16 decision, it approved another $300,000 for legal expenses for its counsel Holland  & Knight to defend a lawsuit brought by environmental groups to challenge the state’s use of clean water funds for bridge construction.

Filed in October in State Supreme Court in Albany County by Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, which represents the groups, the lawsuit was brought by Riverkeeper, Inc., Waterkeeper Alliance and Environmental Advocates of New York.

It names state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens (who also chairs the facilities board) and other state leaders, and seeks “full denial of the attempted raid,” EANY Communications Director Travis Proulx said.

“The suit is important because we want to ensure the integrity of the clean water act and not constantly be fighting these types of unilateral raids,” Proulx said.

It’s important to the Thruway Authority as well: the Board voted to charge the funds to its operating budget, increasing the Maximum Amount Payable “to a new monetary cap of $450,000, and be it further,” per minutes from its March 26 meeting.

The Pace clinic’s Supervising Attorney Daniel Estrin made it clear the plaintiffs agree with the EPA’s decision that seven of the 12 projects — approximately 95 percent of the original $511 million in proposed financing — are ineligible for financing from the Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF).

In her June 2014 letter to Martens, EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck requested eligibility documentation for specific bridge-related projects.

“We want to ensure that the process surrounding this decision is transparent and, given the size, scope, and seemingly unconventional approach to the use of CWSRF, that the parties involved have exercised due diligence, and carefully scrutinized the project details and considered the implications vis-à-vis the legislative purpose of the Clean Water Act,” Enck wrote.

One day after it stamped the date of receipt (June 25, 2014) on her letter, the state’s EFC decided by unanimous (5 to 0) vote to loan the Thruway Authority $511.45 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF). The following month (July), three voting members of the Public Authorities Control Board agreed to its request for half of the $511 million.

Two months later (September) EPA disallowed funding for seven of the 12 projects.

“We’re pleased that EPA has held the line with respect to the ineligibility of these projects for clean water financing, but we have a separate problem with what the state did that EPA did not raise in its September decision,” Estrin said. “In its effort to fast-track the approval process and avoid public scrutiny, the state hid the ball and deprived the public of the right to participate in the decision process guaranteed by federal and state law.”

The state’s Authorities Budget Office agreed with the groups’ process claims; its November 2014 report found the state violated the Open Meetings Law by inappropriately using executive session to discuss the project and by not discussing it in regular board meetings open to the public. The ABO further concluded the state failed to comply with federal regulations when financing was approved without required public participation.

Instead of responding to the merits of the groups’ eligibility and process arguments, the three private law firms representing various state agencies and board members filed multiple motions to dismiss.

“We’re in the process of responding to those motions,” Estrin said. That the state is spending public money to pay private law firms to defend on the case is another issue.

“They got caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar and continue to insist they’re entitled to the cookies. We remain confident that their continuing efforts to defend this unlawful raid will be unsuccessful,” he said.

Riverkeeper, Inc. President Paul Gallay also criticized the additional funding “when EPA has disapproved almost all of the State’s proposal and the funds in question are so desperately needed for their intended purpose — water treatment upgrades and river restoration.”

Since the state recently received “over a billion and a half (dollars) for the bridge project” from the US DOT — and it budgeted $900 million (of $1.3 billion to the Thruway Authority) for the bridge project — Gallay said it’s time to give the $500 million “into the hands of struggling municipalities for the $12.7 billion in immediate, unmet water infrastructure needs, which the state itself has acknowledged amounts to a crisis.”

“Perhaps the debacle over the CWSRF helped to highlight the need for better water and sewer infrastructure funding,” Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Albany Legislative Advocate Nadine Lemmon said. “We agree with Environmental Advocates that this funding should become standard operating procedure in order to assure stronger and healthier downtowns.”

While the state defends the lawsuit brought by the environmental groups, it also appealed EPA’s decision to disallow most of the loans. “This is an administrative appeal and not a judicial appeal,” Estrin explained, “and a dispute decision official at EPA will review the appeal and is expected to render a written decision sometime this spring.”

Thruway Communications Director Dan Weiller declined comment.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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