DEC Announces More Than $1.1 Million Awarded to Six Projects to Improve Water Quality and Bolster Flood Resiliency in Hudson River Estuary Watershed

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DEC Announces More Than $1.1 Million Awarded to Six Projects to Improve Water Quality and Bolster Flood Resiliency in Hudson River Estuary Watershed

Grants Will Help Hudson River Communities Remove Dams to Mitigate Flooding and Restore Habitats for American Eel and River Herring

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced more than $1.1 million was awarded to six projects to help reduce local flooding and restore aquatic habitats in tributary streams of the Hudson River Estuary. These funds will support projects to restore free-flowing waters to benefit water quality, restore aquatic habitat connectivity for Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including the American eel and river herring, and help communities with existing and projected impacts of local flooding.

Commissioner Seggos said, "Governor Cuomo continues to make record investments to protect New York's waters and to help create new and expanded access opportunities, all while building community resiliency. These grants support the strong partnerships with communities, environmental groups, and civic organizations that help New York significantly improve the ecological health and resiliency of the Hudson River Estuary."

Funding for these projects is provided by the Natural Resource Damages Fund, the New York State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) for Ocean and Great Lakes Projects, and DEC's Hudson River Estuary Grants Program.

Funded projects are:

Westchester County
The $319,805 award for the Multi-Barrier Removal on Furnace Brook project proposes to remove the first and second barriers for fish movement upstream from the Hudson in Furnace Brook. Both dams no longer serve any functional purpose and pose ecological issues to the health of Furnace Brook and to several species of fish in serious decline. The grant will support removal of the first barrier and development of design plans for removal of the second barrier (Maiden Lane Dam). Removal of the first dam will restore almost one mile of stream habitat for river herring and American eel. When the second barrier is eventually removed, an additional half of one mile of habitat will be reconnected.

Dutchess County
Bard College:
The $312,057 award for the Lower Saw Kill Dam Removal project will remove Bard's lowest dam on the Saw Kill, a first barrier for fish movement upstream from the Hudson River. The dam no longer generates hydropower and remains an unnatural stream barrier to American eel migration. The grant will support final project permitting, dam removal, restoration of the former stream shoreline, and a post-dam-removal eel count for comparative research with current data. Removing the dam will reconnect nearly one mile of critical stream habitat.

Orange County
The $218,870 grant award for the Removing Strooks Felt Dam on Quassaick Creek project will remove the Strooks Felt Dam on the Quassaick Creek, a first barrier for fish movement upstream from the Hudson River. The dam is in decay, no longer serves any functional purpose, and poses ecological issues to the health of Quassaick Creek. Removing the 5.5-foot dam will restore over one mile of habitat for river herring and eel, improve fish passage and connectivity, and restore river resiliency and natural functions. The project also supports ongoing restoration efforts in the watershed.

Hudson Valley Regional Council: The $31,500 for Browns Pond Dam Removal Planning project will investigate stakeholder issues related to the proposed removal of Browns Pond dam on the Otter Kill Creek in the town of Hamptonburgh. The dam was initially constructed for mill power and the pond was used for ice harvesting. The dam is now in a deteriorated condition and has been identified as a potential structural and flood hazard. If removed, downstream flood hazards would be mitigated, and at least 14.5 miles of stream habitat would be improved for American eel and other aquatic species. This grant will support public meetings with affected upstream and downstream stakeholders to explore the implications of potential dam removal as well as monitoring of fish habitat in the stream with a focus on American eel.

Ulster County
Scenic Hudson:
$181,000 award for the Black Creek Preserve Culvert Mitigation project will remove an undersized culvert and install a new open bottom culvert under Winding Brook Road at Scenic Hudson's Black Creek Preserve. Right-sizing the culvert will enhance fish passage for American eel and reduce flooding problems that now affect the road. The existing culvert is a first barrier for fish movement upstream from the Hudson River on a tributary of Black Creek. The new culvert will be designed to be fully passable for aquatic organisms and will accommodate 500-year storm flood conditions. Nearly one mile of stream habitat will be enhanced and 2.4 acres of riparian wetlands restored.

Rockland County
Town of Stony Point:
The $53,100 award for Upper Cedar Pond Brook Barrier Mitigation project was identified in the town's Road Stream Crossing Management Plan, and will complete planning and engineering for right-sizing a barrier culvert and removing a six foot obsolete dam on Cedar Pond Brook. Mitigating these barriers will restore fish and wildlife passage and reduce flood risk. Restoring 13,000 feet of stream habitat continuity in this location will reconnect Cedar Pond Brook with a significant amount of permanently protected stream corridor and associated uplands between Harriman State Park and other barriers in the stream network.

New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said "Investing in local projects that reduce flooding and restore aquatic habitats, while also cleaning our water is a win-win for the environment and a smart investment for our future. I commend Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Seggos for their vision to fund projects that do just that."

Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "I am pleased to see funding for these restoration projects be allocated to counties along the Hudson River. These projects are important to habitat and species restoration and overall water quality improvement. These highlight the continued importance of funding programs such as the Environmental Protection Fund and I applaud the Governor for his continued support."

Now in its 18th year, DEC's Estuary Grants Program implements priorities outlined in the Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda: clean water; resilient communities; a vital estuary ecosystem; estuary fish, wildlife and habitats; natural scenery; and education, river access, recreation, and inspiration. To view the Action Agenda and for complete details about the new grant funding, visit DEC's website.

In the Governor's 2019-20 Executive Budget Proposal, Governor Cuomo sustained the record-high EPF at $300 million for the fourth year in a row, providing funding for open space conservation, parkland stewardship, and other environmental protection projects.