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2020 victories for the Hudson and your drinking water


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Despite unprecedented challenges, Riverkeeper made enormous advances in the areas of water quality, biodiversity, climate preparedness and community empowerment this year. Even while physically separated because of the pandemic, we’ve never been more closely engaged with our community partners and volunteers, and together we made remarkable progress in restoring the river and protecting our drinking water supplies. As we plan for 2021 and beyond, we’ll need the support of our friends more than ever, given the mounting challenges facing our waters and the life that they hold. Here is a sample of our 2020 victories:

Victory: Quassaick Creek, after the removal of Strooks Felt Dam

Photo: Quassaick Creek, after the removal of Strooks Felt Dam, Jess Deitz

Knocked down two old dams blocking fish passage. Riverkeeper teamed up with the DEC to remove obsolete dams on the Quassaick Creek in Newburgh and Furnace Brook in Westchester County. Both projects restore ancestral habitat for migratory fish. Following up on our landmark success on the Wynants Kill in 2016, these were the second and third dams removed along the Hudson expressly for fish passage.

Indian Point Reactor 2 closes. Decades of advocacy to close this dangerous nuclear power plant is paying off. It’s been just over three years since we joined New York State and Entergy in a historic agreement to close the plant by 2021. Reactor 2 has now shut down and in just a few short months, the last reactor will cease operation and Indian Point will no longer threaten life in the Hudson River and the region’s safety.

Patrol boat in NY HarborDangerous and faulty storm surge barriers plan scrapped. A major campaign coordinated by Riverkeeper stopped an “existential threat” to the Hudson – a misguided plan for giant storm surge barriers across New York Harbor. The public comments we helped gather on this issue got the attention of New York’s congressional delegation and we worked closely with them to modernize and revamp the study of coastal flood risk undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Legislation to do just that passed the House and Senate in December.

Protecting menhaden, “the most important fish in the sea.” We helped score a big win for a critical species by petitioning the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to revamp its approach to menhaden management. Menhaden, which sustain whales, dolphins, striped bass, bluefish, osprey, eagles and many more coastal species, will now be managed so that wildlife get first dibs on this important prey species.

The Riverkeeper Sweep goes on, despite the pandemic! In October, more than 1,100 volunteers removed 16 tons of trash from the shorelines of the Hudson River and its tributaries at 67 locations from New York City to the Capital District. With adapted safety protocols and a new date, the annual Riverkeeper Sweep marked a successful 9th year.

Water Justice Lab samplingMentoring a new generation of environmentalists. We launched a three-year project with the Media Sanctuary in North Troy to support a new generation of environmental justice advocates focused on water issues. The “Water Justice Lab” will process water samples under Riverkeeper staff mentorship, create radio and podcast content, and provide workforce development training to local youth.

Helped NY set protective limits on emerging toxins. We urged our state lawmakers to set some of the nation’s strictest limits on PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane in drinking water. The standards will now be implemented with testing in all public water supplies.

Convinced lawmakers to ‘go big’ on clean water projects. With another $314 million committed to repairing and upgrading aging water and wastewater systems, New York State has invested more than $3 billion in statewide grants since 2017, driving some $1 billion into clean water projects in the Hudson and its tributaries, an achievement built in part on Riverkeeper’s tireless advocacy.

Dangerous waste facilities projects halted. By standing together with community members in Athens, Catskill and the City of Rensselaer, we helped stop three dangerous proposals for waste and debris processing facilities. The sites in Athens and Catskill would have hosted construction and demolition debris barged down the Hudson, while the Rensselaer facility would have put the Hudson at risk from toxic residues and leachate.

Fracking waste loophole closed. Since New York’s fracking ban six years ago, Riverkeeper has lobbied to close a loophole that allowed for out-of-state hazardous fracking waste to be dumped in our landfills and wastewater treatment facilities. A bill to close this loophole passed the NYS Legislature and was signed by Governor Cuomo in August.

Pressed NYS lawmakers for a Styrofoam ban. We fought successfully for a statewide ban on Styrofoam containers and advocated for implementation of the state’s plastic bag ban, which went into effect this year.

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