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2021 victories for the Hudson and your drinking water


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It’s been a transformative year for the river and for Riverkeeper. Indian Point nuclear power plant, and the daily damage it caused to the river’s life, are now history. We’re moving toward cleaner sources of energy and bigger efforts to restore essential habitat and heal the living river. Despite the social distance of the pandemic, our community of volunteers and activists grows stronger. Our voices are driving new investments in water quality and efforts to protect drinking water sources. Our volunteers and community partners made the 10th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep our largest yet.

And in a major milestone, we welcomed a new President and Hudson Riverkeeper, Tracy Brown, the first woman to lead our organization in its 55-year history. Looking toward 2022, we’re newly energized to protect and restore a sustainable, healthy, resilient Hudson River Valley.

End of an era: Indian Point shuts down. On April 30, 2021, decades of effort by Riverkeeper and allies achieved the permanent shutdown of this dangerous nuclear plant, ending a major threat to the region’s safety and the slaughter of 1 billion fish, eggs and larvae each year by the plant’s outdated cooling system. Riverkeeper helped negotiate an agreement on Indian Point’s decommissioning that guarantees adequate funding, opportunities for public participation, an expedited timeline, and the creation of a Decommissioning Oversight Board that includes Riverkeeper.

Two new fracked gas power plants stopped. Riverkeeper worked with allies to ensure New York State denied permits for two proposed fracked gas power plants, Astoria NRG in Queens and Danskammer in Newburgh. Riverkeeper argued successfully that greenhouse gas emissions from the two proposed facilities would prevent New York State from meeting the critical goals of its landmark climate law.

Riverkeeper also commissioned a report by Synapse Energy Economics detailing how wind, solar power, and energy efficiency improvements are driving New York’s energy future and rendering Indian Point and new fossil fuel plants like Danskammer unnecessary and obsolete.

Protecting drinking water at its source. We advocated successfully for a state Drinking Water Source Protection Program that will help dozens of communities, including 23 in the Hudson watershed, create plans to protect their reservoirs, wells and other water sources.

Reducing harm to striped bass. Riverkeeper led advocacy for stronger state restrictions to reduce mortality of striped bass from recreational catch-and-release fishing, including a new requirement for circle hooks, which cause less injury and give stripers a better chance of surviving after being caught and released. In partnership with board member Steve Liesman, we helped launch the Save A Million Bass campaign to promote best practices in catch-and-release fishing.

Photo by Jess Deitz

Removing dams, restoring life. In 2021 we reached agreements for the removal of three dams in the Hudson River watershed, in our ongoing campaign to restore habitat, including for river herring and American eel, by taking down obsolete dams.

The first year following our removal of dams on Quassaick Creek (pictured) and Furnace Brook saw a return of freshwater life – trout, eels, herring, blue crabs and other species – to tidal creeks that had been cut off from the estuary for centuries.

Community science, water justice. Riverkeeper teamed with Media Sanctuary in Troy to launch the testing and processing of Hudson River water quality samples by Youth Science Fellows in the Sanctuary’s new Water Justice Lab. It was the newest addition to a network of partners and volunteers who gather samples at least monthly from the Hudson River and its tributaries, to provide information about where and when these waters are safe for recreation.

Protecting parkland on Flushing Bay. With local partners, we succeeded in halting a proposed AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport that would take waterfront parkland along Malcolm X Promenade in the historically Black community of East Elmhurst, Queens. Riverkeeper and partners challenged a biased environmental review that unlawfully eliminated viable transit alternatives, after suing to obtain damning evidence. The proposal came to a halt following sustained advocacy and a lawsuit by Riverkeeper, Guardians of Flushing Bay and Ditmars Blvd. Block Association, represented by Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic. Gov. Kathy Hochul has promised a thorough review of alternatives.

Toxic coal tar banned in pavement products. Riverkeeper and supporters won a ban on toxic coal tar-based pavement sealants in New York State – the result of a decade’s worth of advocacy in Albany. Coal tar, a thick black sludge, is extremely high in PAHs, which are hazardous to human health and aquatic life.

Sweeping the shorelines in more locations than ever. On May 1, more than 2,600 volunteers teamed up at 146 locations along the Hudson to haul debris and restore healthy vegetation as part of the 10th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep. They removed 29 tons of debris – including 212 tires and 2,056 bags of trash. Over the course of a decade, Sweep volunteers carried out 951 projects, clearing 305 tons of debris and 1,675 tires.

This annual day of service has grown into a monumental, community-powered effort from Brooklyn to the Adirondacks. Once-neglected areas have gained year-round stewards, and some locations no longer need massive cleanups – the focus now is on ecological restoration. And throughout the year, we continue efforts to reduce the deluge of plastic pollution into our waterways. One such step, a statewide ban on polystyrene (aka Styrofoam), takes effect January 1, 2022.

Save the date May 7, 2022, and join our 11th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep!

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