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2015 Victories for the Hudson and Your Drinking Water

Patrol boat at Palisades-LRae 2015

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We are proud to report on another banner year in our efforts for the Hudson River, its creeks and streams, and our precious drinking water supplies. These “Riverkeeper Victories” are yours as well: Our donors, activists and volunteers are the driver of our success. In 2016 – our half-century mark – we will need you more than ever to meet the challenges ahead.

Holding back oil terminal expansion. We scored a major victory when the New York State DEC changed course on a proposed oil terminal expansion in Albany. The state signaled its intent to demand a full environmental review before Global Partners could modify a rail-to-barge transfer terminal to heat and transload tar sands and other heavy crude oil shipments.

Speaking up for sturgeon. Riverkeeper continued its watchdog work over the massive Tappan Zee Bridge construction project by sounding the alarm about a dramatic spike in sturgeon deaths reported to New York State – an increase that coincides exactly with the bridge project. The National Marine Fisheries Service agreed to review the deaths of these endangered fish and the conditions at the construction site. We continue to press for action.

Water quality sampling continues to expand. Thanks to an army of citizen scientists and university partners, we continue to expand our water quality testing program. We took more than 6,200 measures of water quality from 315 locations, including new monitoring projects at Ossining Beach and in the Saw Mill River, and a pilot project in the Mohawk River. The number of routinely sampled sites increased by a third, and the number of partners and partner labs doubled. The information we gather continues to drive improvement for water infrastructure projects and inform decisions about New York City’s Combined Sewer Overflow long-term control plans.

Major advances in the fight to close Indian Point. We concluded TWO historic hearings in the battle to deny the Indian Point nuclear facility another 20 year license, spotlighted the plant’s latest transformer explosion and fire, and documented how this aging, existential threat to metro NY can be replaced safely and inexpensively. Governor Cuomo also did his part, denying Indian Point a key permit and calling for its closure “on an expedited basis.”

Defending public water supplies. Our advocacy and commissioning of an expert report documenting the potential environmental impacts of a water bottling plant in Ulster County kept Niagara Bottling LLC from avoiding a full environmental review for the project. The Town of Ulster subsequently required the preparation of an environmental impacts statement for the plant, while local advocates spotlighted inappropriate use of state economic development programs to fund the project. Niagara Bottling abandoned its proposed project in February 2015.

Fall Kill Creek, Sweep 2015

Fall Kill Creek, Sweep 2015

Biggest shoreline cleanup ever. More than 2,000 volunteers netted 40 tons of trash and planted or maintained trees along Hudson Valley and New York City shorelines during the fourth annual Riverkeeper Sweep on May 9. While plastic and Styrofoam were the most common items cleared from the shores, we also removed large items such as lawnmowers, tires, and even a half of a car from our waterways. The success of the Sweep inspired the continuation of river clean-ups throughout the year, including our participation in the removal of an enormous tractor tire from the river, an eyesore that plagued a scenic cove just south of the Bear Mountain Bridge.

New funding for water infrastructure. Riverkeeper successfully called on the state legislature and the Cuomo Administration to provide funding to New York communities for clean water infrastructure. Communities can now tap into $200 million in state matching grants over a three-year period – a critical resource for municipalities facing billions in backlogged water infrastructure projects. These funds will help protect public health and clean water, essential for attracting and retaining private business investment.

Rockland County plots its water future. After the community defeated an ill-conceived plan to build a desalination plant to supply their drinking water, they are now a part of creating a new plan based on conservation and smarter deployment of existing water resources. The Rockland County Task Force on Water Resources Management commissioned a groundbreaking, independent study of current water resources management that found substantial water savings possible through better water management practices and conservation.

Expanded enforcement. Riverkeeper attacked stormwater pollution on Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal by systematically targeting industrial operators that lack Clean Water Act permits. Our notices of intent to sue led many previously non-compliant operators to obtain permits and adopt best management practices as part of a stormwater pollution prevention plan. In 2015, we expanded this successful initiative out of New York City, noticing two industrial operators near Albany.

Photo: Dan Shapley / Riverkeeper

Photo: Dan Shapley / Riverkeeper

Mobilizing advocates on Mohawk, Wallkill and Flushing Bay. Riverkeeper’s reach grew in 2015, extending further into two Hudson River tributaries and Flushing Bay. In the city, we joined two citizen groups, the Guardians of Flushing Bay and the Empire Dragon Boat Team in demanding the removal of two derelict barges polluting Flushing Bay with Styrofoam and other contaminants. We expanded our patrols on the Mohawk, beginning our first water-quality sampling efforts and reaching the head of navigation at Troy for the first time. Our water-quality testing program has helped to catalyze the creation of the Wallkill River Watershed Alliance, a grassroots organization dedicated to finding solutions to water pollution problems on this major Hudson River tributary.

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