Riverkeeper Timeline

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1963

Consolidated Edison applies to the Federal Power Commission (FPC) for a license to construct a huge hydroelectric facility on Storm King Mountain.

Eastern Airlines pilot and writer Art Glowka and biologist Dominick Pirone visit Indian Point power plant and discover 10,000 dead fish entrained on the plant’s intake pipe screens.

1964

A group of fishermen meet to bemoan the pollution of the Hudson River and the destruction of its fisheries. Fisherman and Sports Illustrated writer Bob Boyle informs them about the Refuse Act of 1899 which forbids pollution of national waterways and awards a bounty to whoever turns in a polluter. Boyle proposes the creation of the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association (HRFA).

1965

Boyle testifies against Storm King, citing its projected fish kills and a study that shows that the Hudson Highlands is a critical spawning ground for Atlantic Coast striped bass.

The FPC grants Con Ed a license to build Storm King. Scenic Hudson and HRFA sue to reverse the decision in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. In December, the Court of Appeals reverses the FPC’s decision.

1966

The first HRFA public meeting is held in Crotonville, NY under President Richie Garrett.

The FPC opens new hearings on Storm King, and HRFA joins Scenic Hudson as interveners.

1968

HRFA sues Penn Central whose pipes at Croton Harmon have been discharging oil into the Croton River for years. HRFA wins its case against Penn Central and collects its first bounty of $2,000.

1969

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is created requiring federal agencies to review the full environmental impacts of every major decision.

HRFA investigates the Anaconda Wire and Copper Company in Hastings-on-Hudson which has dumped oil and solvents into the river for years.

HRFA membership now reaches 300.

1970

Richie Garrett addresses a crowd of 100,000 New Yorkers at the first Earth Day.

1972

The federal government passes the Clean Water Act which requires a water quality certification from the state for any federally licensed facility that discharges into a state’s water body. Any facility that discharges pollutants into surface waters must obtain a permit from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

HRFA starts a Riverkeeper program, appointing Tom Whyatt as the first Riverkeeper.

The Coastal Zone Management Act is passed, providing for the establishment of coastal zone management programs to protect estuaries and coastal waters.

1973

HRFA collects a $200,000 penalty from Anaconda Wire and Cable in Hastings-on-Hudson, but ends up with only $20,000 after several federal agencies petition for a portion of the bounty.

1975

High levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are found in Hudson River fish. Since 1946, General Electric (GE) has dumped two million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson from its Fort Edward and Hudson Falls plants.

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) begins an administrative enforcement proceeding against GE for illegally releasing PCBs from 1972-1975. HRFA, Clearwater and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) join as intervening parties. GE is found guilty of two of three charges and required to create a $7 million clean up fund, build pollution abatement facilities, and discontinue its PCB use by 1977.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires Hudson River power plants at Indian Point, Roseton, Bowline to install the “best technology available” (closed cycle cooling) to reduce their impacts on Hudson River fish. Their antiquated once-through cooling systems suck in river water and kill billions of fish in the process each year.

1976

The DEC bans all recreational and commercial fishing (except for baitfish) in the upper Hudson from the Fort Edward Dam to the Federal Dam at Troy because of PCB contaminated fish. Hudson River commercial fishing is banned from Fort Edward to the Battery, with the exceptions of baitfish, Atlantic sturgeon over four feet, goldfish, and American shad.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act is passed, establishing protocols for the safe disposal of toxic waste and making illegal any violations of these protocols.

1980

Under the Hudson River Settlement, Con Edison agrees to abandon plans to build its hydroelectric facility on Storm King Mountain and donates the land for a park. Con Ed is ordered to install devices to prevent entrainment of fish on its intake screens at Indian Point. In exchange, Con Ed is temporarily excused from building closed cycle cooling towers at its three power plants (Indian Point, Bowline and Roseton) which would reduce fish kills.

1981

HRFA joins the suit against Westway, a $2 billion project that proposes to construct a highway on pilings in the Hudson River to replace the old West Side Highway. The projected construction would kill 64% of the striped bass habitat in the process. Esteemed bio-statistician Dr. Ian Fletcher is brought in to explain the fish data which has been deliberately misinterpreted.

1983

John Cronin, activist and former commercial fisherman, becomes the first full-time Riverkeeper. HRFA creates the Riverkeeper organization based on Cronin’s work.

1984

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. becomes Riverkeeper’s Chief Prosecuting Attorney.

HRFA notifies its intent to sue Exxon which is discharging polluted salt water ballast from its tankers into the Hudson, refilling its tanks with fresh water, bringing it back to Aruba to sell as drinking water, and being paid by the Aruba government. A settlement negotiated with HRFA, New York State and the U.S. Attorney orders Exxon to pay $1.5 million to New York State to establish the Hudson River Improvement Fund, and $500,000 to HRFA. Half the money is used to fund the Riverkeeper program.

1985

Kennedy and HRFA bring charges against 16 major polluters of Quassaic Creek, which empties into the Hudson River near Newburgh. All the cases settle, netting Riverkeeper $200,000 which goes towards a Quassaic Creek Fund.

DEC modifies its commercial fishing ban below Troy, but fishing of carp, white perch, striped bass, and American eel is still prohibited.

1986

HRFA and Riverkeeper merge under the Riverkeeper name.

1987

The Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic is created under the direction of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., allowing third year-law students to practice law under Riverkeeper’s supervising attorneys.

Riverkeeper files a Clean Water Act’s citizens’ suit against Westchester County for violating a 1972 federal court order to phase out the Croton Landfill which has been leaching toxins into the Hudson River. The county settles, agrees to shut down the landfill and remediate the leachate, and restore the Croton Marsh.

1991

The New York State Department of Health orders NYC to construct a filtration plant for the Catskill/Delaware watershed, a project which would cost the city $8 billion.

The Hudson River Settlement expires.

1992

The Clean Water Act permits for Indian Point, Roseton and Bowline expire, but their automatic extension allows the three power plants to continue using their antiquated cooling systems until the permits are reevaluated.

The National Alliance of River, Sound and Baykeepers based on the Riverkeeper model, is established under the leadership of John Cronin.

Riverkeeper wins a suit against New York City, filed because the city’s Tannersville sewage plant in the Catskills is a chronic polluter; and because the city dumps excessive chemical disinfectants into the Rondout Reservoir to deal with algae.

1995

DEC modifies its fishing ban on the Hudson to allow “catch and release” recreational fishing in the Upper Hudson from Hudson Falls to the Troy Dam.

1997

After a massive public education campaign, Riverkeeper helps negotiate and signs the Watershed Memorandum of Agreement which incorporates the concerns of the city, upstate watershed communities and environmentalists to provide for the protection of NYC’s watershed without the need for a filtration system and adopts the Watershed Rules and Regulations.

Time Magazine dubs Kennedy and Cronin “Heroes for the Planet.”

The Riverkeepers, by Kennedy and Cronin, is published by Scribner Books.

1999

Kennedy takes the helm of The National Alliance of River, Sound and Baykeepers which now comprises 35 Keeper groups. Its name is changed to the Waterkeeper Alliance.

2000

Riverkeeper and a coalition of environmental and fishing groups sue New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection for polluting Esopus Creek, a once-pristine trout stream in the Catskills section of the NYC watershed, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

Riverkeeper settles a lawsuit on behalf of a national coalition of environmental groups against the EPA, forcing agencies to promulgate regulations under 316(b) of the Clean Water Act which require industrial facility operators to employ the “best technology available” to “minimize adverse environmental impacts on….”.

Alex Matthiessen becomes the Hudson Riverkeeper and Executive Director of Riverkeeper.

John Lipscomb becomes Riverkeeper’s Boat Captain, patrolling the Hudson River from New York Harbor to Troy in search of polluters aboard the R. Ian Fletcher, a 36-foot wooden patrol and research vessel. Lipscomb logs 1000 engine hours or 6000 miles in his first year, establishing a full-time presence on the River.

2001

Riverkeeper launches a campaign to force the closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant based on concerns related to safety, security, and environmental impacts.

2002

Riverkeeper leads a coalition filing suit against the DEC to force it to reconsider the outdated Clean Water Act permits of four Hudson River power plants (Indian Point, Roseton, Bowline, Danskammer) which continue to use antiquated once-through cooling systems.

2003

Riverkeeper persuades the EPA to establish a 153-mile “No Discharge” zone on the Hudson, preventing boats from releasing treated and untreated sewage into the river.

DEC agrees to issue updated Clean Water Act permits for the Indian Point, Bowline, Roseton and Danskammer power plants.

Riverkeeper and a coalition of environmental groups resolve differences with MBIA Insurance Corporation which proposed a development in the Kensico Reservoir watershed. Their agreement on a low-impact plan for the development safeguards water quality in the Kensico Reservoir.

2004

Riverkeeper and six Greenpoint residents file suit against the ExxonMobil Corporation for violation of the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Since the 1940s, over 17 million gallons of oil have been leaking from ExxonMobil and other oil companies’ facilities beneath Greenpoint, Brooklyn and into Newtown Creek which feeds into New York Harbor.

2005

The Albany Steam Generating Station, which used once-through cooling, is retired, and replaced by the Bethlehem Energy Center (BEC). Riverkeeper negotiates with new owner PG&E to adopt closed-cycle cooling that reduces fish kills by 98% and state-of-the-art pollution control technology.

2006

Riverkeeper sues DEC and Dynegy, owner of the Danskammer Generating Facility in Newburgh, challenging DEC’s renewal of Danskammer’s Clean Water Act permit despite the fact that it has not complied with federal and state mandates to use the “best technology available” to avoid fish kills.

Riverkeeper urges the New York State Department of Transportation to rehabilitate the Tappan Zee Bridge instead of constructing a new replacement bridge.

2007

The U.S. Supreme Court declines NYC’s appeal in the Esopus Creek case, a victory for Riverkeeper and the NYC watershed.

Riverkeeper releases Sustainable Raindrops: Cleaning New York Harbor by Greening the Urban Landscape, which offers green solutions to the problem of combined sewage overflows (CSOs).

Entergy, owner/operator of Indian Point nuclear power plants, submits its relicensing application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a 20-year extension of its two reactors.

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo files suit against ExxonMobil to force a cleanup of the Greenpoint oil spill.

Riverkeeper and other environmental groups help negotiate a compromise for a modified version of the Belleayre Resorts at Catskill Park to ensure protection of environmentally sensitive land and water quality in the NYC watershed.

Riverkeeper, the New York State Attorney General, and the DEC file intervention papers to formally oppose Entergy’s relicensing application for Indian Point.

2008

The Waterkeeper Alliance numbers 182 keeper organizations in the United States and around the world.

The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Riverkeeper’s case against the EPA on whether cost-benefit analyses can be used to determine the best technology available for power plants.

Riverkeeper releases The Status of Fish Populations and the Ecology of the Hudson, a report produced by Pisces Conservation Ltd which reveals that 10 of 13 key Hudson River fish species studied have declined in abundance since the 1980s.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission grants Riverkeeper a hearing on three of the five contentions in its petition against the relicensing of Indian Point.

Riverkeeper and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory post findings of their joint water quality testing program in the Hudson River. Results of the ongoing testing are made available to the public on the Riverkeeper website.

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