Credit: Photo by Dan Miller

BACKGROUND AND CHALLENGES

The Hudson River Estuary, running north of New York City to the federal dam in Albany, has 200 miles of shorelines. Over time, these shorelines have been “hardened,” as landowners sought to protect their land by building walls engineered to withstand not only natural erosion but also the forces of boat wakes and ice moving downriver. Manmade hardening is ecologically problematic because it affects the shorelines’ suitability as fish and wildlife habitat and reduces its ability to absorb impacts to human infrastructure from flooding and inundation.

THE CBI APPROACH

Since 2009, CBI has led a collaborative project to assist scientists in learning strategies that could help Hudson River shorelines function at a higher ecological level. The four-phase project, funded by the National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Science Collaborative, has generated new information about engineering performance, economic costs, projected river conditions, and legal and regulatory opportunities. In coordination with this technical work, CBI has formed advisory committees of regulators and permitters, representatives from municipalities and environmental groups, engineers, and others. These committees meet regularly to review both research and products being developed, helping to ensure that the questions being answered matter to people on the ground. CBI has also helped project leaders coordinate their efforts with the technical team to steer key activities and keep the project on schedule.

RESULTS

The project has yielded significant results, including:

  • new information about the physical forces at different points along the shore;
  • peer-reviewed articles about shoreline ecology;
  • guidance for experts and regulators on desired shoreline characteristics;
  • a series of demonstration sites along the shore with explanatory signage;
  • a report on lessons learned from hurricanes Sandy and Irene about how “greener” shorelines perform in the face of powerful storms;
  • more robust partnerships across many regional organizations working on shorelines and climate adaptation; and
  • a web page that serves as a clearinghouse for the many resources and written products from this effort 

With CBI’s involvement, various stakeholders are working together to develop a long-term approach for creating sustainable shorelines in the Hudson River Estuary.