Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the state has reached an agreement with groups Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson on permits that will include extensive environmental protective measures and mitigation funding to protect the Hudson River and minimize environmental impacts during construction of the New NY Bridge. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today issued an environmental permit containing these comprehensive protections authorizing the New York State Thruway Authority to proceed with construction.
"We are making record progress on building a new bridge for the Hudson Valley while ensuring the comprehensive protection the environment and natural beauty of this region," said Governor Cuomo. "Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson's support for the state's extensive environmental protections is a critical step forward for the New NY Bridge."
"Riverkeeper is pleased to join Governor Cuomo and Scenic Hudson in finalizing this key permit that will protect the Hudson River and enable the new Tappan Zee Bridge project to move forward," said Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper. "The significant reduction in dredging and the use of smaller pilings, coupled with a strong DEC permit, increased mitigation funding and the state's agreement to give us a seat at the table in monitoring the construction all add up to a project we can work with. Together with our partner Scenic Hudson, we will continue to ensure that the new Tappan Zee Bridge is built in a way that safeguards our river while providing local communities with the modern infrastructure they need."
"Scenic Hudson is proud to have achieved, through this permit and agreement, stronger protections for the river and communities that could be impacted by the project," said Scenic Hudson President, Ned Sullivan. "Working collaboratively with Riverkeeper and the Cuomo administration, we have produced significant improvements to the project design that will result in fewer and less intensive environmental impacts. Also our advocacy has led to mitigation funds that will restore important habitat and give a boost to riverfront revitalization efforts in Westchester and Rockland County communities. We applaud the governor's team for working with us to create a positive outcome"
"DEC worked with Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson and the Thruway Authority to develop a permit that best protects the river and environment," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. "The end result is a stronger permit that will provide important ecological benefits in addition to advancing vital new infrastructure."
"Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York State has shown that it can undertake a huge transportation infrastructure improvement and do so in record time," said Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas J. Madison. "The environmental review and procurement for the New NY Bridge were completed in little more than a year, with extensive public involvement, and while the pace was fast, the deliberations were thorough and no shortcuts were taken. We will continue to work closely with environmentalists and others in the Hudson Valley as we develop and implement mitigation measures."
During the public comment process on the draft permit, Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson expressed concerns regarding various mitigation measures necessary to compensate for claimed or potential impacts associated with construction of the replacement bridge. After consultation and agreement by DEC to increase mitigation funding, both groups have agreed that the final permit addresses these concerns.
The DEC permit approval meets construction deadlines for the new bridge and will mandate an extensive program for fish and water quality protections. DEC determined that the bridge construction will only have minimal and short term effects on local endangered species the Atlantic and Shortnose sturgeon. In addition, the DEC issued environmental permits requiring $10 million in environmental enhancements, consisting of research measures and ecological improvements in the Lower Hudson that will compensate for the potential impacts of in-river construction activities.
The specific environmental enhancements for the project include the following:
Restoring a former river channel at Gay's Point to provide fish spawning habitat
Replacing 13 acres of oyster beds disturbed during construction
Eradicating 200 acres of invasive species and restoring the natural flow of Crumkill Creek in Piermont Marsh
Reducing storm water pollution and improving water quality in Sparkill Creek through a green infrastructure project
Studying the restoration of historic wetlands in Piermont Marsh
Designing and implementing a series of additional habitat enhancement and rehabilitation projects, to be determined in consultation with Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson.
DEC's permit contains comprehensive requirements to minimize the environmental effects of construction. These protective actions include the use of sound attenuation systems to safeguard fish from acoustic effects of pile driving, seasonal limits on dredging to avoid peak fish migration and spawning, monitoring sturgeon movement during construction, and requiring an independent Environmental Compliance Monitor to observe the work and report back to DEC. Now, only the Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corp approvals are required.
Under the permit, the Thruway Authority will implement an outreach campaign in the commercial fishing industry to reduce the impact of commercial by-catch of Atlantic sturgeon in the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, the permit requires actions that will enhance scientific understanding of sturgeon life in the river such as mapping their habitat, analyzing their diet and adding to the number of sonically tagged sturgeon to study their movement.
The Thruway Authority will also conduct a stakeholder process, in collaboration with Scenic Hudson, to develop and implement $1.5 million in community-based waterfront revitalization projects, to be designed in consultation with the NYS Department of State and DEC.