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Restoration of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary: What Do We Value and How Do We "Value" It

Restoration of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary: What Do We Value and How Do We "Value" It

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

Presented by the Environmental Sciences Section


Moderator: Chris Zeppie, The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

Speakers: Mark Bain, Cornell University; Brad Sewell, Natural Resources Defense Council; Marta Alicia Panero, The New York Academy of Sciences

Achieving restoration in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary depends on a vision for improving the environment for aquatic life and increasing benefits to people. However approaches to valuing these benefits poses difficulties including: defining ecosystem targets, setting performance metrics within a rubric of legal compliance, and utilizing cost-benefit analysis as the primary assessment criteria.

This symposium is part of the United States Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE) NYC Conference Creating Sustainability within our Midst: Challenge for the 21st Century, which will be held from June 23 to June 27. Further information about this conference is available at the USSEE website.



The Nature of Environmental Restoration in the City
Mark Bain
, PhD
Cornell University

Environmental restoration is an active and important new pursuit in the City of New York. The common approach to restoration is bringing back a past state when the environment was more natural. New York became a world-class city and center for culture under a forward-looking perspective of building a bigger and better future. Several key agencies are promoting a vision for a "world-class harbor estuary". Can environmental restorationists look forward rather than backward for guidance on what to do? Yes, we can renew our thinking and apply what we know to design a better ecosystem for nature and people.

Planning for a Healthy Jamaica Bay
Brad Sewell
, Esq.
Natural Resources Defense Council
Co-chair, Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan

Jamaica Bay has significant and generally underappreciated value to New York City and, for certain environmental parameters, the nation. More than 25,000 acres of open water, marsh, meadowland, beaches, dunes and forests provide critical habitat for more than 80 fish species and many threatened and endangered species, such as the Atlantic Ridley sea turtle. It is a key stopover along the Eastern Flyway migration route and is visited by nearly 20 percent of the continent's species of birds every year. The Bay's wetlands serve as flood protection and shoreline erosion control for the surrounding homes and businesses in Brooklyn and Queens. More than five hundred thousand New Yorkers live in the Jamaica Bay watershed/sewershed, and the Bay is a popular fishing and boating area serving all parts of the City, as well as tourists seeking recreational opportunities.

But Jamaica Bay's resources are in jeopardy. Thousands of acres of the Bay's marshlands are mysteriously disappearing. Scientists predict that, at the current rate, the marsh islands will completely vanish in less than twenty years. Poor, and in some places deteriorating, water quality is a continuing problem for the Bay. Nitrogen from the City's wastewater treatment plants is the leading pollutant, and may even be spurring the marsh loss.

In response to this crisis, in 2005 the City of New York enacted Local Law 71, which requires the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop a watershed protection plan (Jamaica Bay Plan) "to restore and maintain the water quality and ecological integrity of Jamaica Bay." Local Law 71 also established a seven-member Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan Advisory Committee to advise the DEP in the Jamaica Bay Plan's development. DEP's ongoing development of the Jamaica Bay Plan has helped illustrate the different ecological services provided by Jamaica Bay. DEP has concurrently been developing a nitrogen pollution abatement plan using performance metrics that appear inconsistent with this broader understanding of Jamaica Bay's value. This presentation will provide an overview of the Jamaica Bay Plan's development, including DEP's separate development of a nitrogen abate