Protecting, restoring and celebrating estuaries—where salt and freshwater Meet
Below the Federal Dam at Troy, the Hudson River becomes an estuary, where fresh waters meet salt waters.
In 1982, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration designated four sections of the Hudson River (Piermont Marsh, Iona Island, Tivoli Bays and Stockport Flats) as a National Estuarine Research Reserve. This reserve covers 4,838 acres of coastal wetlands along 100 miles of the Hudson River in New York State.
The estuary supports extraordinary biological diversity and provides important benefits to humans, yet these habitats have been diminished, damaged and disconnected by human activity.
In the early 1970s, toxic compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, were discovered in the water, fish and sediment of the Hudson River below General Electric’s plants at Hudson Falls and Ford Edward in New York. These PCBs have contaminated all parts of the Hudson River, including its estuary.
The responsibility for restoring natural resources that have been injured by hazardous substances (such as PCBs) belongs to the natural resource trustees, through a natural resource damage assessment. Trustees are stewards of the public’s natural resources.
For the Hudson River, the trustees are the U.S. Department of Commerce (through NOAA), the U.S. Department of the Interior (through our agency) and the State of New York (through NYSDEC). The trustees are conducting a natural resource damage assessment to measure the harm caused by PCBs, with the goal of restoring these natural resources so that wildlife can thrive and people can more fully enjoy the river.
As the light, fresh waters of rivers rush into the salty waters of the sea, some incredible things can happen. As these two types of waters meet and mix, creating habitats known as estuaries, they also circulate nutrients, sediments, and oxygen. This mixing creates fertile waters for an array of life, from mangroves and salt-tolerant marsh grasses to oysters, salmon, and migrating birds. These productive areas also attract humans, who bring fishing, industry, and shipping along with them.
All of this activity along estuaries means they are often the site of oil spills and chemical releases. We at NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration often find ourselves working in estuaries, trying to minimize the impacts of oil spills and hazardous waste…
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