06.30.15

SCHUMER URGES FEDS TO IMMEDIATELY REVIEW AND STRONGLY SUPPORT LOCAL & STATE PLAN TO INCREASE AND ENHANCE ACCESS FOR BOATING AND RECREATIONAL ACCESS ON THE HUDSON RIVER; NEW RIVER ENTRY POINTS WOULD INCREASE ACCESS FOR BOATERS, ANGLERS AND NATURE LOVERS; WOULD ALSO BRING THOUSANDS OF NEW TOURISTS PER YEAR & PROVIDE MAJOR BOOST TO LOCAL ECONOMY

Senator Says Locals And State Are Working Together To Submit Proposal, So Feds Can Promptly Review Request And Approve Comprehensive Restoration Plan,  River Access Improvement Projects In Orange County 

Schumer: Feds Should Get Ready To Review, Approve and Help Fund New Hudson River Access For Boaters, Fishers, And Recreation Use Across The Hudson Valley 

Schumer To Feds: Hudson River Project Needs To Make River More Accessible For Boaters, Fishers, Nature Lovers & Tourists

 

At Mine Dock Park in Highland Falls, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer stood with local advocates in front of the historic Hudson River waterfront to voice his support for increased, expanded, and improved pedestrian, fishing and boater access to the waterfront communities of the Hudson Valley. The federal government has historically partnered with local stakeholders to increase water and recreational opportunities, and Schumer said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) should put their full weight and resources behind new water access improvement projects in Orange County. Previous plans have successfully identified and mapped prime locations for waterfront access, and new plans offer tangible opportunities to build on historic achievements up and down the Hudson River. Schumer said that although progress has been made under the Hudson River Estuary Program, more improvements are needed and could use federal support to address the blatant lack of river access for boaters, fishers and nature lovers. Currently, the lack of river access results in local residents and tourists leaving the area to enjoy other waterfronts. Schumer said that the EPA and USACE must start proactively engaging local communities to offer guidance and the potential resources needed to immediately update, improve and expand river access.

“Throughout Orange County and the great Hudson Valley area there is a dire need for increased and enhanced access points for boaters, fishers, recreation seekers and all nature lovers. It shouldn’t be next to impossible to find a kayak or boat launch site on the Hudson River – and river access could be a game changer for the tourism industry and the local economy, not to mention a means of supporting new jobs,” said Schumer. “Increasing access points to the Hudson River for boaters, anglers, tourists and nature lovers is desperately needed and would be a real shot in the arm for Orange County. That is why residents have made it a tippy-top priority in the draft Hudson River Estuary Action Plan, and why I’m pushing federal agencies, like the EPA and USACE, to promptly review, approve and help fund this vision for significantly expanded access to this glorious river.”

Schumer continued, “These federal agencies must assist our local communities and offer the necessary resources to make each individual project a reality. We should be doing more to ensure residents can access the Hudson and tourists are coming back, summer after summer after summer, to invest right here in the Hudson Valley economy.”

As a result, Schumer said that while significant improvements have been made under the Hudson River Estuary Program in NY State, more improvements are needed and could use federal support to address the blatant lack of river access. Schumer said the federal government has historically partnered with local stakeholders and municipalities to increase water and recreational opportunities. Therefore, Schumer called on the EPA and USACE to put their full weight and resources behind new water access improvements projects in Orange County and the greater Hudson Valley area. These two federal agencies oversee the implementation of these types of projects and work with local partners to create federally approved, comprehensive restoration plans that address water access needs. These agencies handle the approvals necessary to increase river access points for residents and tourists, which is why Schumer is urging the EPA and USACE to work with local municipalities and offer guidance on updating, improving and expanding river access to increase economic development opportunities through tourism.

Funding for larger partnership projects, Schumer explained, could be made available through programs like the USACE Section 206 Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration and Section 1135 Environmental Improvement programs. These federal programs provide significant funding, with a 35 percent non-federal match to restore or improve aquatic resources (206) or to modify existing corps projects to restore aquatic resources (1135).  Federal funding is also available for acquisition of buffer lands adjacent to the Hudson. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation (CELCP) Program supports state and local governments’ ability to acquire coastal and estuarine lands that have ecological conservation, recreation, historical or aesthetic values under threat. CELCP funding provides matching funds to purchase property or conservation of existing properties. There are many potential sources of funding to support this restoration, in addition to the EPA and USACE. Schumer said that, ideally, all funding sources supporting restoration efforts on the Hudson should be coordinated with the goal of ensuring they are complementary and consistent with the overarching restoration plan.

Schumer said improving water access points throughout Orange County and the Hudson Valley could mean local residents and visitors flocking to these new points of access. This kind of economic development opportunity could not only increase the quality of life along the river towns but also spur job creation in the tourism, recreation and hospitality industries as visitors look to invest in the local economy. Schumer noted that local organizations like Scenic Hudson have successfully implemented redevelopment projects along the Hudson River, which have led to increased tourism and recreational opportunities in places like Yonkers, Peekskill, and Kingston. The federal government offers assistance for these kinds of projects, and Schumer said it is clear the public demand for these additional points of entry are only increasing, particularly in Orange County. For example, a public boat launch in Fort Montgomery could bring more tourists from near and far to the historic community and offer visitors the opportunity to boat, fish and hike throughout Orange County and the Hudson Valley, and then explore other world-class destinations in the area like West Point. Schumer some other examples of sites in the Hudson River Estuary area that have public access points but no boat launch include the Newburgh Landing and Waterfront Park, Madame Brett Park in Beacon, the Beacon Riverfront Park, Little Stony Point in Rockland, and Robert E. Post Memorial Park in Ulster County. Organizations like Scenic Hudson and municipalities throughout Orange County typically rely on the federal government for technical and financial assistance, as well as regulatory approvals, to make boat and river access projects like this a reality.

That is why Schumer is asking the EPA, USACE, and all other relevant federal agencies to actively partner and work with locals to continue increasing access opportunities up and down the Hudson River. Schumer said that several smaller projects have already come out of this greater Hudson River Estuary plan. For example, the City of Fishkill was able to remove debris along Metro-North rails and develop a greenway trail that has improved public access to the Hudson River. Scenic Hudson was also able to revitalize Beacon’s Long Dock Park by removing the former commercial and industrial park and creating a riverfront destination that includes a kayak pavilion and beach for launching boats, rehabilitated wetlands and meadows that attract wildlife, and the restored, historic Red Barn, now Scenic Hudson's River Center for arts and environmental-education activities. A third example of a smaller project is one in Haverstraw that restored 600 linear feet of steel bulkhead and two inlets for public access, in addition to creating a doublewide boat launch to allow public access and enjoyment of the Hudson River. Schumer said these are all evidence that, when locals, NY State and the federal government collaborate, worthwhile projects have resulted and future efforts with federal backing could mean even more public water access for residents and tourists.

Therefore, Schumer said the federal government should be prepared to offer maximum assistance on these various forms of public access projects throughout the region. For example, in some cases, parking is insufficient for the local and tourist demand and visitors are often turned away from existing access points because of the lack of space. Schumer said this is just one of many supplementary efforts that could be used to support the creation of increased and improved access points along the Hudson River. At some parks and points of entry, increased parking would need USACE approval. At others, dredging – approved by both the EPA and USACE – could be needed to increase boater access and drop off points. Other access points could require technical assistance and federal support to offer multimodal recreational opportunities to ensure our outdoor enthusiasts are living in harmony with local environmental conservation, protection and sustainable development efforts.

Schumer said locals have already begun developing a plan for improving river access points in the Hudson River Estuary area from the Tappan Zee Bridge to the Federal Dam at Troy, which includes many points in Orange County. The community planning process, which includes regional meetings, began in January 2015. During this process, which is expected to last 15 months, participating municipalities will work to identify specific projects to be considered for inclusion in this Hudson River Comprehensive Restoration Plan, of which Schumer is hoping to garner federal support and guidance to aid localities in this effort. This regional plan is the first major hurdle and will allow communities to be prepared for future local, state and federal funding opportunities. The program’s overall goal is to revitalize all area waterfronts – by increasing public access, working ports, and tourism opportunities – so that the Hudson River Valley is once again the “front door” for river communities and economic development.

Schumer was joined by Andy Bickings of Scenic Hudson, Andy Peck of the Nature Conservancy, Highland Falls Supervisor, coalition members of Hudson We Share, and other area residents.

Below is Senator Schumer’s letter to the EPA and USACE:

Dear Administrator McCarthy and Lieutenant General Bostick,

I write to urge your strong support and request your assistance in the Hudson Valley to increase, enhance and improve river access for boaters, fishers and hikers who call the Hudson Valley home. As you know, local stakeholders have been diligently working over the past year to develop a comprehensive, estuary-wide framework for project planning and implementation to address many of the challenges facing communities that are working to manage and protect their waterfront infrastructure and natural assets. Partners Restoring the Hudson, an established public/private partnership among 20+ federal, state, and non-governmental organizations, has collected public input throughout the region to bring together the various voices who have been loudly asking for more river access. 

The Plan will provide an inventory of community-based restoration and adaptation projects to improve habitat conditions, community resilience and public access projects. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, in coordination with your agencies, is also on the verge of submitting the 2015-2020 Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda which your agencies will be instrumental in implementing.   I am asking you to offer the full services and support of your respective agencies to make these plans a reality, and offer new water based recreational opportunities for the residents and visitors to the Hudson Valley.

At public hearings across the Hudson Valley, we have heard time and time again that access to the river is lacking, needs improvements, and some communities are left standing at the shores of the Hudson with no access to the river whatsoever. By taking into account the plans and goals of the restoration plan and action agenda, we need to collectively work together to ensure we leave no stone unturned in implementing waterfront development projects from Yonkers to Kingston, and everywhere in between. The importance of providing public access to all people, whether improving access in underserved areas or improving access for the disabled, cannot be understated. With your assistance, we can ensure people will be able to enjoy the beautiful Hudson River for generations to come.

I appreciate your consideration of this request. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

U.S. Senator

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