Hudson focus of environmental mission
The throngs attracted to the Hudson’s waterfront by Quadricentennial celebrations – especially the River Day Flotilla – have made residents, business leaders and policymakers aware of the river’s critical contribution to maintaining the region’s economic vitality and quality of life.During the flotilla, Clearwater, Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson – the Hudson Valley’s leading environmental organizations – articulated a 10-point plan for guaranteeing the river’s health as a permanent 400th legacy.
Among our goals, to be achieved during the coming Quadricentennial Decade, are educating future environmental leaders; preserving 65,000 acres along the Hudson; meeting state standards for scenic, ecological and agricultural importance; and adoption of regulations compelling power plants along the river to install closed-loop cooling or its equivalent.
Achieving these goals would be enormously beneficial – environmentally and economically.
Providing more environmental education programs – in effect, ramping up Clearwater’s 40-year mission, the goal of the organization’s Next Generation Legacy Project – will introduce many inner-city youth to the importance of protecting the Hudson. Camp Clearwater, inaugurated this year, and a series of Environmental Education and Justice Centers planned for cities along the river will help create a pipeline for green jobs. Scenic Hudson’s outdoor “classrooms,” which motivate future stewards in parks around the region, are also an important part of this initiative.
Protecting the 65,000 acres – the aim of Scenic Hudson’s Saving the Land That Matters Most campaign – will allow space for new parks, provide construction jobs now and give an ongoing boost to the valley’s $4.5 billion tourism industry.
Since “green” businesses seeking to relocate place high value on natural beauty and abundant parkland, it will give the valley a leg up in attracting new economic investment and employment. And it will help slow down harmful climate-change impacts.
Requiring the long-overdue use of proven cooling technology via regulations enforced by the Department of Environmental Conservation will reduce power plants’ consumption of river water – nearly 5 billion gallons a day – by 95 percent, helping to reverse the steep decline in populations of American shad, river herring and eight other key species documented by a recent Riverkeeper study.
Achieving these goals requires a dedicated partnership between state and federal governments and the environmental and business communities.
In Congress, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D- Hurley, has offered legislation that would provide funds for the state’s Hudson River Estuary Program to increase preservation of the valley’s natural and historic treasures.
Release fundOnly the state isn’t stepping up to the plate. That’s because it has been using the Environmental Protection Fund, New York’s chief means for supporting initiatives such as these, as a piggy bank.
During the last fiscal year, $175 million of the the environmental fund’s legislatively mandated $255 million was “swept” into the general budget to reduce the massive deficit. But by treating the program as a slush fund, legislators ignored that the state had already committed the entire fund balance for building new parks, revitalizing downtown waterfronts, protecting farmland and improving the quality of the air we breathe and water we drink- projects that would spur economic stimulus, saving and creating much-needed jobs. Things got so bad in March that the fund, established during a previous economic downturn to create a steady environmental funding source, nearly ran out of money.
Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders are aware of the Environmental Protection Fund’s value. That’s why they made a joint promise April 22 – Earth Day – to refrain from sweeping this year’s funds, legislatively set at $222 million. It’s imperative they keep this promise and give the capable heads of the state’s natural-resource agencies complete authority to spend their allocated shares.
And just as the governor provided financial support for Walkway over the Hudson as a 400th legacy, he should make a similar commitment to educating future environmental leaders, preserving the valley’s must-save landscapes and restoring the river’s health in the decade ahead.
Accomplishing these goals will be worthy of its own celebration 100 years from now.
Jeff Rumpf is the executive director of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Also contributing to this article were Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, and Alex Matthiessen, president of Riverkeeper.
Entry filed under: Dive In, Public Waterfront, Region. Tags: Camp Clearwater, Clearwater, Environmental Education and Justice Centers, environmental organization, Hudson River, Next Generation Legacy Project, quadricentennial, River Day Flotilla, Rvierkeeper, Scenic Hudson.