You did it! The Valley Alliance has been alerted by a well-placed source that New York’s Department of State (DOS) quietly designated Hudson’s South Bay Creek and Marsh a Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat on August 15th.
The designation was reportedly signed by the Secretary of State on Monday, and the listing appears among the other Hudson River habitats on the DOS’s website.
The input of hundreds of citizens to the State, which were in favor of the designation but opposed by Holcim/O&G, has clearly had the intended impact... The final rating form supporting the State designation of South Bay can be downloaded as a PDF by clicking here.
A knowledgeable expert explains the designation’s importance, noting that this means
“State agencies cannot authorize, fund, or undertake direct actions on their parts that would not be consistent with the policy to ‘protect, preserve, and where practical restore the viability of [South Bay]...as a habitat’... [This] applies immediately upon notification to State agencies of the Secretary's approval.”
The designation covers Holcim’s notorious heavy haul road (approved by DEC amid great controversy several years ago, and states that:
“Any activity that would substantially degrade water quality, increase turbidity or sedimentation, alter flows, temperature or water depths at South Bay habitat could result in significant impairment of the habitat.
“All species may be affected by water pollution, such as chemical contamination (including food chain effects resulting from bioaccumulation), oil spills, excessive turbidity or sediment loading, nonpoint source runoff, and waste disposal.
“Discharges of sewage or stormwater runoff containing sediments or chemical pollutants (including fertilizers, herbicides and/or insecticides) may result in adverse impacts on the habitat area.
“Spills of oil or other hazardous substances are an especially significant threat to this area, because the biological activity of tidal flats is concentrated at the soil surface, much of which may be directly exposed to these pollutants.
“Elimination of productive wetland and littoral areas through dredging, filling, or bulkheading could result in significant impairment of the habitat.
“Any activity that alters tidal flows in the bay and wetlands could significantly alter habitats for the fish and wildlife. Barriers to fish migration, whether physical or chemical would have significant impacts on fish populations in the creeks as well as in the Hudson River.
“Plans to reduce or eliminate the impacts of existing hydrological modifications should be developed, including improvements to fish passage, and/or the removal of obstructions or barriers. Alteration to existing causeways and bridges in the bay or where the bay meets the Hudson River could affect the hydrology and quantity and quality of habitats in the area. Any construction related to these structures should utilize the best available science and technology to reduce and avoid negative impacts to the habitat.”
It further notes that:
- “This area contains freshwater tidal wetland, a freshwater tidal creek,
intertidal and supratidal swamp. The latter two communities are rare in New York.”
- “The area south of the causeway is a functional tidal freshwater wetland complex that supports considerable plant diversity.”
- “The South Bay Creek and Marsh habitat contains ecological communities
ranked as rare in New York State: freshwater tidal creek, freshwater tidal marsh ... intertidal swamp, supratidal swamp, and submerged aquatic vegetation beds. Upland forests ... are also present.”
- “Herring and other coastal migratory fish, including blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) still have access to the creek.”
- “Submerged aquatic vegetation provides food and refuge for fishes and invertebrates. The freshwater tidal marsh is a source of biological productivity and helps to maintain the water quality of the Hudson River.”
- “The diversity of habitat cover types provide favorable nesting areas for a variety of waterfowl and songbirds...”
Lastly, the designation creates a new “impairment test” for projects that would affect this newly-protected area, prohibiting uses which would either “destroy” or “significantly impair the viability of” the habitat:
“A habitat impairment test must be met for any activity that is subject to consistency review under Federal and State laws, or under applicable local laws contained in an approved local waterfront revitalization program. If the proposed action is subject to consistency review, then the habitat protection policy applies, whether the proposed action is to occur within or outside the designated area.”