Monday, April 27, 2009

"Rock Snot" Making Inroads in Ulster County

An invasive algae known as "rock snot" or "didymo" is being found in more streams in Ulster County, most recently in the Esopus Creek (note: The Esopus Creek does not run through the Town of Esopus). The algae, Didymosphenia geminata, damages fish habitat and is of particular concern in trout streams like the Esopus. This is the third documented occurence of the algae in New York, and the first in Ulster County.

According to the DEC:

Unlike many other aquatic invasive plants, didymo (Didymosphenia geminata) grows on the bottom of both flowing and still waters. It is characterized by the development of thick, gooey mat-like growths - which can last for months - even in fast flowing streams. In addition to making footing difficult, didymo can impede fishing by limiting the abundance of bottom dwelling organisms that trout and other species of fish feed on. There are currently no known methods for controlling or eradicating didymo once it infests a water body.

The Times Union story on the subject makes a critically important point: It's up to all of us -- anglers, kayakers, hikers, etc. -- to avoid spreading this algae from water body to water body. According to the DEC:

The microscopic algae can cling - unseen - to waders, boots, boats, clothing, lures, hooks, fishing line and other equipment and remain viable for several weeks under even in seemingly dry conditions. Absorbent items, such as felt-soled waders and wet suits, require thorough treatment.
The DEC recommends these steps:

Remove visible "snot" from self and gear when exiting water (throw remnants in the trash, don't flush down the drain), then cleanse items in one of these ways:
  • Soak for one minute or more with 140+ degree water (for highly absorbent items, soak for 40 minutes in water above 115-degrees, or for 30 minutes in a 115-degree solution of 5% dishwashing detergent
  • Soak for one minute or more in a 2% bleach solution
  • Soak for one minute or more in a 5% salt or dishwashing detergent solution
  • Place gear in freezer until frozen solid
  • Dry gear for at least 48 hours

Monday, April 20, 2009

Volunteers Needed to Monitor Herring In Black Creek

Scientists need the help of the public in monitoring herring in Hudson River tributaries, including Black Creek in the Town of Esopus.

River herring come in two varieties -- blueback and alewife -- and are important fish in the ecology of both the river and ocean. Their numbers have been plummeting in many rivers up and down the East Coast, including -- most likely (data is scarce) on the Hudson. These fish are small and used to reproduce in huge numbers in most tributaries of the river; damming and other habitat loss, pollution and overfishing for food and bait (herring are popular bait fish for striped bass anglers) are likely contributing to their decline. Like many other species important to the Hudson, herring spend most of their lives in the ocean, but spawn in the river each spring.

Black Creek has traditionally been one of the best tributaries for catching herring -- but in recent years, local fishermen have reported that the spawning run has declined or disappeared.

Now to the volunteer opportunity. The following is from the Department of Environmental Conservation:

NYSDEC's Hudson River Estuary Program and Hudson River Fisheries Unit has initiated a volunteer-based river herring monitoring program during the annual migration of river herring from the ocean into freshwater tributaries to spawn.

We are looking for volunteers to monitor streams from now until 5/31. Monitoring involves looking to see if, where, and when herring spawning runs exist on these tributaries. Each volunteer will conduct visual
observations at least twice a week for 15 minutes at a site close to their town. Training is provided, no experience necessary. For more information on the program, please visit the website! . If you are interested in participating or would like to attend a training, contact us at or (845)256-3182.

The Sites:
  • (Albany County) Coeymans Creek, Vloman Kill
  • (Columbia County) Stockport Creek, Mill Creek
  • (Dutchess County) Fallkill, Wappinger Creek, Crum Elbow Creek
  • (Orange County) Moodna, Quassaick Creek
  • (Ulster County) Black Creek
  • (Westchester County) Croton River
  • (Rockland County) Minisceongo Creek, Sparkill Creek

Dolphin Found in Hudson in West Park

This is a sad story, but shows the amazing vitality and abundance of the Hudson River. This note was in the Hudson River Almanac, published online weekly by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's Hudson River Estuary Program.
4/7 - West Park, Ulster County, HRM 82: At 11:15 this morning we
received word that a kayaker had found a dolphin carcass on the west
bank of the Hudson River in West Park. It is likely that this was the
offshore bottlenose dolphin which eluded us around Thanksgiving.
- Kim Durham
To sign up to receive the E-Almanac, send an email message to and write E-Almanac in the subject line.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Scenic Hudson Adds 3 Acres to Esopus Meadows Preserve

Scenic Hudson has preserved another three acres of land at its Esopus Meadows Preserve on River Road, according to a story in Mid Hudson News.

Environmental benefits of protecting the land, according to Scenic Hudson, include the preservation of 200 feet of Hudson River shoreline visible from historic mansions and parks in Dutchess County (Mills Mansion, Wilderstein, Norrie Point State Park) and it preserves a large vernal pool where amphibians breed. (I've hiked at Esopus Meadows in the past couple weeks, and the peepers are going like mad.)

The surrounding area is part of the Esopus Meadows Biologically Important Area (pdf), designated in 1987 by New York State. The state deems this area "irreplaceable."

The following, about the designated Esopus Meadows Biologically Important Area, is copied from the NYS Department of State Division of Coastal Resources. (I would note that the text seems to reflect data from the time of the region's designation (1987) and that -- particularly when it comes to fish populations -- the information may be dated. The populations of fish in the Hudson River, with the exception of striped bass, shortnose sturgeon and a handful of others, have been in serious decline. The importance of this area to Atlantic sturgeon, American shad and other significant species may be much more critical today than it was 20 years ago.)

Ecosystem Rarity: Relatively large area of shallow, freshwater, tidal flats and aquatic beds; rare in New York State, but several larger areas exist.
Species Vulnerability: Shortnose sturgeon (federally endangered) may occur in the area, but habitat use not adequately documented.
Human Use: One of the most popular waterfowl hunting and recrea-tional fishing areas on the Hudson River;
commercial shad fishery of regional significance.
Population Level: A major concentration area for various fish species and waterfowl in the mid-Hudson Valley;
Replaceability: Irreplaceable.

Esopus Meadows is located on the west side of the Hudson River, approximately four miles south of the City of Kingston, in the Town of Esopus, Ulster County (7.5' Quadrangles: Kingston East, N.Y.; and Hyde Park, N.Y.). The fish and wildlife habitat is an approximate 350 acre shoal in the river, most of which is shallow (less than 10 feet deep at mean low water), freshwater, intertidal mudflats, and subtidal aquatic beds (dominated by wild celery and Eurasian water milfoil). Esopus Meadows is located adjacent to a natural deepwater area in the Hudson River, so the area is not subject to disturbance from periodic maintenance dredging. The land area bordering Esopus Meadows is mostly wooded, with some low to medium density residential development where County Route 81 runs close to the shoreline.


Esopus Meadows is a relatively large, undisturbed area of shallow, freshwater, tidal flats. Areas such as this are extremely valuable fish and wildlife habitats in the Hudson River, and are not found in other coastal regions of New York State. Esopus Meadows is a productive littoral area located near the lowest reaches of shallow freshwater in the Hudson River, which is a critical area for many fish species. The shallow, subtidal beds provide spawning, nursery, and feeding habitats for anadromous species such as striped bass, American shad, and white perch, and for a variety of resident freshwater species, such as largemouth bass, carp, brown bullhead, yellow perch, and shiners. Concentrations of spawning anadromous fishes generally occur in the area between mid-March and July, with substantial numbers of young-of-the-year fish remaining well into the fall (October-November). Esopus Meadows may also serve as a feeding area for populations of shortnose sturgeon (E) wintering in the adjacent deepwater channel.

The abundant fisheries resources in the area provide excellent opportunities for recreational and commercial fishing, attracting fishermen from throughout the mid Hudson Valley. Esopus Meadows and the edge of the tidal flats support one of the best recreational striped bass fisheries in the Hudson estuary. Research collections have included capture of up to 10 striped bass over 20 pounds (maximum 45 pounds) in a single seine haul. Concentrations of black bass on and adjacent to Esopus Meadows also support a regionally important recreational fishery. Access to the area is available by boat and from much of the river shoreline north of Esopus Meadows Point.

Significant concentrations of waterfowl also occur in the Esopus Meadows area. Dense growths of submergent vegetation provide valuable feeding areas for many species of ducks, and are especially important during spring (March-April) and fall (mid-September - early December) migrations. Concentrations of diving ducks, such as scaups, redhead, canvasback, common goldeneye, and mergansers, are regularly found out in this area. This open water area is also used by dabbling ducks, including mallard, black duck, and blue-winged teal, especially during calm weather, and much of the area provides refuge from hunting pressure in shoreline areas. However, portions of Esopus Meadows that are accessible comprise one of the most popular waterfowl hunting areas on the lower Hudson River. Depending on weather conditions, some waterfowl may remain in the area throughout winter; mid-winter aerial surveys for the period 1976-1985 indicate average concentrations of approximately 80 birds in the area each year (500 in peak year), including black duck, mallard, canvasback, and mergansers. Although occasional observations have been reported, the extent to which other bird species, such as loons, grebes, gulls, and shorebirds, may use the area has not been well documented. However, the variety of birds observed here, and its accessibility, makes Esopus Meadows popular among many birdwatchers in the mid Hudson Valley.

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.

The specific habitat impairment test that must be met is as follows. In order to protect and preserve a significant habitat, land and water uses or development shall not be undertaken if such actions would:
  • destroy the habitat; or,
  • significantly impair the viability of a habitat.
Habitat destruction is defined as the loss of fish or wildlife use through direct physical alteration, disturbance, or pollution of a designated area or through the indirect effects of these actions on a designated area. Habitat destruction may be indicated by changes in vegetation, substrate, or hydrology, or increases in runoff, erosion, sedimentation, or pollutants. Significant impairment is defined as reduction in vital resources (e.g., food, shelter, living space) or change in environmental conditions (e.g., temperature, substrate, salinity) beyond the tolerance range of an organism. Indicators of a significantly impaired habitat focus on ecological alterations and may include but are not limited to reduced carrying capacity, changes in community structure (food chain relationships, species diversity), reduced productivity and/or increased incidence of disease and mortality. The tolerance range of an organism is not defined as the physiological range of conditions beyond which a species will not survive at all, but as the ecological range of conditions that supports the species population or has the potential to support a restored population, where practical. Either the loss of individuals through an increase in emigration or an increase in death rate indicates that the tolerance range of an organism has been exceeded. An abrupt increase in death rate may occur as an environmental factor falls beyond a tolerance limit (a range has both upper and lower limits). Many environmental factors, however, do not have a sharply defined tolerance limit, but produce increasing emigration or death rates with increasing departure from conditions that are optimal for the species. The range of parameters which should be considered in applying the habitat impairment test include but are not limited to the following:

  1. physical parameters such as living space, circulation, flushing rates, tidal amplitude, turbidity, water temperature, depth (including loss of littoral zone), morphology, substrate type, vegetation, structure, erosion and sedimentation rates;
  2. biological parameters such as community structure, food chain relationships, species diversity, predator/prey relationships, population size, mortality rates, reproductive rates, meristic features, behavioral patterns and migratory patterns; and,
  3. chemical parameters such as dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, acidity, dissolved solids, nutrients, organics, salinity, and pollutants (heavy metals, toxics and hazardous materials).

Although not comprehensive, examples of generic activities and impacts which could destroy or significantly impair the habitat are listed below to assist in applying the habitat impairment test to a proposed activity. Any activity that would substantially degrade water quality in Esopus Meadows would result in significant impairment of the habitat. All species of fish and wildlife may be adversely affected by water pollution, such as chemical contamination (including food chain effects), oil spills, excessive turbidity or sedimentation, disposal. Continued efforts should be made to improve water quality in the Hudson River, which is primarily dependent upon controlling discharges from combined sewer overflows, industrial point sources, and ships. Oil and other hazardous substance spills 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. Disruption of plant communities or benthos in the area, through dredging, filling (including dredge spoil disposal), or bulkheading, could reduce its value as a fish and wildlife habitat. No new navigation channels should be cut through the area; any dredging activities needed to maintain the existing channel should be scheduled in mid to late summer to minimize potential impacts on most aquatic organisms and migratory birds. Thermal discharges, depending on time of year, may have variable effects on use of the area by aquatic species and wintering waterfowl. Installation and operation of water intakes could have a significant impact on juvenile (and adult, in some cases) fish concentrations, through impingement or entrainment.

Appropriate public access to Esopus Meadows should be maintained or enhanced to ensure that adequate opportunities for compatible human uses of the fish and wildlife resources are available.