NY- NJ Harbor & Estuary Program’s Environmental Monitoring Plan

By Rosana DaSilva, Water Quality Manager, New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program

Whether it is testing the water for pathogens, tracking fish or counting park visitors, environmental monitoring is critical for tracking the health of the Estuary, and the progress and effectiveness of policies and management actions.  Now, the region has a new set of tools and shared set of priorities for improving our ability to gauge what is happening in the estuary.  The New York – New Jersey Harbor and Estuary Program (HEP) has produced an Environmental Monitoring Plan to help coordinate monitoring efforts, improve data analysis and address monitoring gaps, and make available data more accessible.  There are specific recommendations to advance the work of scientists (including citizen scientists), managers, and policy makers who rely on this information.  

The Environmental Monitoring Plan is composed of three tools: a monitoring inventory and interactive map, a companion digital storymap, and an environmental research and monitoring recommendations report.  These tools feature 47 indicators, selected by scientific and technical experts, which help us understand and document progress towards improvements in water quality, habitat, public access, maritime use, and community engagement.   

The Monitoring Inventory and Interactive Map identifies past and current environmental monitoring efforts by HEP and its partners, including public agencies, utilities, universities, non-profits, and local community groups.  Users can locate where monitoring is occurring, what is being monitored, the organization conducting the monitoring, and where to access available data.  Although the map does not host the data, it serves as an index to help users identify how to access that data with links and contact information.  This tool can be used to help monitoring programs collaborate and share data as well as informing where gaps exist. 

A companion storymap, Discovering Indicators and Monitoring Programs in the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary, helps users unfamiliar with monitoring better understand specific monitoring efforts across the Hudson Raritan Estuary.  Each section explores relevant indicators that provide critical insight as to the quality of the estuary and progress towards HEP’s five goals of water quality, habitat and ecological health, port and maritime, public access and stewardship, and community engagement.  

The Recommendations for Environmental Research and Monitoring in the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary identifies priorities for supporting existing monitoring programs as well as recommends new programs to address the gaps in scientific knowledge and otherwise identify the changes taking place in the Harbor Estuary.  In addition, the recommendations report identifies research that would improve monitoring practices, investigate new indicators, and better understand emerging contaminants.  HEP’s partners from public agencies, the public and universities identified and prioritized 20 specific recommendations.  Two of these were identified as most critical for the Harbor Estuary: Launch a near-shore pathogen monitoring program that provides high quality data to inform recreational water quality assessments, including helping citizen scientists contribute to this work.Reinstate and fully fund the Regional Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (REMAP) or a similar benthic and toxic monitoring program. Having adopted this plan, HEP and our partners are now working to implement these and other recommendations outlined in the report.  HEP will update the Environmental Monitoring Plan every five years, a similar schedule to the State of the Estuary and Action Agenda. For more information, please contact Rosana Da Silva at rosana@hudsonriver.org.