Following the results of a pilot study in 2015, the project team recently placed more than 400 oyster reef structures in the Hudson River near the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. The new oyster reef system covers more than five acres in the river, and is part of the state’s commitment to re-establish the local wild oyster population.
“Restoring the oyster population is critical to the long-term health of the Hudson River, one of New York’s greatest natural treasures,” Governor Cuomo said. “These reefs will help create a strong and healthy marine habitat and protect New York’s environment for generations to come.”
In July, staff from the Billion Oyster Project, a NY Harbor Foundation Program, monitored the placement of 422 steel gabion cages, each weighing 250 pounds, and 200- and 300-pound concrete reef balls on the river bed to promote the settlement of larval oysters and the growth of oyster reef habitat. The structures were placed 12 to 20 feet below the surface of the river in three locations near the bridge.
The gabion cages were designed and assembled on Governors Island, where more than 200 BOP volunteers from the tri-state area filled them with empty oyster shells donated by more than 70 New York City restaurants. The oyster reef structures are the largest reef system in Billion Oyster Project history. The Thruway Authority will monitor the cages and reef balls through 2020 to measure oyster population growth, survival and water quality.
Construction of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge required the relocation of some living oyster habitats. As part of the project’s environmental stewardship commitments, the New York State Thruway Authority established an oyster working group and funded research to help lead the restoration effort. In 2015, the Thruway Authority partnered with scientists and oyster restoration experts including the Billion Oyster Project, the Hudson River Foundation and the University of New Hampshire on a two-year pilot study to design and construct reef habitat structures and determine appropriate locations for placement on the bed of the Hudson River. The oyster working group included Hudson Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, NY/NJ Baykeeper, Cornell University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
“Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, the project team building the new bridge has been fully committed to protecting the Hudson River and its rich marine life,” Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said. “Adding these underwater structures to encourage oyster habitat supports our goal to preserve our valuable natural resources.”