Ms. Frances Dunwell, Director of the Hudson River Estuary Program with the NYDEC addressed “Transforming the Hudson River,” at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry on Tuesday, March 29, 2005, as part of the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Seminar Series. Sponsors for the seminar included ESF’s Women's Caucus, Faculty of Environmental and Forest Biology, and Graduate Student Association.
The Hudson River is renowned as spawning grounds for coastal fish populations. The river itself is 152 miles long and buffered by limestone bedrock. The Hudson River estuary comprises the tidal portions of the river. Ms. Dunwell introduced the relevance of the Hudson River through slides of historical sites such as Revolutionary War battlegrounds as well as the river’s 19th century industrial importance.
The Hudson was an important industrial river up to the 1970s when factories along the river began to shut down. Chemical pollutants from the factories destroyed the ecological integrity of the Hudson River and the river was deemed dead. The turning point in the ecological health of the river was the Storm King case. Hudson River residents sued to prevent the construction of a hydropower facility on Storm King Mountain that would have greatly damaged the scenic views along this stretch of the river. As a result of this case, organizations were created such as Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper, and Clearwater. In addition, a coalition was formed from these organizations. Governor Pataki adopted an Action Plan for the Hudson River in 2001, which allowed for “a real plan with real money.”
The Hudson River Estuary program has seen dramatic positive results in environmental conditions by building understanding between the communities along the estuary. The program has many goals, including: restoring the sturgeon (a native fish species) population to the river, understanding and controlling invasive species, cleaning up pollution, and restoring scenic vistas.
Ms. Dunwell serves as a Special assistant to the commissioner for the Hudson River Valley at NYS Department of Environmental Conservation where she directs the implementation of the Hudson River Estuary Plan. She is also author of The Hudson River Highlands, an award-winning book on the region's natural and cultural history.