For Immediate Release
(518) 486-1868 | firstname.lastname@example.org
March 23, 2023
State Parks, DEC Announce Channel Restoration Planned for Schodack Island State Park
Reopening of Former Channel at Schodack Island State Park Could Reverse Century-Old Environmental Harm, Promote Fish and Bird Habitat
Work Also Will Foster Greater Access for Kayaking, Fishing
Waterways at Schodack Island State Park that were filled in a century ago will be restored under a project coordinated by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to re-create 2.8 acres of natural habitat and improve the health of the Hudson River. Artistic renderings of the project are available here.
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “This work is an opportunity to restore this historic river connection as a vital component of Hudson River health. In keeping with our mission to be responsible stewards of our natural, cultural, and historic resources, State Parks is focused on climate resiliency and adaptation as the means to protect and enhance our parks into the future.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Connecting Schodack Creek to the Hudson River for the first time in more than a century marks a major milestone in New York’s efforts to revitalize the river. DEC is proud to partner with State Parks on this project and looks forward to working together to create a healthier Hudson River that will protect and restore vital habitat for a diverse array of plants and animals that depend on its productivity for survival.”
Supporting DEC efforts to restore the environmental health of the Hudson River, State Parks completed a feasibility study for restoration projects at the 1,052-acre Schodack Island State Park located on the river’s eastern shore in Rensselaer County. The feasibility study identified and recommended recreating several former river channels on the island that once connected Schodack Creek, an important spawning ground for native fish, to the Hudson River. These channels were filled in during the early 20th century with materials dredged from the river bottom during construction of the commercial navigation channel. DEC provided Parks with a $200,000 grant under the Hudson River Estuary Program to fund the feasibility study, which was completed in February 2023. Project design and construction would be supported by $1.84 million in environmental mitigation funds.
Though diminished due to these impacts, Schodack Creek is still a major nursery and feeding area for fish including American shad, white perch, alewife, blueback herring, and black bass. Historical records show that the Hudson River, Schodack Creek and side channels between the islands supported robust populations of these species and the endangered Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, prior to the creation of the navigational channel. These projects aim to restore some of that lost habitat and improve existing habitat in Schodack Creek.
Representative Paul Tonko said, “Our waterways are key economic, environmental, and recreational drivers. Supporting the restoration of these cherished resources is hugely beneficial to all, which is why I championed the NY-NJ Watershed Protection Act to promote healthy ecosystems, increase climate resilience, improve water quality and public access, and more. I’ll keep pushing to advance this legislation and support worthy projects that protect our waterways.”
Senator Michelle Hinchey said, “Supporting the environmental health of our Hudson River is paramount, and it’s incredibly exciting that we are enhancing that restoration work by revitalizing waterway channels at Schodack Creek, which runs through parts of our Greene and Columbia County communities. From restoring vital habitat to improving local flood resiliency and bolstering river recreation, this project will have a significant impact on the health of our environment and our people. I thank the DEC, Parks, and Governor Hochul for their attention to and investment in this important project.”
Senator Jake Ashby said, "Restoration of the waterway is sound environmental policy and enhances Schodack Island State Park for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy kayaking and fishing. I want to thank Commissioner Kulleseid and Commissioner Seggos for their steadfast efforts and attention to our district."
Assemblyman Scott Bendett said, “I am very excited to see these restoration efforts underway for the Waterways at Schodack Island State Park. Preserving the habitat and health of the Hudson River and parks around the state will help protect vital ecosystems and beautiful outdoor recreation areas. I can’t wait to see how these efforts pay off.”
John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper patrol boat captain and Vice President for Advocacy, said, "Riverkeeper applauds this truly inspired initiative by New York State Parks and New York State DEC, and we celebrate the significance of this ongoing restoration effort. The upper 30 or so miles of the Hudson Estuary were once an archipelago of braided channels with numerous islands. It provided extraordinary shallow-water habitat that supported the Hudson's historically vast abundance of aquatic life. This area remains an essential nursery for life in the river and ocean. Restoring some of the former side channels and islands in the upper estuary is an enormous gift to the river and all the communities that rely on it.”
In addition to the channel restoration, State Parks staff is also studying potential wetland restoration projects on the island, which provide critical habitat for birds including green backed heron, mallard, black duck, spotted sandpiper, American woodcock, marsh wren, and swamp sparrow.
Restoration of the channels and wetlands is also being designed to make Schodack Island State Park’s infrastructure more resilient to flooding and could also improve flood resiliency overall by providing additional water storage capacity during flooding events, which are projected to become more common because of human-induced climate change.
Schodack Island also has important cultural connections to the indigenous nations and is still the traditional homelands of the Mohican people. It was a central location for their community and is where they kept their council fire, which has since moved to Wisconsin. The Stockbridge-Munsee have a nearby Tribal Historic Preservation Office and continue to maintain strong ties with this area.
Schodack Island State Park offers a campground with 66 campsites, picnic tables, eight miles of trails, biking, fishing, and hunting. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails are maintained during the winter. More than 200,00 people visit the park each year.
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails, and boat launches, which were visited by 79.5 million people annually. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit parks.ny.gov, connect on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.