Responding to Climate Change

The Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines: Facilitating a Collaborative Research Process

Ona Ferguson

Stretching 150 miles from rural inland towns to the urban harbor of New York City, The Hudson River Estuary faces many ongoing and potential threats, including: intense devel­opment pressure; an ever-increasing number of floods; inva­sive species that decimate local ecosystems; and expected sea level rise, which could submerge the area’s unique estuarine wetlands.

In 2008, the Hudson Estuarine Research Reserve, one of twenty-eight within the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, asked CBI to facilitate their newly-initiated Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Project. This collabora­tive project aims to gather, synthesize, and distribute ecologi­cal, engineering, economic, management, and regulatory data on how best to manage the shoreline over time, especially in light of projected sea level rise.

Hudson River shorelineThe project focuses on a 127 mile-stretch of the Hudson — located between the Troy Dam and the Tappan Zee Bridge, just North of New York City — where 1.3 million people work and live in 79 different municipalities. Deci­sions to protect and manage this shoreline are made in an extraordinarily complex legal and regulatory framework. Equally challenging, a number of critical questions need system-wide answers, and will require collaboration across a very wide range of public and private jurisdictions.

The technical nature and the scope of this project present many communication and management challenges. Over ten different groups of expert researchers are working on a variety of topics and each must continuously communicate with and provide and accept guidance from the other research­ers, project advisors, and stakeholders. Researchers must also examine their work and findings in the context of all the other research, incorporate stakeholder feedback, and explain the implications of their findings where possible, so that their questions, assumptions, and results are repeatedly examined and tested. In order to effectively manage and facilitate this complex multi-year, multi-stakeholder process and assist the Project to move toward useful and valuable conclusions, the CBI team is employing a number of tools and strategies to:

  • help keep the project’s disparate research areas in sync;
  • enable technical researchers to test and explain their ideas with each other and stakeholders before producing final products; and
  • facilitate in-depth conversations about research findings.

With CBI’s help, project stakeholders are creating new ways to support the protection of these important shore­line resources.

For more information, contact Ona Ferguson, Senior Associate at CBI.

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