Governor Proposes Institute on Hudson

New York Governor George Pataki has proposed a new institute devoted to river and estuary research. The Hudson River Institute, as it would be named, could become a "Woods Hole on the Hudson," Pataki said in his State of the State address last week, referring to the famous Marine Biological Laboratory in neighboring Massachusetts.

"Now is the time to make the Hudson a world center of research and education for the study of rivers and estuaries, their ecosystems, and the central role they play in the lives of nearly every living creature on this planet," said Pataki, who likes to canoe and birdwatch on the Hudson. The Hudson is a particularly appropriate river for such a center, says Dennis Suszkowski, science director of the Hudson River Foundation, which awards grants for scientific and public policy research on the river: Industrial waste and pollution from population centers along the river have depleted oxygen and released toxins into it for more than a century.

The governor allocated $1 million this year toward planning the institute, which he said should have a roughly $50 million yearly budget once it's up and running in 5 to 10 years. The funds should come from state, federal, and private sources, Pataki said. Details such as where the institute will be located remain to be worked out, but Pataki said universities, environmental groups, and state agencies could all collaborate on the project.

"We're waiting to see how it moves ahead," says Suszkowski. Studying the Hudson River can help reveal how ecosystems recover from pollution, he says. Thanks to improved sewage treatment and tougher limits on industrial waste in the past 3 decades, bird and fish populations have been making a comeback on the Hudson. "The river is a model of how we can screw things up and how things can get better," he says.