This story is over 5 years old.


The Fate of 'America's First River' Is the Focus of New Film Series

The Hudson Valley, known as the birthplace of the American environmental movement, faces an uncertain future as the risk of irreparable damage is high.
Photo via Oceans 8 Films.

This is an opinion piece by Jon Bowermaster of Oceans 8 Films.

Home to America's 'First River,' the Hudson region of New York has a well-earned reputation as the birthplace of the country's environmental movement. From the early Hudson River Fishermen's Association to Pete Seeger's Clearwater, to big, successful groups today including Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper, the valley remains home to a hardworking core of savvy environmentalist.


Yet while the world is in agreement that the Hudson River is far cleaner than it was forty, fifty years ago, today it still wrestles with a variety of environmental ills and potential catastrophes. The biggest threat is that thanks to the boom in natural gas and oil drilling in the fracking fields of the Dakotas and beyond, the Hudson River has been turned into an energy highway, transporting both gas and oil by pipeline, train and barge. The downside to all that new trafficking? The inevitable spill, leak, or accident. The upside? Since most of those newly drilled fossil fuels are headed overseas, it's hard to put a figure on how it benefits the region. The theme of the risks, voiced by many, is that the river and valley are hosting all of the risks, with virtually no reward.

I have made films about the relationship between man and water on each continent. But I often tell young storytellers that you don't have to travel halfway around the world to find powerful environmental stories. I always knew I would one day make films about my own backyard.

Our 'The Hudson, A River at Risk' series lives online and continues to grow.

"Bomb Trains on the Hudson"

A look at the so-called "bomb trains" that carry a highly explosive mix of crude oil and gas from the shale fields of North Dakota into the port of Albany and down the river into New Jersey.

"The Long Shadow of Indian Point"

A short film chronicling the leaky, 55-year-old nuclear power plant at Indian Point, which continues to operate even as its infrastructure ages.


"A Bridge Over Troubled Waters"

The rebuilding of the Tappan Zee Bridge is currently the biggest construction project in North America, with a potential to create serious environmental harm if not closely monitored.

"PCBs: A Toxic Legacy"

When G.E. was finally forced, in 2009, to clean up the toxic mess it had made of the Hudson Valley by dumping PCBs into the river for more than thirty years, it's assignment was to clean-up the country's largest Superfund site. Last December G.E. pulled out, saying it had completed the mission given it by the E.P.A. What did it leave behind? The country's largest Superfund site.

"High Voltage / Dark Shadow"

Governor Cuomo's proposed "energy highway" includes new transmission lines running from old power plants in upstate New York to New York City. But studies prove the electricity provided by the $1.2 Billion project are simply not needed.

"A Pipeline Runs Through It"

There are countless unknowns about the safety and future of both projects but one thing is certain: Neither helps provide New Yorkers with gas or oil. As we've come to learn in our reporting of this series about risks to the Hudson River and Valley, both pipeline projects bring to New York exorbitant risks and deliver absolutely no benefits.

"Anchors Away"

A proposal to turn 2,400 acres of Hudson River into a parking lot for barges each loaded with four million gallons of crude oil, meaning more risk for the river.

During the past two years my filming team and I have traveled up and down the river by boat, from Troy to Manhattan and back. This past winter/spring I took our series of short films on the road, stopping in more than sixty towns, villages and cities up and down the river, sharing them with good-sized audiences all asking, 'What can I do?' to better protect the river.

That the Hudson is demonstrably cleaner and accessed by more and more people each year is largely due to the dedication of a sizable handful of environmental groups who have been fighting for the river for the past fifty years. Thankfully they are still out there, watching over the muted waterway because despite any number of successes, the Hudson remains today a 'River at Risk.'

Learn more and see what you can do about the "River at Risk."