Sunday, August 23, 2009

EPA damages Fort Edward

This story is over a week old, but it is only just now beginning to show up on listservers and blogs about archaeology and historic preservation.

Fort Edward is located on the east bank of the Hudson River 45 miles north of Albany, New York. It strategic importance lay in serving as a point of portage between the Hudson River and Lake George. Fort Edward figured prominently in the history of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. The fort's location is also within the area initially impacted by PCB wastes which were left behind by General Electric and were eventually washed downstream to contaminate the entire Hudson River valley and its estuary, where New York City is located.

The current chapter in Fort Edward's long and colorful history began when the Environmental Protection Agency restarted its project to dredge the entire Hudson River downstream of the spill. The dredging project had been strongly debated both pro and con for many years, and the environmentalist forces marshalled by the likes of Pete Seeger and Robert Kennedy, Jr. finally achieved their goal. Now some clumsy equipment operators appear to have ripped out timbers from an historic fort, triggering severe bank erosion. Conservative news outlest such as CNS News and Rupert Murdock's New York Post have jumped on the story, presumably because it casts the EPA in a bad light. Historic preservationists must regrettably admit that the fort site itself had been poorly maintained. Archaeological consultants working for EPA may have given inadequate guidance regarding the fort's extent, condition, and appropriate measures for dredging in the immediate vicinity.

Hat tip to New York History blogger John Warren, whose excellent writing just came to my attention while researching this story.

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