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The New York - New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program (HEP) brings the benefits of the Clean Water Act to the people who live, work, and recreate on our shared waterways. Created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the request of the governors of New York and New Jersey, HEP is an ongoing effort to develop and implement a consensus driven plan to protect, conserve and restore the estuary. HEP decisions and activities are carried out by staff and partners organized through the committees and work groups.

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Partnership and Action Agenda


The New York–New Jersey Harbor Estuary is the biggest public resource in the nation’s largest and most densely developed metropolitan area. Managing this public resource and its many services and uses is the shared responsibility of at least five core federal agencies; two states; 11 major sewerage agencies; hundreds of counties, cities and towns; and millions of property owners. Critical stakeholders include maritime businesses and several hundred civic and community-based organizations.

HEP brings these partners together to work collaboratively to develop and implement an Action Agenda that advances progress towards five long-term goals. Click on the goals in the list below to learn more.

  1. Reduce the sources of pollution so that the waters of the harbor estuary will meet the fishable/swimmable goal of the clean water act, where attainable;
  2. Protect and restore the vital habitat, ecological function, and biodiversity, that provides society with renewed and increased benefits;
  3. Improve public access to the waters of the estuary and the quality of experience at public spaces along the waterfront;
  4. Support port and associated maritime operations so that they are both economically and ecologically viable; and
  5. Foster community understanding and involvement in decisions about the estuary

HEP's Partners and Scope

HEP’s unique role of convening partners, producing and disseminating science and data, and advancing better management across many jurisdictional boundaries and interests is supported by core funding provided by the Clean Water Act and directed by a guiding Policy Committee, including the Regional Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Commander of the New York District of the United State Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Commissioners of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) as well as other public and private stakeholders.

HEP takes a watershed approach to address its management goals and the geographic scope of the Program extends to the watersheds of the rivers that drain to the harbor, notably the Hudson, Raritan, Passaic and Hackensack. Because of common challenges and opportunities, HEP is focused on the tidal waters of the Estuary south of the Mario Cuomo (Tappan Zee) Bridge.

HEP is one of 28 National Estuary Programs established by Section 320 of the Clean Water Act and a partner in the Association of National Estuary Programs.

HEP’s 2017 – 2025 Action Agenda and 2025 – 2035 Update

The Action Agenda presents the shared priorities of the NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program (HEP) and the commitment of the program and HEP’s partners to address them. It describes our five long-term generational goals, and the specific 17 objectives and the 40 actions that the Program will address to continue progress towards cleaner water, restored fish and wildlife habitat, improved public access, more efficient maritime activities, and robust community engagement. Its findings are supported by HEP’s other core documents, including a State of the Estuary Report, Monitoring Plan, and assessments of funding options and climate vulnerability. The end date of the current Action Agenda was extended from 2022 to 2025.

HEP is now in the process of preparing a draft 2025-2035 Action Agenda in conversation with our government, utility, civic and academic partners and the public. We anticipate releasing its draft agenda in November 2024. We value your input! Community outreach events are being held throughout the estuary organized by HEP and our civic partners. To learn more and find an event near you, click the link below.

HEP Watershed Scope

The geographic scope of HEP extends to the watersheds of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary. The Harbor Estuary is distinguished from the rest of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary by its saline waters and urban character.

Scroll down to learn more about HEP’s working committees, annual conferences, and Urban Waters Partnerships.

Committees and Work Groups

The New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program (HEP) is governed by a Policy Committee, and supported by a working Management Committee, Citizens Advisory and Science and Technical Advisory Committees, and technical work groups. In 2014, the Hudson River Foundation was chosen by EPA to administer the Program. The Program Director and other staff employed by the Hudson River Foundation are charged with managing the Program under the direction provided by the Policy Committee and consistent with national guidance provided by EPA.

  • HEP Operating Procedures
  • Program Oversight

    Policy Committee

    The Policy Committee is responsible for approval of HEP goals, objectives, near term priorities, and direction as established in the five year Action Plans, Annual Workplans and other planning documents.

    Management Committee

    The Management Committee works with HEP staff to manage Program activities. The Management Committee helps identify and define the challenges and opportunities facing the Estuary and develops and implements appropriate management strategies.

    Advisory Committees


    The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) provides guidance and advice to the Management Committee and Policy Committee on Program decision making; helps develop and implement the Action Agenda; and promotes public awareness and understanding of Estuary issues. Activities of the CAC are guided by four co-chairs, but membership is open to all.

    Science and Technical

    The Science and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) is charged with ensuring that science is appropriately incorporated into planning and implementation activities of the Program. The two co-chairs convene meetings on an as needed basis for specific issues or reports, such as the State of Estuary.

    Technical Committees and Work Groups

    Water Quality

    The Water Quality Work Group helps facilitate communication and coordination among interested parties about the status of pollution management efforts; identifies water quality monitoring needs and develops programs to fill these needs; helps communicate water quality trends to various audiences; and works to advance best practices and new technologies.


    The Restoration Work Group brings together technical experts to share best practices, identify solutions to problems common to the restoration community and pursue research and greater understanding that leads to better restoration projects and overall habitat quality.

    Public Access

    The Public Access Work Group undertakes activities to improve access to the estuary’s waterfront and waterways for boating, fishing, swimming and/or other recreational activities. This includes assessing the needs and challenges, particularly in underserved areas, and advancing community stewardship and the quality of these public spaces.

    Hudson-Harbor Educators

    The Hudson-Harbor Educators Work Group brings together formal and non-formal educators from across the estuary to share best practices, foster stewardship of the estuary’s shared waterways, and enhances the visibility of the estuary. This includes promoting harbor literacy, engaging communities and youth in stewardship and outdoor activities, and advances collaboration amongst peers.


    The NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program hosts an annual conference that brings together officials from local, state and federal government, non-profit advocates, utilities, scientists and private consultants. Learn more about our upcoming conferences and past events here.

    Upcoming Conference

    State of the Estuary Conference 2023

    This year’s HEP conference is focused on the changing conditions of our Estuary and what the best available data for 30+ indicators can tell us about our estuarine health and current environmental trends.

    Recent Conferences

    2022 Restoration Conference: Our Urban Shores

    The 2022 Conference focused on the habitat restoration of our vulnerable urban shorelines, highlighting the efforts of community leaders and restoration practitioners that are striving for effective and inclusive habitat enhancement.

    Waterway Stories: 2021 Conference of the NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program

    Waterway Stories: Water Quality, Access, and Community brought together members of the community, non-profits, academia, and local, state and federal government to talk water quality and how it affects our lives and our community.

    Reflecting Our Community: 2020 Conference of the NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program

    This conference focused on fostering better community engagement, highlighting the efforts of community leaders and other partners that are striving for more inclusive and equitable management of the Estuary and our waterfronts.

    Lessons Learned for a Changing Future: Restoration Conference 2019

    On November 1st, more than 200 natural resource managers, scientists, conservation advocates and policy leaders gathered to explore how habitat restoration can shape our community’s response to a changing climate.

    State of the Estuary Conference 2017

    A joint conference with the NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program, focusing on upstream downstream issues and the state of water quality, habitat and public access along the Hudson.

    Two States; One Bay 2015

    A bi-state conversation about the future of Raritan Bay hosted jointly with the Sustainable Raritan River Initiative.

    Science and Action Conference 2018

    Participants spent a full day discussing the environmental health of the Estuary and what actions our program and partners are taking towards our shared goals.

    Restoring the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary 2016

    Nearly 200 participants gathered in June 2016 to discuss restoring and protecting the Estuary.

    Urban Waters Partnerships

    The NY-NJ Harbor Estuary is home to two of the Environmental Protection Agency’s nineteen designated Urban Waters Federal Partnership locations: the Lower Passaic River and the Bronx/Harlem Rivers. The Lower Passaic River and Bronx/Harlem River Partnerships work to reconnect urban communities to their waterways by improving coordination among federal agencies and collaborating with community-led revitalization efforts. The Partnerships are supported by Ambassadors, who are housed by HEP and also help bring HEP's expertise to forward local Partnership activities.

    The Urban Waters Federal Partnership, an award-winning partnership of fourteen federal agencies and 28 non-governmental organizations, works to reconnect urban communities to their waterways, and support community-lead revitalization efforts. Cleaning up and restoring local water resources is essential to protecting Americans’ health and improving their overall quality of life. Revitalizing urban waterways will also reconnect citizens to open spaces and will have a positive economic impact on local businesses, tourism and property values, as well as spur private investment and job creation in these communities. The Urban Waters Federal Partnerships in the Bronx/Harlem and the Lower Passaic Rivers seek to forge connections between and among federal agencies, local government, the community members and advance the collaboration needed to enhance social and ecological outcomes. View more information about these waterways by clicking on the links below.

    In October 2021, the Bronx & Harlem Rivers Urban Federal Partnership celebrated their 10th Anniversary. To read more about the event click here.

    Hudson River Foundation