Riverkeeper’s John Lipscomb Welcomes New Captain 

Luis Melendez (left) is replacing longtime Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain John Lipscomb. Contributed photo

Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain and Vice President for Advocacy John Lipscomb is retiring this year, in the meantime smoothing the water for the Ossining-based environmental watchdog group’s next captain, Luis Melendez.  

Since 2000, Lipscomb has patrolled the Hudson River, including New York Harbor, the Mohawk, and upper Hudson, searching out and deterring polluters, monitoring tributaries and waterfront facilities, supporting scientific studies, and taking regional decision makers and media out on the river so that, as he puts it, “the river has a chance to advocate for itself.” 

Riverkeeper honored and celebrated Lipscomb on June 20 at its annual Summer Splash with the Hudson Hero award. 

“The Riverkeeper community is grateful to Boat Captain John Lipscomb for his unwavering and deeply felt commitment to the Hudson,” stated Riverkeeper President and Hudson Riverkeeper Tracy Brown. If the river could talk, it would surely echo these sentiments tenfold. Though the numbers of miles patrolled, water samples taken, and polluters held to account speak for themselves, it’s also true that John’s contribution to Riverkeeper and the Hudson has been immeasurable.”  

Brown welcomed Melendez aboard, citing his years at the New York Harbor School, as well as his work with Billion Oyster Project, as proof of his skillset and genuine commitment to protecting our waters, communities and the environment. 

“Protecting the rights of the Hudson River and the life it supports has been so much more than a job,” Lipscomb stated. “We are very lucky to have found such a capable and dedicated new captain to continue and build on Riverkeeper’s boat patrol program. I’m very much looking forward to working with Luis through 2024.” 

Lipscomb will help onboard Melendez, who started in the role at the end of June. Melendez  brings to Riverkeeper a wealth of knowledge of New York Harbor waterways, extensive experience piloting a wide variety of vessels, as well as a deep passion for education, habitat restoration, and advocacy. 

“The work John Lipscomb and the Riverkeeper team have done with its patrol boat program has been instrumental in the protection and preservation of the Hudson. I’m honored for the opportunity to build on this impressive legacy,” Melendez stated. “This is a chance to merge my lifelong passion for our local waterways with my extensive experience navigating and restoring them. I can’t wait to embark on this journey, working alongside like-minded individuals dedicated to leaving our waters better than we found them.” 

Running from late March to early December, Lipscomb’s patrols covered 4,000 miles annually, from the Upper Hudson and Mohawk River all the way to New York Harbor east to Throggs Neck and south to the Verrazano Narrows. They have led to increased enforcement and improved compliance of environmental laws, as well as millions of dollars in fees, fines, and environmental benefit funding.  

Boat-centered initiatives have also helped establish and support core Riverkeeper campaigns including dam removal, habitat restoration, species protections, water quality monitoring, water infrastructure investment, citizen watchdog efforts, spill preparedness and response, limits on crude oil transport, defeat of industrial anchorage expansion, and the fight against potentially devastating storm surge barriers.  

In 2008, Lipscomb founded Riverkeeper’s water quality monitoring program, conducting monthly sampling of New York Harbor, the Hudson Estuary, Mohawk River, and Upper Hudson, processing and recording test results in the onboard lab through 2020, when the program expanded into a lab space in Kingston.  

On April 2, Riverkeeper launched the Captain’s Fund with the goal of creating a funding source that can cover the annual costs of the boat and its captain in perpetuity, ensuring the longevity and ongoing impact of the patrol boat program. 

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