Big Plan Announced for Jamaica Bay

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A major plan to improve Jamaica Bay was announced this week. On Monday, July 2, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection announced a $400 million plan to further improve the ecological health of one of the area’s most important bodies of water.

DEP, local elected officials, community leaders and more gathered at Jamaica Bay on Monday to announce the good news. The plan includes an array of waterbody improvement projects including 50 acres of wetland restoration, seven acres of ribbed mussel installations, and environmental dredging, all of which will result in a healthier Jamaica Bay. The projects will also deliver economic, social and ancillary environmental benefits, including healthier air and lower summer temperatures due to the addition of a significant number of new trees and plants. The plan was submitted to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on Monday and if approved, planning and design could begin as soon as 2019.

“This additional $400 million investment into Jamaica Bay is yet another step forward in making the bay healthier for the surrounding communities and the overall ecological health of New York City,” State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., a member of the New York Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said. “With this funding, DEP will be able to begin expanding several green infrastructure projects as well as restoring many acres of wetlands. I would like to thank DEP for their continued efforts to improve the health of Jamaica Bay through these various projects.”

“The Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers fully support DEP’s Jamaica Bay Improvement Plan and commend them for their outreach to local environmental groups in crafting this proposal,” Dan Mundy of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, said. “The numerous nature-based features incorporated in this plan, including wetlands and ribbed mussels, recognize the critical role these habitats play in naturally cleaning and filtering the waters of the bay. In addition, they host numerous species of fish, reptiles and birds and ultimately have a tremendous positive combined ecological effect on the entire bay. After years of advocating for the bay, it is very encouraging to see the numerous environmental projects ‘turning the tide’ on the health of the bay and producing water quality and a restored habitat that guarantees a thriving Jamaica Bay for future generations.”

DEP has already invested more than $1.5 billion to improve the health of Jamaica Bay. This includes large underground tanks at Paerdegat Basin and Spring Creek to store any sewer overflow during rainstorms, the restoration of 137 acres of wetlands and 442 acres of maritime forests/grasslands through strategic partnerships and significant upgrades to the wastewater treatment plants that drain to the bay, including reducing nitrogen levels. Ongoing is a massive $1.9 billion project to build a storm sewer system in southeast Queens as well as green infrastructure at schools and public housing as well as parks, playgrounds and curbsides. All of this work has already resulted in significant improvements to the water quality in Jamaica Bay.

“DEP has been a great partner in the effort to improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitats in Jamaica Bay,” Don Riepe, Director of the NE Chapter, American Littoral Society, said. “Over the past several years they have supported the Littoral Society's Restoration Corp, a green jobs youth program working on saltmarsh restoration and shoreline cleanup of marine debris in Jamaica Bay. We fully support their Long Term Control Plan to increase funding for green infrastructure and living shorelines.”

Over the last 150 years, New York City has lost approximately 85 percent of its historical wetland coverage, a significant amount of this within the Jamaica Bay watershed. These important natural areas serve as a protective transitional area between a body of water and dry land. Wetlands are extremely valuable as they help to absorb storm surge, filter impurities from the water, increase dissolved oxygen levels, reduce coastal erosion, capture greenhouse gases and serve as a productive ecological habitat and nursery for juvenile fish. Wetlands are among the most productive natural areas on earth and are particularly important in urban waters.

In order to continue restoring these essential functions to Jamaica Bay, DEP is proposing significant investments in the restoration of wetlands and salt marshes. Ribbed mussels have also proven to be particularly effective at filtering impurities from the water and the plan calls for substantial installations in several of the Jamaica Bay tributaries. In addition, DEP will continue to expand the successful Green Infrastructure program to the communities surrounding the bay.

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