City, state to upgrade four Jamaica Bay plants

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Dan Mundy, the co-founder of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, points to the disappearing Yellow Bar marsh at Jamaica Bay.

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By Ivan Pereira
Thursday, June 30, 2011

The city and state have come together not only to stop the growing ecological decay of Jamaica Bay but also to restore the environment to its original green state.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation and city Department of Environmental Protection announced an agreement Monday that would save the ecosystem and the dozens of fauna that populate it.

Under the agreements, the DEP has laid out a timetable of when it will upgrade its four wastewater treatment centers with new nitrogen-reducing equipment. Over the last seven decades, the saltwater marshland has been decaying because of an excess of nitrogen in the water that has been killing the marshes at the roots.

“This agreement will be the turning point where the bay is placed squarely on the path to recovery,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a statement.

The DEP will commit $100 million to upgrade the four plants and it will cut the amount of nitrogen discharged daily into the bay by half, or roughly 20,000 pounds a day. The upgrades are slated to be completed by 2020 and the agreement created a timetable of major milestones and limits for the project.

Civic groups and other environmental organizations, such as the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers and Natural Resources Defense Council, will receive frequent updates from the DEP about the progress as part of the agreements.

“Mayor Bloomberg has made the restoration of Jamaica Bay a top priority, and this agreement shows that we can make it happen much faster when we work together,” DEP Commissioner Cas Holloway said in a statement.

The nitrogen discharge is not the only action the city will be taking to save the bay, which is home to 100 fish species, 325 species of birds and hundreds of other mammals, reptiles and insects.

The city will establish a $13 million environmental benefit fund that will pay for current and saltwater marsh restoration projects conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. An additional $2 million will be allocated to help support the state Marine Resources Account, which also does work to support the bay.

Over the last few months, the DEP has taken major steps to solve the 31-square-mile bay’s problems, such as using eelgrass and oysters to oxidize the water. Earlier this month it applied to be a “No Discharge Zone,” which would prevent boats from dumping into the bay.

Dan Mundy, a member of the Ecowatchers and lifelong Broad Channel resident, said the government agencies have been taking a more proactive role with the bay following years of pleas from activists.

“This historic agreement is a model for showcasing how all stakeholders can come together to achieve the common goal of saving this unique estuary,” he said in a statement.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 30th, 2011 at 9:06 pm and is filed under Breaking News, Jamaica Bay, Print Articles, TimesLedger. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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