Monday, October 15, 2007

Plan to Fix Jamaica Bay

Jamaica Bay Plan Would Cleanse New York's Estuary

NEW YORK, New York, October 15, 2007 (ENS) - Many New Yorkers are not aware that within the confines of the five boroughs are open water, salt marshes, grasslands, coastal woodlands, maritime shrublands and freshwater wetlands. At least 90 fish species, 325 species of birds and many reptiles, amphibians and small mammals share portions of Brooklyn and Queens with human residents.

The 39 square-mile body of water that supports these ecosystems is Jamaica Bay, located on the southwestern tip of Long Island in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, New York City and the town of Hempstead, Nassau County.

Surrounded by intensive residential, commercial, and industrial development, Jamaica Bay receives pollution from both municipal waste water discharge from three plants, combined sewer overflows, and untreated stormwater runoff from area roads and from the runways at John F. Kennedy Airport which is contaminated with de-icing chemicals.

Contaminants leach from three large closed landfills, airborne soot and toxic chemicals from transportation are deposited, there is windblown trash, and the potential risk of spills due to water transportation of oil and chemical products in the bay.

Nutrient and organic matter inputs result in phytoplankton blooms, low levels of light transmission, and low bottom dissolved oxygen concentrations. Present and historic inputs of toxics, such as hydrocarbons and heavy metals, have contaminated sediments in parts of the bay and may bioaccumulate in fish and birds.

To address these issues, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, has just released a set of strategies to restore and maintain the water quality and ecological integrity of Jamaica Bay.

The Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan, which took 18 months to produce, recommends a series of Best Management Practices, BMPs, for stormwater management.

"Jamaica Bay is a crucial environmental resource for New York City that must be preserved and conserved," said DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd. "The Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan not only provides a tool to achieve that goal, but it also provides the basis for testing promising sustainable stormwater management techniques that may be beneficial beyond the boundaries of the Jamaica Bay Watershed."

The plan includes the proposal by DEP of nitrogen control methods at two wastewater treatment plants to reduce nutrient loading into the Bay.

Water quality improvements will be enhanced by reintroduction of oyster reefs and eel grass beds.

The Jamaica Bay effort anticipates the participation of other city agencies, and will be coordinated with PlaNYC's efforts to address citywide stormwater management issues through the Interagency BMP Taskforce. This body includes 14 city agencies and is coordinated by the Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability as part of PlaNYC.

"Enhancing our water quality citywide is an important part of PlaNYC. To do it, we have to find ways to preserve natural areas and better manage stormwater, and the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan will help do both," said Rohit Aggarwala, director of the Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability.

Delivered to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on October 2, the plan is the result of research and dialogue with city stakeholders and regular consultation with the seven member Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan Advisory Committee.

The plan is structured around six major categories - water quality, restoration of the ecology, stormwater management, public education and outreach, public use, and implementation and coordination.

The plan calls for ensuring that the entire New York City sewer system can be cleaned every seven to 10 years, and creating a sewer system inspection.

It also looks at separating storm sewers from sanitary sewers and reducing wastewater discharges from recreational boats directly into Jamaica Bay.

The plan offers several ideas for moderating the surge of runoff after precipitation events, such as monitoring the effectiveness of blue roof versus green roof control methodologies; distributing 1,000 rain barrels to homeowners; promoting rooftop detention in new construction; utilizing porous pavement on DEP property; and adding landscape and bioretention components to commercial and community facility parking lots that are greater than 6,000 square feet or 18 spaces.

Looking at open space, the Jamaica Bay Plan recommends installing tree swales on six sites to capture runoff from roadways, implementing stormwater parks on additional publicly owned vacant parcels to capture stormwater runoff, planting street trees throughout the Jamaica Bay watershed; and increasing tree stocking level in East New York.

The plan calls for a 20-mile continuous greenway loop around the Bay and a greenway to connect Brooklyn/Queens Greenway system to Jamaica Bay waterfront. The plan's greenway improvements include landscaping, a multi-use path, a bike rack, pedestrian ramps, and traffic signals, among other things.

The plan envisions an education campaign for developers, residents and business owners; a State of the Bay symposium and enhancement of the Jamaica Bay Educational Curriculum, a resource directory.

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