On January 29, over 150 people gathered at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center for the year’s first meeting of the Jamaica Bay Task Force. Founded over 20 years ago, the task force is a meeting ground for government agencies, non-governmental organizations and private citizens concerned with the well-being of Jamaica Bay. This particularly well-attended meeting featured post-Sandy reports from NYC Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland, Gateway National Recreation Area Superintendent Linda Canzanelli, Army Corps of Engineers Project Managers, Dan Falt & Lenny Houston, and NY State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 2(NYC) Director Venetia Lannon.
Jamaica Bay Task Force Meeting January 29, 2013. Photo © Don Riepe
Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder, who lives in Rockaway Beach and represents Howard Beach, Broad Channel and most of the Rockaway Peninsula, spoke a few words of welcome, reiterating his support for protecting the bay. “If we can’t protect Jamaica Bay, we can’t protect our neighborhoods,” he said.
DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland Presents at JBTF Meeting. Photo © Don Riepe
Commissioner Strickland reported that despite $95 million in damages, all of Jamaica Bay’s sewage treatment plants were back online by November 1 and pumping stations were all restored by November 4. The Department of Environmental Protection was well prepared for the storm. Although there were significant impacts, New York City’s water supply and sewage treatment system came through the storm relatively well. Commissioner Strickland also reported pilot projects to improve water quality in Jamaica Bay, including restoring oysters and ribbed mussels in the bay, are doing well. Faring worse was the eelgrass pilot program, which suffered high mortality from sand and mussels even though water quality appeared to be sufficiently high. See the full presentation here.
Superintendent Linda Canzanelli presented natural resource impacts from hurricane Sandy at Gateway National Recreation Area. Most of these impacts are reported elsewhere on Syrinx (See posts tagged “Hurricane Sandy”). Of interest was a discussion of Park Service plans to study wildlife impacts, make a full assessment of plans for the refuge’s west pond, and create careful coastal flooding maps based on new FEMA flood maps (issued January 28) and actual impacts from Sandy before undertaking planned major restoration efforts. See the full presentation here.
Dan Falt & Lenny Houston shared Army Corps of Engineers plans for future beach and dune restoration, and noted how well recent projects, including salt marsh restoration and Plumb Beach sand replenishment, fared during Sandy. When questioned about the remaining work and possible impacts on horseshoe crabs and migrating shorebirds, Mr. Falt noted that the work at Plumb Beach will halt during the crab egg-laying season and spring shorebird migration.
Regional Director NYS DEC Venetia Lannon at JBTF. Photo © Don Riepe
Regional Director Lannon discussed the Department of Environmental Conservation’s oversight of debris removal and the care they have taken to ensure the recovery process does not cause further harm to the environment or people. Among the most impressive efforts was the removal of over 300,000 gallons of home heating oil. Many of the neighborhoods hit worst by Sandy do not currently have access to natural gas, and rely instead on highly-polluting heating oil, much of which spilled into basements and into the harbor during the storm. DEC’s crews went door to door in affected neighborhoods and pumped out oil and oil-polluted water, preventing even greater environmental damages as homeowners began to recover from the storm. See the full presentation here.