2002-02-23 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks and Stones

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

Well, there they go again, those darn experts, predicting a 2-foot sea level rise in fifty years with this global warming situation facing Rockaway locally and all of the nations with shorelines. Will it take such a catastrophe to end fractiousness to deal with such a common flooded backyard? (Rockaway, too?)

In Rockaway, we don’t have 15-20 foot dunes to absorb the force of storm surge wave energy of strong coastal storms as it is! And, some blame the dreaded Piping Plover, as if a dune draws them like bees to nectar. Maybe it’s NIMTE (Not In My Term) or a form of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), or whatever. But Rockaway is one coastal landform. And, while the offshore bar does cushion energy toward the western part of the peninsula, the eastern has to deal with an inlet drifting west (East Rockaway Inlet) and down drift erosion of the Silverpoint Jetty (tip of Atlantic Beach), and so fostering erosion problems on a steeped eave type beach profile down to 30 feet. Inlet dredging and beach nourishment combine to produce swimming conditions needing caution and more lifeguards as well as improved signage. Does it happen?

In recent years, as in these 1992 photos by John Baxter, we get truck passageways beneath the boardwalk, one about Beach 64th and another at about Beach 44th. And even asphalt was run onto the sand at B.44th to prevent vehicles from getting stuck. Yet, in a great storm, extreme events more common globally these days, the peninsula has a good start at breaching (see over wash filling passageway). Note that coastal geologists point out ‘the uneven contours’ of the northern shoreline of south shore bays (like Jamaica Bay shoreline in Rockaway) is not just artificial in places, but due to over wash of ocean beach sand pushed by giant storm surges in ancient times.

There’s the federal USEPA/US Army Corps of Engineers led Harbor Estuary Program’s Dredge Disposal Management Integration Work group (DIMWIG for short). The minutes of the 1999 DIMWIG meeting involve a proposal for a demonstration project with 1.5 million cubic yards of ‘clean material’ for the depths of the basin, and 1 million cubic yards for Little Bay nearby using "contaminated material". And with "clean material" caps the proposals now involve much cheap contaminated dredged material.

So, it’s up to Rockaway groups and individuals to communicate with officials and bureaucrats to stop using the bay as a dump and for shoreline protection measures that the Corps has expertise in. At least Senator Waldon did something with respect to the processed waste dumping featured in the previous column, so no slight on the response obtained from the State. The problem is a State Agency agenda for Jamaica Bay that involves ulterior use whether nitrogen pollution dumping or even processed waste disposal and now dredge disposal in pits of Jamaica Bay. The State favors it and it’s hard to figure the silence of so many locals. So communication against is suggested.

The State should invest in technologies to make the spoils safe for dumping in Pennsylvania mines (on fire) and polluting streams there. It’s cheaper to use the bay as a dump. New Jersey spends more to beneficially use contaminated dredge spoils and NY should follow the lead. If the Empire State Corporation would not finesse Technodrome for whatever reasons, it should help keep the bay as resource and a waste repository.

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