2002-05-18 / Editorial/Opinion

A Time To Study, At Time To Act

A Time To Study, At Time To Act

Even those who give little thought to Jamaica Bay and its importance to Rockaway on a regular basis were startled out of their complacency by the red and white plane that circled the bay last Friday, flying a hundred feet or so above parts of Rockaway's west end. Some thought that the plane was in trouble. Others believed that it was part of a terrorist attack on Rockaway. Some even pulled their kids from PS 114, thinking that they were in danger from the plane. In fact, there was danger involved in the plane's mission, and that danger could have grave implications for Rockaway in coming years. That danger, however, is not to the people in Rockaway, but to its bay. The plane belongs to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and that group is surveying the bay to detail its massive loss of marshland over the past several years. The survey may also have a secondary function. The Corps is planning to dump toxic sludge into the borrow pits at the east end of the bay in the near future. The survey now being undertaken is part of a massive and detailed study to find out how much of the marshland is already gone and what can be done to halt the decline. The survey is reportedly an important part of the study, we are told. It is clear, however, that the Jamaica Bay marshland could disappear entirely over the next few decades. That is for certain, and locals who use the bay on a regular basis have been saying that for years. A recent report by Columbia University corroborated that fact. The bay has been studied to death. There is a time for study and a time for action. The time for action on Jamaica Bay has come. The problem seems to stem from the fact that something is preventing the normal flow of sediment into Jamaica Bay. The experts say that the problem could be snow geese that feed on the marshes, that it might be development along the bayfront, that it might be the water treatment plants on both sides of the bay. Whatever it is, it has to be fixed. A year ago, the DEC funded $150 thousand to find the reasons and begin the healing. That money has not been released. It should be released immediately. The hands on the bay's ecological clock are moving towards midnight. Something has to be done, and done quickly, to stop those hands.

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