2003-12-05 / Front Page

Jamaica Bay Marsh Projects Top $800K

Jamaica Bay Marsh Projects Top $800K

The first year of investigating the rapid loss of salt marshes in Jamaica bay, including a costly grass re-growth project that may not succeed, cost almost $850,000, according to the National Park Service.

About $325,000 was already spent pumping sediment onto Big Egg Marsh and planting new grass there, and another $100,000 could be spent monitoring the project over the next few years, according to Gateway National Recreation Area Assistant Jamaica Bay Unit Superintendent David Avrin. But the project faced two serious problems from the start. First, the cause of the rapid marsh die-off has not been determined, so any new grass still faces an unknown killer. Second, the new grass was planted just as the summer season came to an end; Gateway National Recreation Area officials and others close to the project said the grass would have a much better shot at survival if it had been planted much earlier.

Several sources agree that the bay's marshes are declining by about 40 acres per year, and that immediate action is needed.

The NPS spent $150,000 planning for the Big Egg project and paid about $150,000 more to the contractor who did the dredge work. Another $25,000 went to conferences, web site animation and three informational displays at the work site and elsewhere, Avrin said.

Other expenses not specifically attributed to Big Egg include $30,000 to check for sediment chemical contamination in several locations, $21,000 to determine the effects of straw, sea lettuce and geese on marsh grass, and $10,000 for a one-day bay workshop.

The expense report was part of a letter that GNRA Acting General Superintendent Billy G. Garrett sent to Congressman Anthony Weiner in late October. In the letter, Garrett said the NPS was "pleased with the progress made this year toward understanding the nature of the problem, making a start at restoration, and marshalling the efforts of other agencies and groups toward the same purposes." Others are not as satisfied.

Eco-Watcher Dan Mundy said some of the reported dollar figures seemed high, and possibly wasteful. Meanwhile, Jamaica Bay Guardian Don Riepe said he hopes most of the money spent this year on preliminary investigative work will not have to be spent again in the future.

Most of the money went to local colleges and universities who are conducting seven separate fieldwork studies. Brooklyn College's Aquatic Research and Environmental Assessment Center and Columbia University shared the bulk of the mostly federal dollars.

The NPS expects to have the results of five reports, which represent more than $100,000 in spending, by the first of January.

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