Committee Responds To Draft Plans To Save Jamaica Bay
As the marshlands disappear and animals who depend on it face great jeopardy, the city and the Department of Environmental Protection have begun working on plans to save Jamaica Bay.
On June 1, the Jamaica Bay Watershed Plan Advisory Committee responded to the DEP's Draft of the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan that the agency submitted to the mayor and the City Council in March.
In July of 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Local Law 71, calling for the DEP to develop a plan to save the resources of Jamaica Bay. The law also formed an advisory committee to comment on the DEP's plan.
While the DEP Draft Report does contain objectives to restore the ecology, to improve water quality and to increase public access to the bay, the committee is concerned that the draft report does not suggest any concreate actions to save the bay, as required by the law Bloomberg signed.
"While the Draft Plan demonstrated the considerable dedication and skill of the agency staff working on this project, it included neither a set of actions (rather it set forth an array of possible actions still under consideration) nor an implementation process," wrote the co-chairs of the committee - Brad Sewell and Doug Adamo - in a letter to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and NYCDEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd.
Jamaica Bay is home to various species of wildlife; and many endangered and threatened species live in, or visit, the bay. For more than 80 species of fish, the wetland fringes and marsh islands of the bay are an important habitat. The advisory committee's report calls Jamaica Bay "one of the largest and most productive coastal ecosystems in the northeastern United States."
The committee has asked to be allowed to review and comment on a more complete draft plan, but has not heard from the DEP on this request.
In the short-term, the committee believes the following must be included in any plan for Jamaica Bay: "1) an aggressive Jamaica Bay nitrogen control strategy, 2) a comprehensive stormwater 'best management practices' (BMP) program throughout the Jamaica Bay watershed/sewershed, 3) a habitat protection and restoration program targeting the bay's peripheral tidal wetlands and upland buffer areas, including immediate protection from development, 4) an expansion of efforts to restore the bay's interior salt marshes, and 5) a comprehensive science program for the bay.
"Further, the plan must include a detailed implementation plan to include, as required by Local Law 71, specific goals and interim and final milestones for both the goals and the plan's measures."
In their summary, the advisory committee points out that Jamaica Bay's resources are already in jeopardy.
"Thousands of acres of the bay's marshlands are disappearing. Between 1924 and 1999, more than 50 percent of the bay's marshes have disappeared. At the current rate of loss, the marsh islands will completely vanish by 2024. Poor water quality is a continuing problem for the bay. Nitrogen from the New York City wastewater treatment plants is the leading pollutant, and may even be spurring the marsh loss. Natural areas around the periphery of the bay, already too few in number and limited in size, continue to be lost to development."
Sewell and Adamo concluded their letter to Speaker Quinn and the DEP's Lloyd by saying: "In our view, this represents an extraordinary opportunity for the city - which is fortunate enough to have a unit of the National Park Service within its borders - to craft an effective watershed plan to rescue this great ecological resource. Not only does Jamaica Bay warrant such an effort, but it would serve as a model for other cities and waterbodies, and would represent a lasting legacy for the DEP and the city."
The DEP is scheduled to turn in a final plan in October. Following that, the committee has said it will also submit its own recommendations for the bay.