2009-04-24 / Community

On Earth Day,Weiner Saves The Bay

By Nicholas Briano

Congressman Anthony Weiner marked the celebration of Earth Day this week at Gateway National Recreation Area by presenting an aggressive plan that would replenish lost marshland throughout Jamaica Bay and called on New York City to use part of their Stimulus money to find ways to reduce the dumping of nitrogen based wastewater into the bay by local sewage plants.

Congressman Anthony Weiner wants to continue the fight to save the Jamaica Bay marshalands. Congressman Anthony Weiner wants to continue the fight to save the Jamaica Bay marshalands. Weiner announced that 50 acres of vulnerable marshland in Jamaica Bay have been restored, with nearly 100 acres slated for restoration in the coming years. The only problem, however, is that erosion is still occurring and sustainability remains an issue. Failing to act, Weiner says, will allow erosion to outpace the growth of the new and restored marshlands.

Weiner says that experts have concluded that rising nitrogen levels in the bay are the primary reason for marshland erosion. Between 1924 and

1994, more than 1,800 acres of marsh disappeared, at an average rate of approximately 26 acres a year. Between 1995 and 1999, the rate of loss increased, with 220 acres of salt marsh disappearing at an average rate of 44 acres per year, according to studies.

Weiner points out the area of Jamaica Bay marshland that was restored in the past year. Weiner points out the area of Jamaica Bay marshland that was restored in the past year. As a result of the continuing erosion Weiner secured funds of $16 million for the Army Corp of Engineers project in 2006 to rebuild critical and once thriving sections of marshland. To date the project has yielded 48 acres of marshland, added more than 240,000 cubic yards of beach and transplanted more than 750,000 native marsh plants including Saltwater Cordgrass, Salt Meadow Grass, Salt Grass, and Rush, into the depleted area. The project was able, for the first time last year, to outpace the erosion by 15 acres, producing a net gain of new marshland in the bay.

"For the first time last year we gained more marshland than we lost," Weiner said. "But we have a lot more to go."

The bay's 26,645 acres of marshes serve as buffers, mitigating waves, wind, and floods and reducing damages to the surrounding area. At any given point of the year, the marshes are home to 91 species of fish, 325 species of birds, and 214 species of special concern, including threatened and endangered species.

Weiner's plans call for continuing the rebuilding of Elders Point West marsh, located in the north central part of Jamaica Bay at an estimated cost of $10.6 million and restoring Yellow Bar Hassock, located at the center of Jamaica Bay, west of Broad Channel, next year, with funding to be secured in the future. But, as rebuilding marshland seems to be a constant game of catch up, Weiner says it is time to act and do everything possible to prevent further erosion. He wants to reduce nitrogen in Jamaica Bay by 60 percent in 10 years, with a 20 percent reduction in the next three years. According to Weiner, experts say that the rising nitrogen

levels have been caused by wastewater plants which have dumped more than 250

gallons of nitrogen-rich wastewater into Jamaica Bay every day. This kills delicate marsh roots and retards re-growth.

In addition, Weiner continued, $9 million to fully fund four more Jamaica Bay restoration projects is critical to re-growth of the marshlands. Most importantly, perhaps, is the retrofitting of four sewage treatment plants surrounding Jamaica Bay that dump nitrogen into the marshes and that is where Weiner wants New York State to step in, by dedicating part of the $431.5 million received for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund in the stimulus bill for this effort.

"We have to stop the man-made reasons for erosion," he said. "We have to stop dumping into waters and be better stewards of the Earth before we are better stewards to Jamaica Bay."

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