Congressman Anthony Weiner has secured $1 million to preserve the Jamaica Bay salt marshes, which will allow the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild the eroding marshes that are Queens’ ecological center.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has previously warned that all of Jamaica Bay’s marshes could disappear by 2025. The $1-million grant will cover most of the expenses of the latest project, which will replenish the marshes at Yellow Bar and Eldert’s Point Islands.
The Army Corps of Engineers will immediately begin filling the marshes at Eldert’s Point, using sand left over from the New York Harbor Deepening Project. The Eldert’s Point project is expected to be finished next June. The Yellow Bar project is expected to begin in November 2006 and will conclude in June 2007.
The grant will also pay for a study of the marshes at Rules Bar and Black Bank, which are also located in Jamaica Bay.
“A few years ago the extraordinary wetlands of Jamaica Bay might have been left for dead. Without these islands, Gateway National Park would no longer be the sanctuary for birdwatchers that it is today. But that is no longer a concern thanks to the work of my Blue Ribbon Panel and the federal funding in this bill. Together, we are going to save one of New York City’s treasures,” Weiner said.
The Blue Ribbon Panel, which was convened in 2001, determined that changes in sediment deposition, boat wakes and contamination of the bay waters were three of the main factors for the erosion of the salt marshes.
If the marshes were to disappear, the results would be catastrophic for animal life in and around the bay.
The smaller fish that spawn in the area would not be able to survive in unprotected waters and would die out. Without smaller fish, larger fish would not come from ocean waters to feed in the bay. And without either fish or marshes, the hundreds of birds that stop in the bay as part of their natural migratory pattern would have nothing to eat and no shelter. If migratory patterns were affected, the effects would be felt as far away as South America.
Weiner previously secured a $598,000 grant from the National Resources Protection Program to fund other Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations in 2002, including the restoration of Big Egg Marsh. The money comes from the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act.
While the grant is substantial, it is a small step toward protecting the Jamaica Bay wetlands. Chris Soller, the acting superintendent of the Jamaica Bay Unit for Gateway National Park, testified at a City Council hearing that the cost of protecting the wetlands ranges “into the hundreds of millions of dollars.