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Queens Chronicle

Gov. Cuomo funds Jamaica Bay marsh restoration project

$645K grant will go toward twin restoration projects this spring

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Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:32 am, Thu Apr 25, 2013.

Gov. Cuomo announced Tuesday that he is awarding $645,000 in grant money to two organizations for the restoration of two marshes in Jamaica Bay.

The money, most of which comes from mitigation funds paid as part of a construction project at the Gil Hodges Marine Parkway Bridge, will go toward restoring 28 acres of salt marsh grasses on the recently rebuilt Rulers Bar and Black Wall islands in Jamaica Bay, both located just west of Broad Channel.

The work will be done by two groups, the American Littoral Society and the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers.

The project is part of Cuomo’s NYS 2100 Commission and the governor calls it “a model approach for resiliency investments that will help protect communities” from storms like Hurricane Sandy.

“These two marsh islands had all but disappeared, exhibiting the same kind of erosion that is affecting marsh islands throughout Jamaica Bay,” Cuomo said in a statement released Tuesday. “As recommended by my NYS 2100 Commission, green infrastructure projects such as this one should be an integral part of rebuilding and making New York more resilient for the future.”

Five hundred thousand dollars of the grant money for the project comes from the Marine Parkway Bridge project mitigation fund while the other $145,000 comes from a settlement over illegal sewage dumping in Shellbank Basin in Howard Beach.

Dan Mundy Sr., president of Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, said the restorations are important to both animal and human life around the bay.

“This project will restore twowetlandislands that are nurseries to the tremendousnumber of species of bird and marine wildlife,” he said. “In addition, these islands will play a critical role in dissipating the impact of future storm events and in the process will help to protect the adjacent communities.”

Though the force of Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge was devastating to Broad Channel and other communities such as Howard Beach as well as Canarsie and Mill Basin in Brooklyn, environmentalists say the situation could have been far worse had the existing marshland not been there.

The reconstruction of marshland is one of the items officials are seeking in order to protect the shoreline in the event of another storm like Sandy.

Don Riepe, president of the Northeast Chapter of the American Littoral Society, said most of the work will be done by volunteers starting next month.

“It’s going to be a big volunteer planting of the marshes. We already have 200 volunteers signed up,” he said. “We want as much as possible to be done by hand.”

Riepe said more volunteers are welcome and those interested in taking part can sign up at restoremarshes.eventbrite.com.

The work will begin on May 18 and will last about a week, depending on weather and other factors, Riepe said.

Though most of the restoration will be done by volunteers, there are a few contractors who will do some of the more difficult work.

The project also includes mechanical seeding of the remainder of both islands and installation of protective fencing, which has already started. The American Littoral Society and the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers will monitor and maintain the site for five years following the plantings, which they regularly do with the other restored marshes in the bay.

Riepe said in November that much of the restored marshland was undamaged by Sandy.

Over the last decade, a number of marshes in Jamaica Bay have been restored.

In 2003, the National Park Service, which manages Gateway National Recreation Area, conducted a two-acre pilot project at Big Egg Marsh, just to the southwest of Broad Channel.

That project was followed by a 43-acre project at Elders Point Marsh, located just southwest of Howard Beach near the entrance to Spring Creek, in 2007 and 2010. Another 42 acres of marsh were restored at Yellow Bar Hassock, located to the east of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, in 2012.

The State of New York has contributed $5 million to these projects.

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