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Queens Chronicle

Oysters soon to make a comeback

Extension of city stormwater pipe announced to save marine life

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Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:39 pm, Thu Dec 5, 2019.

The College Point oysters will soon flourish once again.

After receiving word from the Department of Environmental Protection, Councilmember Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) announced Wednesday, Nov. 20 that the stormwater outfall pipe at MacNeil Park Cove will be extended 200 feet beyond the shoreline in order to terminate its threat to the College Point oyster population and surrounding marine life.

“Our wetlands are a critical part of our natural ecosystem and play a key role in fostering a healthy marine environment for future generations,” said Vallone in a prepared statement. “I am relieved to learn that the outfall pipe at MacNeil Park will be extended and relocated away from this thriving ecosystem.”

The pipeline extension is a result of three years of advocacy led by local scientists and activists Kathryn and Dr. James Cervino of the Coastal Preservation Network.

In a response statement, James Cervino expressed his and his wife’s appreciation for Vallone’s efforts and for DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza’s decision to extend the pipe. “The nestling horseshoe crabs, oysters and other marine invertebrates also want to personally thank the DEP for making this happen!” he said.

The College Point couple started the reefs in 2004 in an effort to improve marine life and the quality of the surrounding environment. After receiving a permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation, they began growing and nurturing oysters and sea grass to filter the water and retard shore erosion. The area began to see improvments until the installation of the pipeline in 2017 destroyed many of the colonies and a decade of restoration progress, James Cervino said.

“We didn’t want this. We told them this was going to destroy the reefs we restored,” Cervino told the Chronicle in reference to the outfall pipe. “Picture a little sandcastle in your sink. You know how delicate they are. Imagine turning on the faucet and blasting that sandcastle.”

The pipeline installation is part of a larger $132 million infrastructure upgrade designed to prevent flooding in College Point. It also aims to reduce the amount of pollution discharged into Flushing Bay and the upper East River, according to the DEP. The larger portion of the project will close three existing combined sewer outfalls to prevent the release of 50 million gallons annually of untreated sanitary sewage and stormwater.

After years of advocacy, DEP officials ultimately determined that the stormpipe’s effects on the marine life are too egregious to ignore. The extension, still in the design phase, will be contructed beneath the oyster reef so as to not disturb them and is projected to take at least a year to complete.

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