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Queens Chronicle

Update to be given on West Pond study

Park service to hold open house on Jan. 22 on possible remediation

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Posted: Thursday, January 8, 2015 10:30 am

The National Park Service on Jan. 22 will update the community on its ongoing environmental assessment for the proposed remediation of Jamaica Bay’s West Pond, which became a saltwater lagoon after Superstorm Sandy.

“The ongoing participation of the public is very important to the success of this project,” Jennifer Nersesian, superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area, said in a statement on Monday.

“We have already benefited greatly from the knowledge and expertise of the many stakeholders and organizations with an interest in the Refuge,” she added. “We look forward to continue working with the public as this process moves forward.”

The park service will update residents from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, located on Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel.

As a result of damage sustained from Superstorm Sandy, a breach opened in the West Pond that allowed for saltwater from the bay to flow into the body of freshwater.

The Park Service, the federal agency that oversees the area, asked the public last year to submit comments on what should be done to about the breach and whether to return the pond to its former status.

The pond is frequented by birdwatchers, who say freshwater is needed to attract animals back to the area.

“We really need freshwater out there,” Don Riepe, president of the Northeast Chapter of the American Littoral Society and a resident of Broad Channel, said. “Right now the breach is slowly widening and deepening.”

He added that whatever step is taken, it will “take time.”

“They’re still in the studying stage,” he said.

Riepe is not alone in his push for a freshwater solution.

Susan Elbin, director of conservation and science for the Manhattan-based bird-watching and advocacy group New York City Audubon, said her organization also wants to see freshwater back in the pond.

Her group’s comments to the Park Service also include proposals to create educational programs so people who wish to visit the bay do not disturb its wildlife.

“An important part of such programs should be safety training and environmental orientation,” the group says in its comments to the Park Service. “It is important that kayakers and canoeists comport themselves with a sensitivity to wildlife and their habitat.”

The upcoming open house will be the second time the federal agency has updated the community on the study of the West Pond.

The agency held an open house in August.

Both Riepe and Elbin said the previous one was well-attended and expect a similar audience in two weeks.

Elbin added that the Park Service met with a group of bay enthusiasts late last year near the pond to discuss the study.

“I think they are very open and inclusive as possible,” Elbin said of the federal park agency.

Welcome to the discussion.