TIMELINE–History and Accomplishments

JAMAICA BAY ECOWATCHERS

               -FORMATION

                    -EARLY HISTORY

                            -ACCOMPLISHMENTS 

TIMELINE— 

 -1992 –NYC forced to halt ocean dumping of Sludge waste by Congress

-1995/1997   Future members of Ecowatchers (yet unformed as an organization) notice unsettling changes to Jamaica Bay’s water quality and to the health of the Bay’s Marshlands

1998- Members form the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers (in an) attempt to get addressed what they see as an “Emergency Problem” threatening Jamaica Bay and begin to document marsh loss.

1999-Ecowatchers become aware of the impact that the Ocean dumping ban of 1992 is having on the bay as they review data from NYCDEP Water Quality reports that indicates nitrogen loading of bay has spiked from 30,000 pounds a day to over 57,000 pounds a day . Nitrogen loading is suspected as cause for algae blooms, low dissolved oxygen content and Marsh die off

-1999– Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers President Dan Mundy Sr. delivers presentation to US Army Corps of Engineers at JBERP Public hearings (Jamaica Bay Ecosystem Restoration Projects) of the group’s findings regarding water quality and Marsh Loss and invites them to send a representative for a boat tour of the marshes. After the tour they are amazed at the losses they observe.

2000 (June) Dan Mundy makes another presentation at the Jamaica Bay Task Force Meeting presenting the same findings. Findings are challenged by National Parks Service representatives as anecdotal and inaccurate.   

2000 (summer) Dan Mundy Jr. confirms groups findings with DEC team conducting Marshland inventory ,using  the latest GIS software, conducting trend analysis study.

2000 (November) Ecowatchers arrange for DEC team to present their Power Point Presentation findings to the Fall Jamaica Bay Task Force Meeting. They confirm Ecowatchers findings and use the GIS Power Point presentation to show image overlays that indicate exactly the amount and locations of the loss. Environmental groups in attendance are shocked at the findings and at the prediction that by 2020 it is possible that almost all of the marshlands could be gone from the bay. They pass an urgent resolution calling this an emergency condition and recognizing that immediate action should be taken to attempt to stem this loss calling upon the Secretary of the Interior to appoint a Blue Ribbon Panel to investigate these losses.

2001 ( May 1,2,3) Blue Ribbon Panel meets at Fort Wads worth, S.I. hearing testimony from Dan Mundy, JBEW and representative from other agencies and  renowned scientists . They conclude that Jamaica Bay’s salt marsh islands are disappearing into the bay and near-term investigations and pilot projects are needed.

2003 (summer) Big Egg Marsh project—Ecowatchers assist lead agency ,National Parks Service, in identifying sites, construction concept, plant and material transport thru various vessels and volunteers, and plantings of the  marsh plugs.

2004 After one growing season the Big Egg Marsh project is successful and the Ecowatchers lobby for restoration of other marsh sites. They work with the ACOE, NYSDEC, and NYCDEP, NYNJ / PA and elected officials in providing funding and moving project on a fast track.

2004 Ecowatchers request, from the DEC, that the Ecowatchers be allowed to participate in the ongoing negotiations between the DEC and the NYC DEP regarding future permits that the DEC will issue which will impose a nitrogen loading limit for the bay. The DEC agrees and the Ecowatchers make the case that the high nitrogen loading from the DEP’s four waste water treatment plants in Jamaica Bay are the cause for the Marsh Loss and the algae blooms.

2005 The Kokler report is released in which Dr Alex Kokler’s studies show for the first time how the nitrogen levels of Jamaica Bay are the cause for the Marshland disappearance. His core sampling comparisons with other areas of the northeast prove that the marshlands of Jamaica Bay are fragmenting and disappearing due to the high nitrogen levels and their impacts on the marshlands Rizone root system.

2006 The NYC DEP releases their “Nitrogen Consent Plan” for the Bay. The Ecowatchers immediately reject the plan as inadequate and failing to address the nitrogen at the source points, the wastewater treatment plants, and give a presentation at the Jamaica Bay Task Force Meeting calling on the DEP to invest the money needed to upgrade the treatment plants

2006 Years of efforts start to pay off as the large scale marsh restoration of “Elders East” is begun by the Army Corps of Engineers and ultimately recreates 38 acres of salt water marshland

2008 In response to the Ecowatchers, and basically all other environmental organizations’ including the NRDC and the Littoral Society, rejection of their “Nitrogen Consent Plan” the DEP releases their “White Paper” with alternatives for addressing the Nitrogen loading of the Bay. The Ecowatchers get an unreleased copy of the plan and hold a Task Force Meeting to address the details of the White Paper. They report the plan as another attempt by the NYC DEP to avoid the investment needed to reduce the Nitrogen loading and reject it as woefully inadequate.

2009-Ecowatchers keep up pressure for funding to keep marsh restoration projects moving forward and in 2009 the Army Corps of Engineers begins the Elders West Marsh restoration which will add another 48 acres of wetlands when completed in 2010

2009 Frustrated by year’s negotiations without progress the Ecowatchers began to talk to their partners about possible legal action. In the fall of 2009 the NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Council) agree to represent the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, the Littoral Society, and the NY/NJ Baykeeper in bringing a federal lawsuit against the city of new York under the Clean Water Act (CWA) citing the impact that nitrogen discharge is having on the water quality of the bay. The city of New York is served with a sixty day notice and immediately requests the groups to postpone legal action and engage in high level negotiations. Intense negotiations are held at City Hall during November and December and a tentative agreement is reached on December 24 2009.   

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2010 (February) –An agreement in principal, to be signed off on after all legal language is addressed, is reached. Mayor Bloomberg holds press release with DEC commissioner Grannis and the Ecowatchers, NRDC, Littoral Society and the Bay keeper to announce that the city will spend over $100,000,000 to upgrade all four waste treatment plants in the Bay using the latest technology available. In addition $15,000,000 will be paid by the city into a special fund to be used for marsh restoration projects in Jamaica Bay which will be matched with, state and city  matching funding to create a substantial financing source .In addition sites identified by the Ecowatchers as poor water quality areas will be monitored and tested by the DEP.

2011 (January) Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers attend conference held by RPA (Regional Planning Association) and the NY/NJ Port Authority in which it is revealed that the Port Authority will be seeking to extend JFK airport runways out into Jamaica Bay and in the process destroy hundreds of acres of critical habitat and threaten the possible future of the bay as a wildlife refuge. Ecowatchers speak out against the plan at the conference and immediately begin to inform and organize environmental groups to oppose the plan.

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