NYC is accepting comments for their new Wetland Strategy. The Ecowatchers have reviewed this bulletin and are very encouraged by the concepts it lays out. The previous work of the Wetland Transfer Taskforce was the basis for this current strategy and we are cited within that document for our efforts to protect from development the wetlands lots in Broad Channel that were originally going to be sold to developers. Our comments submitted regarding the NYC WETLANDS STRATEGY document are offered below :
Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers
Working to preserve, protect and enhance the natural resources of Jamaica bay
56 West 14th road, Broad Channel, New York, NY 11693
February 6 2012
Aaron Koch-Senior Policy Advisor
NYC Mayors Office Of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability
253 Broadway-10th Floor New York NY 10007
RE: New York City Wetlands Strategy Draft for Public Comment
Dear Mr Koch:
As President of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers I am writing to you today to submit our comments regarding the draft “NYC WETLANDS STRATEGY”. The Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers is a grassroots environmental organization based in Broad Channel Queens. Our organization was formed in 1998 to address the issues of tidal wetlands loss and water quality issues in Jamaica Bay. We were the first to recognize and document the issue of salt water marsh loss occurring in Jamaica Bay, over 40 acres per year, and we have lobbied successfully to have this issue addressed and positive steps taken to address it. Working with our partners, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), the National Parks Service (NPS), The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), The New York City Department of Protection (NYC DEP) and the Port Authority of NY/NJ we have helped identify and procure funding for one small ( Big Egg Marsh), and three large( Elders East, Elders West and Yellow Bar ) scale marsh restoration projects within Jamaica Bay. These projects, as well as future ones, will have a tremendous positive impact on the health of the great natural resource that is Jamaica Bay.
We also worked with our partners the NRDC, the NY/NJ Baykeeper, and the Littoral society to negotiate a “nitrogen consent agreement” with the city of new York which eliminated the need for court action and which will implement over 100,000,000 million dollars in upgrades to the wastewater treatment plants that are currently discharging high levels of damaging nitrogen into Jamaica Bay. This agreement will cut in half that nitrogen loading and assist us in stopping the marsh die off as well as improving the areas of the bay that are currently experiencing low dissolved oxygen episodes and mandated that $15 million be used to restore salt water wetlands within Jamaica Bay. In addition we are currently working with the National Parks Service and Stony Brook University on oyster restoration projects within the waters of Jamaica Bay
It is interesting to note that the bulletin specifically addresses taking proactive steps to protect and preserve the smaller wetland areas that currently exist but in some cases are in jeopardy of facing the threat of development due to inadequate protection under current state or city law or ordinance. We are working at this very moment to protect such lots in Broad Channel Queens that were described by the wetlands transfer taskforce as “The Broad Channel wetlands appear to be perfect specimens of salt marshes. They provide habitat to the snowy egret, great blue heron, many turtles, and other wildlife. They have a full range of intertidal areas, including a shoals and mudflats, intertidal marsh, and upland area. The high marsh vegetation includes native Spartina patens, spike grass, and sea lavender. These plant species are declining in other areas of the bay.” For these lots represent exactly the dilemma that your strategy seeks to address. These lots were originally set to be auctioned off for development until our organization, working with our councilman and Queens Boro president Helen Marshall, had them removed from the auction group at the last minute. Then only 6 months ago, as we were working to have them placed under the jurisdiction of NYC parks, they were once again almost lost when they were set to be put up for lease . Only our immediate lobbying stopped the process. Once leased they in all likelihood would have been either developed or used in a destructive manner such as for the storage of construction material. We are still attempting to have them moved from the jurisdiction of DCAS to NYC Parks where they will be safe for future generation.
This strategy document will hopefully eliminate these types of situations where such opportunities for preservation “fall thru the cracks” and critical habitat could be lost.
We endorse the concepts and goals set forth in the Wetlands Strategy document and are pleased to see the Mayor and the city of New York creating a overall plan to achieve the objective of no net loss of wetlands within the city limits. The bulletin if, implemented, would see NYC set a standard in this regard that would be a national model and we our organization endorses its concepts.
We also think that the idea of for mitigation opportunities thru Wetlands banking would lend itself very well to funding future projects within Jamaica Bay as there are many areas that present as ideal sites for restoration and in most cases would allow for us to recreate those areas that have been lost over the last twenty years. In addition all of the wetland restoration projects to date in Jamaica bay have been extremely successful exceeding all expectations to date. The Ecowatchers have identified a number of areas for wetland restoration including “sunset cove”. This area was formerly known as “Schmitt’s Marina” and is a 16 acre shoreline site at the end of west 19th road, in Broad Channel, that our organization had moved from DCAS authority to that of NYC parks thru the efforts of our councilman Eric Ulrich. This area presents a unique opportunity to create a large wetlands area –with a upland buffer area of forest and walking trails. Our ultimate vision would be that of an “interactive” wetlands which would encompass a boardwalk walkway which would enable school children to walk out over the wetlands and see, and learn, firsthand the importance of these types of ecosystems.
In closing we commend the development of this strategy document and look forward to working in collaboration, as a stakeholder, on future projects that this policy will produce.
Daniel F Mundy,
Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers