A total of $115 million in new investments – and improvements – will be coming to Jamaica Bay.
The city will dedicate $100 million to installing new nitrogen control technologies at wastewater treatment plants located on Jamaica Bay. These investments, made in concert with $95 million the city has already committed for nitrogen control upgrades, will reduce the nitrogen loads discharged into Jamaica Bay by nearly 50 percent over the next 10 years.
New York will also invest $15 million for marshland restoration projects around the bay.
“Jamaica Bay is a national treasure that has been degraded and put at risk because of excessive pollutants harming its delicate tidal ecosystem,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis. “This agreement puts in place a critical and comprehensive program to bring back the bay – improving water quality, restoring it as a premier wildlife refuge, and continuing to provide generations of New Yorkers with a refuge of their own.”
Jamaica Bay has experienced marshland loss due to many factors, including sea level rise; a loss of sediment and fresh water flows and reduced tidal activity from the extension of the Rockaway peninsula. The city’s $15 million investment will be spent on saltwater marsh restoration projects in the interior of Jamaica Bay.
Since 2002, the city has invested $37.4 million to reclaim more than 440 acres of environmentally sensitive land adjoining Jamaica Bay and plans to remediate nearly 100 additional acres. The city will leverage its new $15 million investment in the bay’s marshlands by applying for federal matching funds, which could net an additional $30 million in funding for Jamaica Bay marshland preservation projects.
The city and state have also agreed to additional water quality improvements by pursuing the proposal of Jamaica Bay for designation as a “No Discharge Zone.” Such a designation would provide significant protection for the bay from the release of sewage from boat toilets and holding tanks. This would further reduce the amount of nitrogen and other pollution that negatively impacts the area’s wetland habitat.
Nitrogen is a naturally-occurring component of all wastewater. Although it is not a pathogen and poses no risk to human beings, high levels of nitrogen can degrade the overall ecology of a waterway. Currently, the 240 million gallons of wastewater handled each day by the four wastewater treatment plants on Jamaica Bay result in the discharge of approximately 40,000 pounds of nitrogen each day. The Rockaway Peninsula closes-off Jamaica Bay and prevents the circulation of oxygenated water, which exacerbates nitrogen impacts in the bay, as compared to surrounding waterways.
The Department of Environmental Protection’s wastewater treatment plants were not originally designed to remove nitrogen. Upgrades, including at the Rockaway plant, that will address this issue include retrofitting existing equipment, introducing new nitrogen-reducing chemicals to the treatment process, and adding additional aeration tanks. The first upgrade will be operational in 2015, and all improvements will be completed by 2020. The agreement also provides for interim nitrogen reduction measures that will improve water quality beginning this spring.
Jamaica Bay is a 31-square-mile water body with a diverse ecological resource that supports multiple habitats, including open water, salt marshes, grasslands, coastal woodlands, maritime shrublands, and brackish and freshwater wetlands. These habitats support 91 fish species, 325 species of birds, and many reptile, amphibian, and small mammal species.
“Jamaica Bay is without question one of the most bountiful wildlife habitats in the entire Northeast,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “It is important to the people who live in the area for its rich biodiversity, the recreation it offers, and the protection the marshlands provide from flooding.”