Parks plans to protect creek

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Phil Corso

In an ongoing effort to limit the amount of storm runoff draining into Alley Creek in northeast Queens, the city Parks Department is holding a community forum to bring residents into the decision-making process.

At the end of this month, Parks will host a meeting in Douglaston to discuss Alley Creek’s watershed management plan to protect and enhance the area’s ecological resources, a spokesman said. The meeting, scheduled for Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. at Alley Pond Environmental Center, will focus primarily on open space parkland surrounding Alley Creek, where storm water runoff naturally drains into the creek and nearby Little Neck Bay.

The city Parks Natural Resources Group will seek community input as it develops its goals for a watershed-wide management plan to keep water at Alley Creek clean, Parks said. Residents of northeast Queens will have their chance to weigh in on issues of flooding, sewage runoff, environmental habitats and water quality.

The discussion comes more than a year after the city Department of Environmental Protection announced the completion of a $130 million Combined Sewer Overflow facility at Alley Creek, which keeps sewage from running off into the nearby waters.

“The Alley Creek CSO Facility is sorely needed,” City Councilman Dan Halloran (D-Whitestone) said when the program was finished. “The facility is a welcome step toward stabilization of the creek, wetlands and bay. I commend the DEP for its dedication to the environmental stability of northeast Queens, improving the quality of our water, and helping protect our valuable wetlands.”

The city has invested more than $1.6 billion since 2002 to reduce its combined sewer overflows with the goal of keeping untreated wastewater and storm water runoff out of its harbors whenever it rains, according to Cas Holloway, environmental protection commissioner. As a result, Alley Creek and Little Neck Bay have remained suitable for recreational activities like swimming, boating and fishing, the Parks Department said.

“These investments, along with billions of additional dollars Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg has committed to upgrade our 14 wastewater treatment plants have made our harbor cleaner and healthier than it has been in more than a century,” Halloway said. “With the implementation of the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan that will guide DEP’s CSO investments for the next 20 years, water quality will continue to get even better.”

Over recent years, several projects at Alley Creek have been designed to keep the water inside Alley Creek and Little Neck Bay as clean as possible, a Parks spokesman said.

In 2010, the DEP announced the completion of a $20 million restoration project at Alley Creek, reviving wetlands and reintroducing local plant life over 16 acres in Alley Pond Park.

According to the Parks Department, the new plantings and restored wetlands helped to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff that typically overwhelmed the city’s sewer systems during the heaviest of storms, combatting the nearly 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater produced throughout the city each day.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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