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Bush may give $4.4M for Flushing Bay study

President Bush may sign a bill as early as September to earmark an additional $4.4 million to finish an environmental study of Flushing Bay and Creek and to begin dredging the waterway this year, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said Tuesday.

Josh Straka, Crowley’s spokesman, said a house subcommittee has included $4.4 million in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, which must be approved by Congress before it goes to the president for his signature. In the past, Straka said, the bill has been relatively uncontroversial and is expected to be signed as early as September.

The house subcommittee’s decision came less than a week after the city completed work on a 1.4-mile promenade that stretches around Flushing Bay near the World’s Fair Marina. The promenade, a $14.8 million project completed in two years, signals a clear first step in efforts to revitalize the bay, which over the years has become increasingly polluted from waste and debris that has filtered into it.

About $400,000 of the $4.4 million in the bill would be used to finish a study expected to be completed in January 2003 that focuses on restoring the ecosystem around Flushing Bay, said Tom Harron, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency overseeing the study. The study is examining ways of removing debris and determining how best to keep it from entering the bay, which has created fetid odors that often linger in the air during the summer.

The remaining $4 million, Harron said, will be used to dredge some 150,000 yards of sediment, which is expected to begin in September and could last one or two months. The corps must also work with the state to select a site where they can dump the sediment, he said.

Although dredging will likely disturb the waterway’s floor, temporarily creating unpleasant odors as debris is mucked up, in the end it is expected to improve navigation in and around the bay, Harron said.

In the last two years, Congress has approved the budgeting of more than $2 million in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill for completing the Army Corps of Engineers’ study on Flushing Bay.

“The entire ecosystem of the New York City region will benefit from these improvements, and Queens residents living near the bay can enjoy a better quality of life,” Crowley said.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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