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House bill earmarks $44M for cleanup of Flushing Bay

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The U.S. House of Representatives last Thursday passed the 2002 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill that provides $4.4 million to clean up polluted Flushing Bay.

The bill was awaiting a Senate vote as of press time Tuesday.

Josh Straka, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who has helped push for the legislation, said he expects it to become law.

“It should be signed by the president within the month,” said Straka.

Crowley said he was pleased with the funding, which was $1 million above President George Bush’s earlier budget request.

“The funding is great news for Queens and Bronx residents, particularly those living near Flushing Bay and Creek,” he said. “A cleaner Flushing Bay and Creek will lead to future economic development and jobs and a better quality of life for our waterfront communities.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a study on restoring the ecosystem around Flushing Bay, which has become increasingly polluted with waste and debris.

About $400,000 of the funding would go to complete the study by January 2003, Army spokesman Tom Harron said when the bill was drafted in June. The study examines means for removing debris from Flushing Bay and preventing its return.

The remaining $4 million would pay for dredging some 150,000 yards of sediment, said Harron.

According to Straka, the dredging process should begin sometime in the next two months. Harron said he had expected the dredging to begin as early as September.

Queens Borough President Claire Shulman has in the past criticized the Army Corps’ study of the bay.

“The finger is going to silt up the whole bay before you guys get this study done, let alone starting to do something about it,” Shulman told a July Queens Borough Board meeting. She referred to a dike stretching from the LaGuardia Airport area outward to College Point that has accumulated silt and may interfere with the normal tidal movements.

The Army Corps has already spent $2.7 million for exhaustive tests and aerial photography as part of the study.

The expected cleanup follows the completion in June of the $14.8 million promenade around Flushing Bay near the World’s Fair Marina. The 1.4-mile promenade took two years to finish.

Reach Reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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