DEP to embark on project to clean up Jamaica Bay

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The city Department of Environmental Protection has announced plans that would not only help Jamaica Bay’s environmentally sensitive ecosystem, but also clean up the air in the nearby southeast Queens communities.

DEP Commissioner Cas Holloway said the agency would start dredging Hendrix Creek, which is in the northern section of the bay. More than $13 million will be spent to clean out the combined sewer overflow sediment in the 7,000-foot tributary, which would reduce pollution and odors in the area, according to the commissioner.

“Step by step, we are making the bay cleaner and healthier so that New Yorkers will be able to enjoy this ecological marvel for generations to come,” he said in a statement.

In addition to the dredging, the DEP also completed a massive saltwater marsh restoration project at the bay that added 30,000 square feet of greenery back to the ecosystem. Over the last half century, the bay has lost thousands of acres of wetland and the city, state and federal governments have been working to halt the loss and restore the marshes.

The dredging at Hendrix Creek will remove 20,000 cubic yards of sediment, which is created from materials from combined sewer overflows, from the uppermost 1,400 feet of the creek, according to the DEP. The sediment has given off a bad odor in the surrounding neighborhood and residents have been complaining for years, the DEP said.

The agency will use a hydraulic dredging method that will use a cutter´╗┐ head to loosen the below-water sediment and pumps that will suck up the sediment and deposit it in barges.

By using hydraulic dredging, there will be less turbidity in the creek and little impact on the habitat of the environment, the DEP said. The material will be de-watered on the boat and transported off-site for processing and disposal.

An 18-inch layer of clean sand will be placed atop the dredged surface to cap the remaining sediment, the DEP said. The project will be completed next summer.

The restoration project, which cost $1.3 million, restored several species of plants to Jamaica Bay, including pharafmites, Japanese knotweed and mugwort, to improve flora diversity in the bay, the DEP said. The new plants will provide key ecological advantages for Jamaica Bay, including additional nursery, forage and habitats for the dozens of fish, birds and other wildlife that call the bay home, according to the agency.

In February, the city announced plans to invest more than $113 million to restore the bay and prevent its decay. The DEP said excess nitrogen in the water has caused the decay and it is in the process of upgrading its wastewater plants located near the ecosystem to discharge less of the chemical element.

“The dredging and wetland restoration of Hendrix Creek are two more steps forward in our comprehensive plan to improve one of New York City’s greatest natural resources: Jamaica Bay,” Holloway said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 6:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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