Jamaica Bay ⁄ West Pond Update — 1/23/2015

Last night there was a capacity crowd at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge for an update on the environmental assessment process concerning the refuge.

At present Gateway National Recreation Area is considering half a dozen alternatives, ranging from “do nothing” (which would cost nothing) to a plan to create varied habitats as well as the restoration of an original-size freshwater West Pond (which could cost in excess of $30 million). Included in this set of alternatives is the plan submitted by the Birders’ Coalition for Gateway that proposes a somewhat smaller freshwater pond with freshwater marshes plus new trails, blinds, and raised berms.

National Park Service officials noted that the project may be done in phases due to financial requisites. Audience members were quick to point out that it was essential to repair the breach and start the process of freshwater restoration sooner rather than later.

The good news is that Gateway considers freshwater a scarce and valuable resource at the refuge. But the cost of restoring freshwater will be part of the ultimate decision. The final set of proposals, including the preferred alternative, will be released late in the spring or early summer, followed by a 30-day comment period.

Harry Maas, representing New York City Audubon for the coalition, was hopeful. “We probably will see a preferred alternative that repairs the breach, provides for some methods to restore the West Pond to freshwater, and allows for some resiliency measures to negate the impact of future storms.”

The coalition will be meeting in the near future to determine strategy for this stage of the process. But the process is still going to take considerable time; nothing physical will actually be done at the refuge for quite a while. That’s how government works.

Andrew Rubenfeld
Chair, Conservation Committee