BY LYNN EDMONDS
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is halfway through a $12.1 million project to remove sludge from the bottom of Flushing Bay, Colonel David Caldwell told U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and reporters on Monday.
The Army Corps took the congresswoman and reporters on a boat tour of the bay to show how a crane with what they call a “bucket” attached to it, grabs sediment from the bottom of the Bay and then drops it into a barge.
The purpose of the work is to clear the federal navigation channels, which should be 15 feet deep in all parts, but the engineers found to be only eight feet deep at the shallowest points due to the buildup of sediments. The Army Corps will remove 165,000 cubic yards of sediment from the bottom of the bay.
Dredging federal navigation channels has been required by law since 1902. The project should take about two months to finish, with an expected completion date on Dec. 26th.
Though one might think of shipping as an old-fashioned way to transport goods, the fact is that 1,425,000 tons of cargo makes its way through the channel annually. Fourteen local businesses utilize the channel, such as the Marine Transfer Station, which exports household trash to New Jersey. Other businesses include a dinner cruise, Skyline Princess Cruises, and two cement companies. The NYPD Harbor Patrol Unit also utilizes the channel.
Meng, as well as U.S. Rep Joseph Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx), said the federally funded dredging was vital for the area.
“Flushing Bay is an important local channel for ships and boats. Ensuring that these vessels are able to freely navigate through this body of water helps promote and improve everything from trade and commerce to recreation and public safety,” Meng said in a statement.
“I’m pleased the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be undertaking much-needed dredging of the channel to improve maneuverability for ships,” Crowley said in a statement.
To the disappointment of some local businesses, the U.S. Army Corps only dredges within the federal navigation channels. Unfortunately, that meant they initially were not allowed to touch a sunken barge, whose rusted body was partially poking out of the water. As luck would have it though, a storm pushed it into the federal channel. This allowed the U.S. Army Corps to take action to remove the barge. Somewhat ironically, they had to move it back out of the channel, where it was in the way of boats and the dredging.
In addition to dredging for navigation purposes, the Army Corps is also planning to do work to improve the area’s ecosystem. The Hudson Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Program is currently undertaking a feasibility study and will likely release a plan in the summer. They aim to restore wetland habitat and improve water quality for bodies of water in New York and New Jersey that fall within a 25-mile radius of the Statue of Liberty.
The Flushing Bay portion will cost $2,876,000. The federal government has already provided half of the necessary funding, with New York City expected to make up much of the remainder.
Actions to improve the ecosystem’s health will include: tidal wetlands restoration, freshwater wetlands restoration, dredging, further removal of the earthen dike, reorientation of the federal navigation channel, shoreline bank stabilization and site cleanup and debris removal.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana