DESCRIPTION: Jamaica Bay is situated within the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, New York City. Approximately eight miles long by four miles wide, it covers 26 square miles, and opens into the Atlantic Ocean via the Rockaway Inlet. Over the past century, the Bay’s fragile ecosystem has been degraded through human encroachment and increased urbanization. There is an existing federally maintained navigation project within Jamaica Bay.
The Jamaica Bay Marsh Islands are at the heart of the complex urban ecosystem of Jamaica Bay that is a part of the U.S. Department of the Interior - National Park Service (NPS), Gateway National Recreation Area (GNRA). Analyses conducted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) confirmed the loss of intertidal salt marsh on the marsh islands and the effect it may have on the ecosystem if the trend continues. The wetlands in Jamaica Bay have had significant loss from the combined effects of subsidence, sea level rise, and lack of sediment distribution within the bay (partially attributed to the increased depth of Jamaica Bay from dredging of the navigation channels). These marsh islands have been disappearing and a loss of more than 2000 acres have been documented since 1924 and will continue to be lost at an alarming rate.
From 1994 and 1999, an estimated 220 acres of salt marsh were lost at a rate of 47 acres per year. Left alone, the marshes could vanish by the year 2025, destroying wildlife habitat and threatening the bay's shorelines. National Park Service experts concurred with the NYSDEC analysis and urged immediate action. It was recommended that the causes of the accelerating marsh losses be determined in order to formulate a long-term solution. It was also recommended that a series of pilot projects be developed to stem further losses and re-establish habitat while long-term initiatives are being pursued. Under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Continuing Authorities Program (CAP), the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) and NYSDEC requested assistance in implementing one or more restoration projects.
A feasibility report titled Jamaica Bay Marsh Islands, Jamaica Bay, NY, Integrated Ecosystem Restoration Report, Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact was approved in 2006, recommending restoration of three marsh islands: Yellow Bar Hassock, Elders Point East, and Elders Point West. Construction of the Elders Point East marsh island took place in 2006-2007 and Elders Point West in 2009-2010 restoring approximately 80 acres of marshland. The Engineering Documentation Report for Yellow Bar Hassock and the Amendment to the Project Cooperation Agreement for the NY&NJ Harbor Deepening Project were both approved by the Assistant Secretary of the Army in June and September 2011, respectively. Yellow Bar Hassock was constructed through the beneficial use of dredged material from the New York & New Jersey Harbor Navigation Project per Section 207 authority in cooperation with The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, the non-Federal sponsor.
The NYSDEC and NYCDEP funded the local share (35 percent) of the Yellow Bar marsh restoration project. Approximately 45.5 acres of salt marsh habitat were restored at Yellow Bar Hassock via placement of ~375,000 cubic yards of sand from Ambrose Channel. The 45.5 acres of marsh is comprised of approximately 13.1 acres of transplanted low marsh plant hummocks, 21,859 high marsh transition plants and 17,175 high marsh plants planted on 4.427 acres and 350 pounds of dispersed seed over 27.75 acres. Ambrose Channel sand was also beneficially used in September and October 2012 to restore an additional 30 acres of marsh islands at Black Wall (155,000 cubic yards of sand, 20.5 acres) and Rulers Bar (95,000 cubic yards of sand – 9.8 acres). Black Wall and Rulers Bar Marsh Islands were constructed as part of the USACE Beneficial Use Program along with USACE partners NYCDEP, NYSDEC, and The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The NYSDEC and NYCDEP paid 100 percent of the costs associated with sand placement. A community-based planting effort was led by NYCDEP, EcoWatchers, Jamaica Bay Guardian and the American Littoral Society which was completed in June 2013..
The marsh island restoration efforts were monitored for five years and have provided valuable data for the restoration of future marsh island restoration. This program also has significant implications for the future success of restoration activities from beneficially using sand from the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Program.
AUTHORIZATION: Section 204 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1992, Public Law 102-580, as amended by Section 207 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1996 (codified as amended at 33 U.S.C. § 2326), and as amended by Section 2037 Regional Sediment Management of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. Future marsh island restoration (at Stony Creek, Duck Point, Pumpkin Patch East and West and Elders Center) were authorized in WRDA 2020 as recommended in the Hudson Raritan Estuary (HRE) Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study (Chief’s Report; May 26, 2020).
STATUS: Awaiting future appropriations for Stony Creek Marsh Island (1 of 5 marsh islands and 1 of 20 HRE projects) to initiate the Pre-Construction Engineering Design (PED) phase with NYSDEC and NYCDEP in partnership with NPS. Construction will be coordinated with future dredging cycles of the Jamaica Bay Federal Navigation Channel.
P: (917) 790-8306
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS: NY-05, NY-06, NY-09