New York Muck to Restore Jamaica Bay

Turns out New York has more to offer than skyscrapers—specifically, the muck from the bottom of its harbor that is going to be used to rebuild salt marsh islands in Jamaica Bay, east of Manhattan. For many years, workers have been dredging the bottom of New York Harbor to improve the shipping channel. Now that leftover mud—and whatever else is down there—will be used to increase the acreage of the salt marsh islands from 800 to a little closer to the 16,000 present a century ago.

The dredging has produced millions of cubic yards of muck.

“What do you do with all that stuff?” said Col. John R. Boulé II, commander of the New York District of the Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the dredging. “Some of it we’re using to restore the islands in Jamaica Bay.” Recalling the lush “Mannahatta” that Henry Hudson encountered when he sailed into New York Harbor 400 years ago, Colonel Boulé added: “We want to put a little more of 1609 back into 2010.”

Right now the focus is Elders Point, an island south of the Brooklyn-Queens border. But there’s plenty more to do.

I must confess to a few worries about this project. What does this muck have in it? Mercury, heavy metals, other kinds of pollution? Sure, it will provide a foundation for the islands to “regrow,” but will all this dredging and moving stuff around have a bad effect in the long run? I have heard the Army Corps of Engineers is improving, but it’s not known as a conservation leader.

Source: “From New York Harbor’s Depths, Muck to Restore Islands in Jamaica Bay,” by Sam Roberts, New York Times, April 25, 2010