Brooklyn College's Aquatic Research and Environmental Assessment Center
Receives the Coastal America 2004 Partnership Award for Its Work in Restoring Jamaica Bay

An example of declining marshlands in Jamaica Bay.December 1, 2004 -- In a ceremony at the Ryan Center in Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field, a team of government and academic organizations received the 2004 Partnership Award from the Coastal America organization, a unique partnership of federal agencies, state and local governments, and private organizations. The honors were bestowed for the coordinated efforts to restore the Big Egg Salt Marsh, a parcel of wild wetland on a protected island in the Jamaice Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

Last year, under the leadership of the National Park Service and with help and financing from Brooklyn College's Aquatic Research and Environmental Assessment Center (AREAC), a team of environmentalists implemented an innovative pilot salt-marsh restoration project for the island, located on the Queens County side of the bay. The project objectives were to evaluate the results of a new method of sediment transfer and placement used to increase marsh elevation, the growth of marsh vegetation through a thin layer of sediment, and the pre-treatment and post-treatment inventory and monitoring information.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Jamaica Bay’s protected salt marsh islands halved in area since 1924, when 2,300 acres existed. The marsh islands have experienced an accelerated loss from twenty-six acres per year in the 1970s to the current forty-four acres per year.

In May 2001, a blue-ribbon panel concluded that the likely causes of salt marsh loss include decreased availability of sediment, sea level rise, erosion, plant mortality, and the isolation of the bay from sediments as a result of natural lengthening of the adjacent barrier island. The restorative component of the project was designed, in part, to evaluate “thin-layering,” a relatively recent method of dredging and then spraying 4,000 cubic yards of sand and sediment onto the tidal marshes in order to reestablish salt marsh vegetation and increase the overall elevation of the deteriorating marshes. Results of the project will be used to guide future restoration efforts, which will focus on enhancing deteriorated salt marsh ecosystems.

Also involved in the Big Egg Salt Marsh restoration team were the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the ASDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, the Jamaica Bay Task Force, the Jamaica Bay EcoWatchers, the Jamaica Bay Guardian, the Greenbelt Native Plant Center Propigation Nursery, and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University.