EPA Regional Administrator Visits Queens Park to Spotlight the Importance of Protecting Wetlands

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New York, N.Y. -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck today joined Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, the Commissioner for NYC Parks, and Irene Scheid, the Executive Director at the Alley Pond Education Center, to mark progress of EPA-funded work to restore wetlands at Alley Pond, in Douglaston and Flushing, Queens. In recent years, the EPA has provided $480,000 I grants to NYC Parks and the Natural Areas Conservancy for coastal habitat restoration work, of which $160,000 was provided for specific projects at Alley Pond Park.

Yesterday, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an important national “Clean Water Rule,” which will protect the streams and wetlands. Streams and wetlands provide many benefits to communities by reducing flooding, recharging groundwater supplies, filtering pollution, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Impacts from climate change like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures threaten the quantity and quality of America’s water. Wetlands within urban areas are particularly valuable, as they can counteract the impacts of hard surfaces that don’t absorb rainwater or snowmelt.

In recent years, protection for many of the nation’s streams and wetlands has been confusing, complex, and time-consuming as the result of Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. The EPA and the Army Corps took this action to provide clarity on protections under the Clean Water Act after receiving requests for over a decade from members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, scientists, and the public for a rulemaking.

“Wetlands provide enormous environmental benefits, from flood prevention to protecting water quality,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “With the EPA’s new national Clean Water Rule, now is the perfect time to spotlight the critical role wetlands play in protecting us from some of the worst effects of climate change, and in keeping our water clean. The outstanding work being done at Alley Pond is helping restore urban waterways that will be enjoyed for years to come.”

“NYC Parks manages more than 29,000 acres of parkland with over 10,000 acres of natural forest, woodland, freshwater wetland and salt marsh ecosystems,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “Through restoration projects like the ones happening at Alley Pond Park, our Natural Resources Group is committed to protecting our wetlands and ensuring long-term resilience of our open spaces.”

“Alley Pond Environmental Center is pleased to host this event highlighting the importance of wetlands,” said Irene Scheid, Executive Director of the Alley Pond Environmental Center. “Our location in the wetland section of Alley Pond Park allows us to help teach about the importance of wetlands to the tens of thousands of children and adults that attend our programs annually. The restoration work in the park is much needed to provide better habitat for our native species as well as provide storm protection for coming years.”

In 2012, the EPA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation provided a $100,000 to NYC Parks’ Natural Resources Group (NRG) through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant program for restoration and stewardship projects at Alley Pond Park. With help of these funds, the Parks Department restored 49 acres of coastal forest, improving habitat for migratory birds, and reducing hydrological problems such as non-point source pollution, erosion, and sedimentation into Long Island Sound. The project removed invasive plants such as porcelainberry and multiflora rose, and created a 200-member volunteer corps to restore and steward the area long-term. An estimated 6,000 native tree and shrub seedlings were planted throughout the site by the volunteers.

In 2014, the EPA and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation provided a $60,000 through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund to the Natural Areas Conservancy (NAC) for coastal habitat restoration planning at Alley Pond Park. With this grant, NAC is now developing restoration plans for up to 23 acres of tidal wetland & coastal forest in the Alley Creek Watershed. The project will prepare plans and cost estimates for up to 17 acres of salt marsh and coastal forest to restore ecosystem functions such as flood control, shoreline protection and water pollution filtration.

Through two additional Wetlands Program Development Grants in 2012 and 2014, the EPA has also awarded NYC Parks NRG $320,000 to assess conditions of existing and restored salt marshes and to develop management, protection, and restoration priorities and guidelines for these wetlands.

For more information on the EPA’s new Clean Water Rule, visit: http://epa.gov/cleanwaterrule

For more information on the EPA Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant program administered by NFWF, visit: http://www.nfwf.org/lisff/Pages/lisff-projects.aspx

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and Facebook at http://facebook.com/eparegion.

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