The March Gowanus Canal CAG General meeting was held at the St Mary's houses on Carroll Street on its regular last Tuesday of the month at 6:30 PM
In attendance were EPA Project Manager, Christos Tsiamis and Legal Counsel, Brian Carr as well as representatives from the Army Corp of Engineers, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and US Fish and Wildlife Service. They were there to explain their role as some of the Trustees in a program called the National Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) which helps neighborhoods/communities recover monetary damages suffered from environmental accidents/disasters/situations
We were given an update by both EPA representatives:
--4th Street Basin pilot study/design is 50% complete.
--The First Street Basin may begin by late fall early 2018.
--The 5th Street basin has had some work done. some data collected and that data is currently being reviewed. There should be more updates regarding this basin at the next general meeting.
There is still work to be done in the design of the upper canal
--- stabilizing the banks of the Canal to prohibit any further contamination from leeching into the waterway-- a complicated task of the project since there are multiple properties/owners involved. The bulkhead construction must come before the dredging can begin and all legal agreements must be in place for this to proceed.
EPA hopes to begin dredging at the head of the canal by late 2018.
Part of the discussion turned to some of the financial facts of our Gowanus Superfund Project. Lately, there has been quite a bit of buzz regarding the Superfund status of the Canal since the new administration has taken over.
There have been articles claiming that the funding is endangered--indeed the project could be endangered.
During the course of last week's meeting, funding (or lack thereof) did come up. We were told that a particular "basket" of funding would be running out very soon. This would mean that the work would continue but at an extremely slowed pace. The slowdown would NOT affect or extend the consent agreement timeline that EPA has with the City of New York regarding the April 2020 deadline for the city to acquire the properties they wish to either purchase or seize at the head of the canal for the required retention tank placement. But a slowdown in general should be expected and of course, a slowdown is never welcome.
Shortly after that on March 30th, to be exact, EPA issued the following statement:
"Work on the Gowanus Canal is expected to continue using funding that the EPA already has and, as is the goal of the Superfund program, relying on the work being conducted by those parties responsible for the pollution at the site. The regional office has not requested additional funding from EPA's national office.
The EPA currently has several administrative orders in place which ensure the completion of design work and a dredging and capping pilot. Under those orders, work is expected to begin later this year on the pilot in the 4th Street Turning Basin.
2022 remains the EPA estimated target for completion of the dredging work at the Gowanus Canal Superfund site, with work on the Combined Sewer Overflows completed after that."
So, with that good and most welcomed news, things seem to be progressing mostly on schedule.
The rest of the evening were presentations made by NOAA, US Fish and Wildlife Services and the Army Corp of Engineers regarding the possibility of NRDA recovering additional monies from the responsible parties in order to sort of replace or make up for some of the environmental damages done to the community because of the polluted condition of the Gowanus waterway.
The representatives, explained how this can work by using oil spills in different parts of the country as examples. So, an oil spill diminishes or decimates the wildlife in a waterway---the fish/wildlife habitat has been destroyed or severely damaged, the NRDA program, through the Trustees, which are people from the attending organizations, as well as others, works with the community and the facts of the site itself to determine that there are significant injuries to proceed with an attempt to compensate the public through monies recovered from the Responsible Parties for those lost resources.
In other words, National Grid, City of New York and other responsible parties would ideally contribute monetarily to pay for the environmental damages suffered by the community, This is not a sure thing, but it is possible.
The community would be encouraged to work with the NRDA Trustees to try to come up with ideas as how to use those monies in ways to restore/maintain the habitat. For example perhaps adding softer edges, where possible, along the waterway to create a "wetland" habitat where certain types of aquatic life would be encouraged to return and flourish.
There are other ideas and all ideas are encouraged. The CAG Land Use Committee (please see the Gowanus Canal CAG website for the calendar of meetings) will be having continuing discussions about this and it will be further discussed at upcoming general meetings as well.
As always, all meetings are open to the public. Everyone is welcome to bring their ideas and voices to the CAG!