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Udall’s Pond Restoration: Two Years Away

The peaceful Udall’s Pond, with its wading birds and snapping turtles, has become a bit too peaceful, almost sluggish, due to the stormwater runoff that brings with it silt and contaminants that have caused the water level to become more and more shallow. Concerns about its viability as a wildlife habitat along with practical concerns about increased risks for flooding in major storm events have added a sense of urgency to addressing the situation. It is fast becoming a mudflat instead of a tidal pond.

The restoration of the Pond and the Saddle Rock Grist Mill are high priorities for Nassau County Legislator Judi Bosworth who has worked in conjunction with Saddle Rock Mayor Leonard Samansky to get approvals and funding for the projects. It is slow going.

First of all, it is an expensive project. Current estimates to dredge the pond, restore the habitat with native plants that are adapted to salt water and create a boardwalk to allow access to the tidal wetlands come to $10 million. Nassau County had appropriated $6 million for such work and there are two other ponds in the county vying for work to be done as well.

An application was made for a grant from the NOAA Coastal and Marine Habitat Restoration Project Grants, but that grant was not awarded. The county will apply for a grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which will take applications in October. Usually, a decision is reached in about three months. If money is awarded from the DEC, it takes about a year for funds to be released. If the county can “borrow” funds to pay for the project from other appropriations and commence work, then the DEC would reimburse them with the grant money. But all money must be in place before work can begin.

In addition, Legislator Bosworth is appealing to the powers that be, to consider utilizing monies available in the 2006 Environmental Bond Act for the project.

In addition to searching for funding, there are permit applications pending with the DEC, the New York State Department of State and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. According to Nassau County Department of Public Works hydrogeologist Brian Schneider, the DEC determination is critical. Their main concern is the safe disposal of the dredged material. Mr. Schneider said that the borings done for sample testing, done by the county, showed that the sediment is “contaminated but not toxic,” an important distinction. The DEC may determine that the sediment must go to a lined landfill or a facility that is permitted to reuse it as fill in construction projects. According to Bill Fonda, DEC spokesperson for Region I, the application is currently under review by the tidal wetlands division.

A spokesperson from the Corps told the Record that they have received the application for a permit and that they will issue a public notice that allows members of the public to comment during a 30-day period on the matter. Their usual concerns involve navigation and fisheries. As we go to press, the notice has not yet been posted, but it should appear in September. For community members interested in this project, keep checking the Corps website at http://www.nan.usace.army.mil/business/buslinks/regulat/notices.htm

The State Department’s public information officer wrote in an email that the department can take up to six months to review a project with the length of time based on the complexity of a project. They must determine if a project complies with New York State’s coastal policies. These policies encompass a wide range of environmental, cultural and economic concerns associated with coastal areas. For more information on the state’s coastal policies visit http:nyswaterfronts.com/consistency.asp.

When It All Comes to Pass

The dredging work itself would be done by bringing in a floating barge mounted with a hydraulic dredge mechanism that is touted as having the least impact on the environment. After the dredged material is sucked up, it would then be pumped into geo-tubes, a process something like stuffing a sausage casing. These custom sized tubes, which are porous, would drain, dry and then be cut into lengths to fit on trucks which would haul them to the proper designated destination. The staging area for the tubes and trucks would be on a parcel owned by the county that is east of the bridge and north of the pond. After the work, that area would also be replanted if need be.

It would take about a year to complete such a project. Plantings would need to take place in the spring so completion depends on when the project is begun. Dredging can take place in the winter according to Mr. Schneider. It appears that unless this project gets on an extremely fast track, it will not be completed until 2011. If….the money comes through.

Legislator Bosworth told the Record that she is determined to keep her pledge to get this project done.

Prevention of Future Silting

Given how expensive such projects are and how damaging run-off and stormwater debris is, it is equally important for municipalities, towns and villages that are part of the watershed to take strong action to enforce erosion controls on construction projects and to clean storm basins regularly. Preventive action saves time and money in the long run.

(Editor’s note: We will report on the Gristmill restoration project in a future article.)