Eighty percent of the streets in and around Midland Beach, Staten Island flood regularly due to lack of storm sewers. “Chronic flooding is [an] ongoing problem for homeowners and was exacerbated during Sandy,” says the City.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced yesterday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved $33 million in federal funding for the Staten Island Bluebelt which could help address this situation.
Twenty-four acres in Midland Beach will be added to the Bluebelt, which is managed by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Schumer described the Bluebelt as “a critical resiliency project.”
The Bluebelt provides an “ecologically sound and efficient” stormwater management system for one-third of Staten Island’s land area, the City said in a statement.
How Does the Bluebelt Work?
The Bluebelt “preserves and enhances wetland stream corridors to convey and cleanse stormwater, while conventional storm sewers transmit stormwater to the corridors from streets in watershed areas that are adjacent,” says the City.
Bluebelt drainage systems are in the process of being built out on the South Shore of Staten Island—in 15 watersheds plus the Richmond Creek watershed—amounting to a total watershed area of about 10,000 acres. The City says it is also in the process of developing more Bluebelts in the Mid-Island area.
Expanding this “already large” Bluebelt drainage system to Midland Beach will bring natural flood control to new neighborhoods “that desperately need it,” the City noted.
“Restoring and expanding the Bluebelt program will allow for damaged stream corridors and wetlands to be returned to their natural ecological state. By creating large wetland areas, this project will also limit the risk of harm to people living in the area,” the City added.
Federal Commitment to Flood Plains
Funding for the Midland Beach project is being routed through the federal Emergency Watershed Protection Program, and comes via a Schumer-sponsored Sandy Relief Bill. Schumer secured an additional $7.5 million for the Staten Island Bluebelt in an earlier round of USDA funding.
According to the Mayor’s office, “Senator Schumer fought to include $180 million for Emergency Watershed Protection projects in the Sandy Supplemental.”
Through the Watershed Protection program, the federal government helps to support the restoration and building of floodplains, which by storing water, offer a degree of protection to lands further downstream.
“Restoring these ecosystems ensures they are resilient to future storms. NRCS [USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service] obtains easements and restores the area to natural conditions, which enhances fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention and ground water recharge.”
Schumer and de Blasio said that another $17.4 million in USDA funding will be used for the purchase of nine acres of floodplain easements on flood prone property in Midland Beach, and $5.9 million will go toward the purchase of 3.25 acres of floodplain easements in New Dorp.
“This is great news for both Midland Beach and New Dorp Beach residents,” said Borough President James Oddo. “Due to their geography, these communities are always at risk of flooding, even in relatively minor storms. The Bluebelt is meant to help alleviate those conditions.”
“Much of the flooding problem,” said the City “is a result of the loss of freshwater and tidal wetlands in the region, and this project would remove the invasive species that are responsible for this problem.”
The City added that some homes adjacent to the Bluebelt will eventually be acquired by the State, which will also help reduce flooding risk in Staten Island’s hardest hit areas.
Photo credit: H.L.I.T. via Creative Commons