EPA Green Lights Bluebelt Expansion (USA)

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer yesterday announced that, after his push, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has dropped their objection to the Staten Island Bluebelt expansion project to get underway.

The Bluebelt expansion project recently received $7.5 million in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) after another push by Senator Schumer. Without permission from the EPA, however, the project would not have been able to get underway even though the funds have been secured. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been seeking the necessary permits for the Bluebelt expansion since early 2013.

The Bluebelt provides a storm water management system for one-third of Staten Island and is strongly supported by elected officials and community groups. Hurricane Sandy’s flooding devastated areas of Staten Island and an expansion of the Bluebelt is needed to control future flooding and to provide the basis for future flood mitigation projects.

“I am pleased that the EPA has given the necessary green light to the Bluebelt expansion, which Staten Island so urgently needs to implement environmentally smart and effective anti-flooding measures,” said Schumer. “The tremendous damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy to both inland and shoreline areas in Staten Island made it crystal clear that we need to enhance our flood mitigation and sewer capacity measures throughout the borough, and now we have both the approval and funding we need to do just that. The New York City Bluebelt plan is creative, cost-effective and sorely needed to control the post-storm flooding that plagues so many parts of Staten Island – the faster we get going on this project, the better.”

New York City DEP has been looking to expand the Bluebelt since before Hurricane Sandy demonstrated the critical need for enhanced flood mitigation measures, and a key part of the project – creek and pond dredging – will be done in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). In order to begin this work, a USACE permit was need, but the EPA objected due to “unsatisfactory” conceptual plans.

As a result, Schumer worked with New York City and the feds to reach in agreement, and in a letter from EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck to Colonel Paul Owen, USACE District Commander, EPA has given long-awaited approval to the project. This approval, along with the recently announced federal funding from USDA, will allow the project to get underway.

Press Release, January 31, 2014

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