Standing water

Standing water

Story By: ANTHONY PERROTTA
10/11/2018


OAKDALE—The Oakdale Marsh Restoration and Public Access Project was discussed during a community meeting last week at the West Sayville Fire Department. This publication ran an initial report, “Drama resurfaces on Oakdale marshland” (Oct. 4, 2018), about the heated meeting. However, like the marshland, it seems the plans remain stagnant.

It was at the meeting that officials from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Louis Berger engineering group presented to local residents three separate plans regarding the Grand Canal’s future. 

None of these plans included dredging the canal, which seemed to frustrate many residents. 

The first and third options for the canal were the most notable, with the first involving no action being taken. The third option, which was recommended by officials, provides “long-term storm resiliency through marsh restoration” by allowing “natural processes and sedimentation to occur.” 

The marsh’s restoration is a NY Rising Community Reconstruction project under the purview of the GOSR, officials say. The local community Reconstruction Planning Committee, which is composed of community members and leaders, identified the restoration as a priority, officials added. 

The overall purpose of the project, according to officials, is to increase the flow of water to and from the 87-acre Pickman-Remmer salt marsh wetland in order to reduce flooding in populated areas, improve the quality and resiliency of the wetlands and their ability to absorb and channel stormwater, control invasive species and naturally reduce the mosquito population. 

The project would also provide some public access for wildlife viewing and hiking trails in environmentally compatible locations, officials added. 

The funds for this $2 million marsh and levee improvement project come from the state’s federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery allocation of $4.5 billion, according to officials. These funds, which are managed, monitored and disbursed by GOSR, were awarded in response to and made available after Hurricane Sandy. 

“These are federal disaster recovery funds, and the federal government sets strict rules for their use, including limiting their use to addressing conditions that arose because of the storm,” the GOSR stated. “In this case, they are applied to the work of increasing the capacity of the marsh to reduce flooding risk.” 

Officials said dredging the canal is a local concern that predates the storm. “Because of that, the federal funds that are GOSR’s to distribute are not applicable to dredging, and GOSR has no role in the dredging,” officials added. 

Legis. William Lindsay III (D-Holbrook) says he has secured funding (within the Suffolk County budget) to dredge the canal, but only in 2021, after the wetlands are restored and the two entrance points to the canal are dredged. 

Previous studies, dating back to 2016, stated that dredging the canal, without prior work being done, would only make matters worse. 

The state’s options for the canal look to restore the wetlands, but mentions nothing about dredging the canal’s entrance points, which needs to be done before the canal itself can be dredged. 

Over the past 100 years, the man-made Grand Canal of Oakdale has become so clogged and polluted that it fails to meet clean water standards. This is largely due to sewage effluent from local homes and the sewage treatment plant at the former Dowling College. 

In 2010, the remainder of the sewage capacity at Bergen Point, West Babylon, was given to Wyandanch, while the Oakdale Sewage Corp. sold all the land that was meant to be the site of an Oakdale-Sayville sewage plant to the NYSDEC. 

The wetlands that the Grand Canal support have since declined. Aerial pesticides, which are meant to deal with the rampant mosquito problem, are adding to the pollution. Saltwater tidal flushing is also at an all-time low due to shoaling and the creation of the Shore Drive Bridge, which has changed the course of the waterway. 

The Suffolk County News will be keeping up with any new information about this situation and will bring it to our readers as soon as it’s obtained.