Dredging in NYC Coastal Waterways Results in a State Park

The idea of dredging is not a new one, but the results of those efforts to recycle what is dredged largely goes unnoticed. Dredging occurs on our coastal waterways in order to combat erosion and urban runoff that changes the landscape of regularly used shipping lanes in our oceans. Dredging is even used offshore from beaches, such as in North Carolina, to replenish a reshaping beach line that threatens our recreational and living habits.

First, it is important to understand that dredging is the removal of sediment that settles in gullies in the ocean as tides and waves change the general shape of the bottom of the ocean. Furthermore, the dredging of navigation channels, approach channels, berths at marine terminals and marinas has been happening in some coastal cities, such as New York, since the 19th century. While technology may change to increase efficiency, conscious companies are now concerned with the environment.

A huge push to recycle dredged sediment has happened in the last couple of decades. Most often, reusing dredged material is a challenge due to contamination from the absorption of spilled chemicals and heavy metals in the waterways. This makes management of dredging expensive at times.

New York City is one of the places along our coastal waterways that actively seeks to recycle our recovered sediments through landfill reclamation, habitat restoration, and beach replenishment. But, in the 1990’s, the dumping of dredged materials ceased and innovative ways to reuse the sediment became an economic priority.

Prior to 2009, NYC successfully completed a pilot project that mixed dredged material with Portland Cement in order to create a “contour layer” over a landfill at Pennsylvania and Fountain Avenue in Brooklyn. Nearly one million cubic yards of processed material was later successfully laid down at Fresh Kills landfill transforming it into a 2,200 acre public park which is three times the size of Central Park.

NYC residents and visitors alike can now enjoy another park that is critical to an environmentally safe practice becoming a benefit rather than a burden.

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