City Seeks Developers to Restore Staten Island Marsh

By Nicholas Rizzi on May 14, 2013 7:48am 

 The city's Economic Development Corporation is aiming to restore up to 10 acres of degraded wetland in Saw Mill Creek Marsh.
The city's Economic Development Corporation is aiming to restore up to 10 acres of degraded wetland in Saw Mill Creek Marsh.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

BLOOMFIELD — New York City is seeking developers to help restore up to 10 acres of degraded wetlands in Saw Mill Creek Marsh, the city's Economic Development Corporation announced.

The program, scheduled to begin in March and estimated to cost $10 million, would establish "mitigation banks." Developers who participate would be given "credits," which they could then sell to developers seeking to build on coastal properties in other parts of Staten Island, EDC officials said.

State law requires developers who plan to build near wetlands to restore the land in order to mitigate the environmental impact of their projects — work that often proves pricey and time consuming.

“These factors inhibit economic growth and job creation tied to new housing, commercial development, transportation, infrastructure, open space and working waterfront projects along the city’s waterfront,” EDC officials wrote in the request for proposals released Friday.

The mitigation bank, by contrast, would allow builders to purchase credits that would fund wetland-restoration projects in other parts of the borough, presumably off-setting the environmental degradation wrought by their own developments.

“Mitigation banking provides opportunities through developer contributions to fund larger scale restoration of greater ecological significance rather than finding and constructing mitigation on site," the EDC stated.

Many acres of wetland, which provide a natural buffer from storm surges, sit degraded because of lack of funding. The mitigation bank could help restore those sites by restoring adequate water supplies, oxygen levels and hydric soils, according to the EDC.

“In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, wetland restoration can play an important role in the city’s efforts to rebuild more resiliently because wetlands act as a natural buffer for upland communities,” the EDC stated.

Saw Mill Creek Marsh, the site of the pilot program, is a brackish creek that empties into the Arthur Kill River. The creek's watershed contains about 100 acres of tidal wetlands, marshlands, mudflats and riparian zones.

Similar programs have been implemented in 28 other states, such as New Jersey, Washington and California. If the Staten Island pilot proves a success, the city will explore launching mitigation banks in other parts of the city, EDC officials told DNAinfo New York.

The deadline for developers to submit proposals to the city is Monday, June 3.

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