Damage to Jamaica Bay from Hurricane Sandy

8153926939_f01a9a2040Photo courtesy of Jamaica Bay Lives

As the residential communities of the Rockaways and Broad Channel continue their storm clean up and recovery efforts, attention turns to the impact of the storm on the local ecosystem.

Aside from the obvious damage to the shoreline and dunes, the delicate ecosystem of Jamaica Bay suffered what may be irreversible damage. Two man-made ponds in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge have been breached by the salt water of the bay. The West Pond breach is “big enough to sail a boat through” according to local author and filmmaker Dan Hendrick. Absent a significant investment of federal funding, the West Pond breach is likely to be permanent. The impact on the migration and mating habits of fresh waterfowl in the Northeast remains to be seen.

The breach in East Pond, adjacent to the A train, contributed to the destruction of those subway tracks and signal system. The pond is likely to be repaired as the MTA rebuilds that section of track, which is still underway.

There is also the damage from oil and sewage that leaked into the Bay due to the storm, as well as a tremendous amount of debris from homes, boats and businesses that were carried back into the Bay when the surge receded. Boaters, fishers and beachgoers alike are urged to use caution when the weather warms up.

Hendrick is the author of Jamaica Bay, a photo and narrative retrospective of the Bay and it’s inhabitants dating back to the pre-Colonial era. He is also the producer of the upcoming documentary Jamaica Bay Lives. The documentary was originally conceived as a historical look at the much-maligned and overlooked Bay and the role it has played in the local community. Since the storm, Hendrick is rebooting the film to present the issue of climate change in an urban setting, and hopefully to create a “political constituency” for Jamaica Bay. In a Daily News editorial published earlier this month, Hendrick wrote:

“The fate of Jamaica Bay….is an enormous question mark. But it is precisely because so many challenges exist in such a small area that Jamaica Bay can serve as an invaluable yardstick to gauge our progress and mettle.”

The film is slated to be released in 2014.

The Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, an organization of local residents and informal guardians of the Bay, will hold their first post-Sandy Task Force meeting on January 29th in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Visitor Center. Representatives from the National Parks Service, Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers are expected to be on hand to discuss the damage to the Bay and their respective rebuilding plans.

Jamaica Bay Lives’ photostream on flickr