Friday, July 24, 2015

2015 Shorebird Season in Jeopardy at Jamaica Bay?

Not so fast! If I were the type to throw in the towel, I would have thrown my hands in the air and walked away after taking an East Pond water level read out on June 12th. On that day, I could see the water level dropping as evidenced by the old water mark on the Phragmites but something seemed amiss. Not again was the first thought I had!

Every summer, shorebirders in the NY area especially from the 5 boroughs and Long Island, look forward to the annual pilgrimage to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens. With the West Pond pretty much out of commission, due to Hurricane Sandy, the East Pond has become even more critical as a stopover site for migrating shorebirds as they rely on the fresh water habitat to feed and rest. The pond therefore has to be carefully managed in terms of water level and this is where we have encountered problems in the past for a number of reasons.

On June 12th, I had this feeling of 2011 all over again. I knew the water level was too high but waited until I got home to look at my data from the past few years.  After looking at the data, I was still not sure, so I decided to give it a few days and did another read out. This time I was confident once I compared the dates and water level over the past few years. We were behind on the draw down.

I alerted NPS (National Park Service) management and after some fact checking, a bit of back and forth and public outcry, we finally had some movement into investigating the issue. It turned out, that the outflow pipe had some blockage and additionally, leakage and a collapsed area was discovered. NPS to their credit, is trying to salvage the season and as of today, they are in the process of implementing a short term solution by sleeving an area of corroded pipe with PVC replacement. With the blockage cleared and collapsed pipe removed the pond is draining at a healthy clip. I expect, we should see ample mudflats showing up in a week or two especially if this dry spell continues. Perhaps all of this is just in the nick of time to save the shorebird season at Jamaica Bay. Let the Water Flow!

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