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Jamaica Bay Borrow Pit Evaluation Project

The following documents are for reference. The Borrow Pit Restoration project is currently inactive. If you have questions about these documents, please email

Between 2000 and 2003 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) conducted a study of the potential for environmental restoration of underwater pits in Jamaica Bay using sediments dredged from the New York-New Jersey Harbor. The study stemmed from the 1999 Dredged Material Management Plan (DMMP) for the Port of New York and New Jersey. The DMMP identified the reclamation of borrow pits as a potential beneficial use of dredged sediment. Borrow pits are depressions on the bay floor that were once mined for fill material to create upland areas such as JFK International Airport.

The study looked at pits in Norton Basin and in Little Bay, two embayments in the southeast corner of Jamaica Bay. NYSDEC and USACOE examined the ecological conditions of these areas as a first step in evaluating the needs and opportunities to bring aquatic life back to these pit areas.

This Phase One study effort culminated in a series of findings and recommendations, which are presented in a formal Findings Statement (PDF). A Technical Evaluation Panel, comprised of experts from City, State, and Federal natural resource agencies, found that the pits in Little Bay are substantially impaired below approximately 25 feet, and that two pits in Norton Basin are impaired below a depth of approximately 30 feet. Depressed dissolved oxygen levels, low quality bottom sediments, and low numbers of benthic organisms are characteristics of these pits. Additionally, Little Bay was found to support almost no finfish. Based on the results of the study, the Panel recommended proceeding to an evaluation of alternatives for improving conditions in these pits. Each alternative would necessarily have to improve tidal circulation within the basins to improve water quality and sediment quality. Suggested options included recontouring the pits, improving the existing inlet, and establishing additional inlets.

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