The Staten Island Bluebelt:
A Natural Solution to Storm Water Management
Staten Island Bluebelt
The Staten Island Bluebelt is an award winning, ecologically sound and cost-effective storm water management for approximately one third of Staten Island’s land area. The program preserves natural drainage corridors, called Bluebelts, including streams, ponds, and other wetland areas. Preservation of these wetland systems allows them to perform their functions of conveying, storing, and filtering storm water. In addition, the Bluebelts provide important community open spaces and diverse wildlife habitats. The Bluebelt program saves tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure costs when compared to providing conventional storm sewers for the same land area. This program demonstrates how wetland preservation can be economically prudent and environmentally responsible.
A watershed is a geographic area that contributes water to a particular stream or water body. The current Bluebelt system drains 15 watersheds clustered at the southern end of the Island, plus the Richmond Creek watershed. The combined area of these 16 watersheds totals approximately 10,000 acres.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has completed new drainage plans for these 16 watersheds. These plans connect the natural drainage corridors with conventional storm sewers for an integrated storm water management system.
The wetlands located within the watershed areas act as flood control measures. By temporarily storing floodwaters, wetlands help protect adjacent and downstream property owners from flood damage. Urban wetlands are especially valuable in this regard because the impervious surfaces created by urban development, like streets and rooftops, increase the rate, velocity and volume of surface water runoff.
DEP has an ongoing program to purchase wetland properties for inclusion into the Bluebelt system. Other publicly and privately owned wetland areas are also incorporated into the system. These properties include New York City park land, New York State wetland preserves, Designated Open Space, and other City-owned properties.
To control storm water discharges, DEP has undertaken a major capital program to build special Bluebelt facilities where the storm sewers end and the natural areas begin. These facilities, known as Best Management Practices or BMPs, minimize the negative impacts of storm sewer discharges on those natural areas. These facilities include constructed wetlands, storm water detention ponds, and stream restoration projects.
Along with the development of these Bluebelt facilities, DEP continues to proceed with many capital storm and sanitary sewer projects in Bluebelt watersheds, as well as throughout the Island, to improve drainage for all Staten Island residents.
Bluebelt Field Management
Management Headquartered in Tottenville, Staten Island, DEP’s Bluebelt field operation maintains and manages the Bluebelt drainage system. Routine inspection and maintenance of the system helps to prevent street flooding. By keeping the Bluebelt clean, field management forces also insure that the Bluebelt will continue to be a community asset.
Due to the success of the Bluebelt system thus far, more Bluebelts in the Mid-Island area are in varying stages of development. The New Creek Bluebelt, draining a watershed of 1,700 acres, is now being acquired by DEP. Bluebelts in South Beach and Oakwood Beach are in development. A Citizens Advisory Committee is assisting DEP with this effort. DEP is proposing new drainage plans for these three watersheds – Oakwood Beach, New Creek and South Beach – within the Mid-Island Bluebelt. This proposed action includes a comprehensive stormwater management plan which includes Best Management Practices (BMPs). If approved, the construction would commence in fiscal year 2013. Visit the Mid-Island Bluebelt Drainage Plan Environmental Review page for additional information.
What you can do to help
Staten Island residents can play a vital role insupporting the Bluebelt by helping to keep streams and wetlands pristine and by protecting them from pollution.
- Become a member of the Adopt-A-Bluebelt Program. The program offers local community groups, companies and individuals an opportunity to enhance Staten Island's open spaces by acting as Sponsors who adopt parts of the Bluebelt. Under the Program, Sponsors may hire private companies as maintenance providers, to care for Bluebelt sites. Each Sponsor's generosity is acknowledged with a sign, displaying the name of the Sponsor at the adopted site.
- Organize a Bluebelt clean-up or participate in any one of DEP's Friends of the Bluebelt clean-up events held each year.
- Join a group that shares your interest in the environment such as Friends of Wood Duck Pond, Friends of Jack's Pond, your local civic association, or contact your Community Board to learn about its activities. For more information about these activities, call 311 and ask to be connected to DEP's Staten Island Bluebelt field office.
- Report illegal dumping directly to 311.
- Connect your laundry water discharge to a sanitary sewer, where available. It is the law! Laundry water pollutes the Bluebelt.
- Check your car for leaks. Take used motor oil and antifreeze to local gas stations for recycling – DON’T DUMP THEM DOWN STORM DRAINS! IT IS ILLEGAL AND POLLUTES THE ENVIRONMENT.
- Direct downspouts away from paved surfaces.
- Use biodegradable detergents when washing your car. Wash it in a location where you can minimize the flow of detergents into storm drains.
- Clean up after your pets. It’s the law! Pet waste contains harmful nutrients and pathogens that can contaminate surface water.
- Dispose of yard waste properly; don’t dump it in marshes or vacant lots. The NYC Department of Sanitation collects yard waste for composting.
- Follow directions closely when using fertilizers and pesticides to avoid polluting run-off.
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- 1996, American Rivers, Urban River Restoration Award for Staten Island Bluebelt Project
- 1997, New York Association of Consulting Engineers, Platinum Award for Richmond Creek Drainage Plan
- 2003, American Council of Consulting Engineers, National Recognition Award
- 2003, American Academy of Environmental Engineers, Honor Award
- 2003, New York Association of Consulting Engineers, Diamond Award for Blue Heron Drainage Plan