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New York — The New York City Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Design and Construction (DDC) announced that the ongoing $48 million expansion of the Staten Island Bluebelt in the South Shore’s Woodrow area received the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s (ISI) Envision Silver Award. The Award recognizes projects that foster a dramatic and necessary improvement in the sustainability, performance and resiliency of infrastructure. The selection process reviews project performance across 60 sustainability criteria, including community, quality of life, management, planning, materials, energy, water, environmental impacts, emissions, and resilience.

Currently, very few streets in this area are equipped with catch basins or storm sewers and roadway flooding often occurs during heavy rain storms. The project will add more than three miles of storm sewers, install hundreds of catch basins, replace existing water mains, and include the largest ever expansion of the Bluebelt system. The catch basins will allow precipitation to drain from the roadways into the new storm sewers which will then direct it to the Bluebelt wetland where it will be naturally filtered to protect the environment. In addition, four miles of new sanitary sewers will be installed that will allow nearly 600 homes to connect to the city sewer system, and discontinue the use of septic tanks. The project, which is expected to be completed later this year, is being funded by DEP and managed by DDC.

“The Bluebelt system on Staten Island has proven to effectively manage stormwater and this $48 million investment is the largest ever expansion of the program,” said DEP Acting Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “We thank our partners at DDC for professionally managing this project, which will improve the quality of life for residents and raise the value of their properties.”

“The Bluebelt system has proven to be an environmentally sustainable and cost effective way to manage stormwater drainage in Staten Island, while preserving and enhancing beautiful wetland ecosystems,” said DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. “We’re very pleased to partner with DEP to help the people of Staten Island, and we are honored to collect our first Envision Award from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure.”

The award winning Bluebelt program preserves natural drainage corridors such as streams and ponds, and optimizes them to help control and filter stormwater. As part of this project, the stormwater that is collected from local roadways will be directed to a new wetland that will be built on city-owned property at the east end of Sheldon Avenue. The work will include the planting of 723 canopy trees, 166 shrubs, 36,850 plants and wildflowers, and 115,000 square feet of seeding. The Bluebelt will hold and naturally filter the stormwater before it eventually drains into the Arthur Kill.

Over the last 10 years, DEP has built Bluebelts for approximately one third of Staten Island’s land area. In the South Richmond and mid-Island areas, the city has purchased approximately 400 acres of wetland property for Bluebelts that provide drainage for 19 watersheds, covering about 14,000 acres. The Bluebelts also provide important open spaces and serve as a habitat for diverse wildlife. Expanding the use of Bluebelts to reduce flooding and improve the water quality of New York Harbor is one of the operational goals outlined in Strategy 2011-2014, a far-reaching strategic plan that lays out 100 distinct initiatives to make DEP the safest, most efficient, cost-effective, and transparent water utility in the nation.

While the roadway is opened to add the new sewers, the city will also upgrade the drinking water delivery system by replacing the old cast iron water mains with new ductile iron mains. As part of the project, 12,580 linear feet of 8- and 12-inch-diameter distribution water mains will be installed. Upgrading the water main network will help to ensure a reliable supply of high quality drinking water for area residents and businesses.

ISI describes its Envision process as a rating system for sustainable infrastructure providing “a holistic framework for evaluating and rating the community, environmental, and economic benefits of all types and sizes of infrastructure projects.” It covers a broad range of criteria to address a project’s impact on the surrounding community and environment, technical considerations regarding materials and processes, and other critical choices spanning a project’s life cycle. Envision also helps communities and elected officials make responsible choices about their natural resources.

The ISI’s Envision Silver Award is granted when a project fosters a dramatic and necessary improvement in the sustainability performance and resiliency of infrastructure, and is issued as a result of an independent peer-review process conducted and overseen by the ISI. The evaluation assesses project performance across 60 sustainability criteria addressing a wide range of indicators including community, quality of life, management, planning, materials, energy, water, environmental impacts, emissions, and resilience.

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