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County seeks federal funds for Bay Park project

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County officials and labor leaders have requested a $503 million federal infrastructure stimulus package to help fund the completion of the Bay Park Conveyance Project and 11 other infrastructure projects across the county.

“I’m calling on our federal representatives to approve this infrastructure stimulus package to help us build back a county that is stronger than ever,” County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement. “Infrastructure investments are the foundation of our economic recovery — and essential to getting thousands of people back to work.”

Curran said the county estimates that more than 3,300 full-time construction jobs would be created in Nassau if the stimulus were approved and all the projects were to move forward, creating an economic output of more than $400 million.

The County Legislature voted unanimously on Nov. 25 to approve a design-build contract between the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and Western Bays Constructors for the $439 million conveyance project.

The plan is to restore the Western Bays ecosystem by sending treated wastewater from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant to the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant’s ocean outfall pipe through underground tunnels and a more than 100-year-old aqueduct underneath Sunrise Highway. The project will prevent wastewater — and the nitrogen it contains — from entering the Western Bays, which environmentalists and elected leaders have said will improve the bays’ water quality.

Construction is expected to begin early next year.

Built in 1949, the Bay Park plant serves more than a half-million Nassau residents and discharges an average of 52 million gallons of treated effluent into the Western Bays each day, damaging some 10,000 acres of water and tidal marshland. The nitrogen contained in effluent causes seaweed to grow to unnatural lengths, robbing the waterways of the dissolved oxygen needed to sustain marine life.

The county comptroller, its financial control board and Curran must approve the design-build contract before it is submitted to the state DEC, attorney general and comptroller for final approval. Construction of the project will take less than three years.

U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat who represents the 4th District, said she supports the federal stimulus proposal because of “unprecedented fiscal constraints” created by the pandemic, which have put several infrastructure projects on hold across the county. Among the restraints is limited access to financial markets, constraining Nassau’s ability to borrow for capital projects.

“As we continue to fight this virus, investments in our infrastructure will be essential for getting people back to work again,” Rice said in a statement.

Despite financial constraints, county officials have received the necessary approvals to move forward with the 12 projects in the stimulus plan, including Bay Park.

“The construction industry was hit hard by the pandemic, with over 37,000 jobs lost on Long Island,” Curran said in a statement. “Delays to infrastructure improvements are costly and have a rippling effect on our economy. When roads and bridges are poor, shipments of products are slower, vacant storefronts are harder to fill, and employees have a more difficult time getting to work. Robust federal stimulus is vital to preventing further economic catastrophe.”