The Gowanus Canal will become a hot-sheets motel for area fish, thanks to cleanup measures proposed by the city.
Sometime in the middle of the next decade, once the city completes its ongoing restoration project, those murky waters will host an aquatic sexual revolution.
“We’ve increased the water quality so much that creatures are living in the canal, not just dying in it,” boasted Kevin Clarke of the Department of Environmental Protection during a Community Board 6 meeting on Monday night.
And once the levels of dissolved oxygen increase, those fish will start propagating, Clarke said. (Of course, those horny halibuts will also need a sex-ed course, given the Gowanus’s recent gonorrhea diagnosis.)
The good news for humans is that city’s $125-million cleanup package will do more than transform the canal into an underwater lovers’ lane.
“Improving a habitat [for fish] leads to improvements in the human environment,” said Mark Lulka of the Army Corps of Engineers, saying that the waterway will eventually be safe for recreational uses, like kayaking (but not swimming) and will have less floating debris and hovering fumes.
DEP has been studying the canal for six years and on Monday updated the community on its existing plans:
• Modernizing the unreliable flushing tunnel that brings in comparatively fresh water from the Buttermilk Channel. Repairs are scheduled for next summer.
• Increasing the capacity of the pumping system that pushes sewage to the Red Hook treatment plant. (Currently, when it rains, sewers overflow and dump 300 million gallons of waste annually into the canal before it gets to the plant.)
• Dredging a 750-foot stretch of the canal’s bottom, where most of the toxins are buried.
• Using a vessel to skim garbage off the water.
There is mounting pressure from developers and some mixed signals from the Bloomberg administration to see the area surrounding the canal, once a manufacturing center, readied for housing and commercial uses (see Ariella Cohen’s column at left). For instance, the city expects to select a developer in 2008 for that 11-acre brownfield on Smith Street between Fifth and Huntington streets.
The rush to redevelop the Gowanus area might guarantee a full-scale land and water cleanup or it might be done in a piecemeal fashion with the risk of lingering contamination.
“We’re at a crossroads,” said CB 6 District Manger Craig Hammerman. “We’ve finally gotten the attention of all the agencies we need to address the environmental conditions on the canal, but after getting their attention, it’s still unclear of what the outcomes will be.”