About Staten Island
Staten Island Degradation
The Delta is a critical stopover and winter home for migrating bird populations, including Sandhill Cranes, one of the oldest species of living birds. Unfortunately, the degraded condition of Staten Island, a 9,000+ acre island adjacent to the Wetlands Preservation Foundation’s preserve (The Black Hole), has become a significant threat to the North Delta ecosystem. The management of these two adjacent Delta properties has been vastly different.
Since the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) acquisition of Staten Island in 2001, they have jointly degraded the property principally by continually planting sub-irrigated corn crops year after year. Growing sub-irrigated corn (instead of a summer-flooded crop like rice) causes soil oxidation. TNC / DWR’s 17 years of mismanagement directly resulted in Staten Island’s soil subsidence, as well as a series of related degradations.
Over the past 17 years, TNC’s mismanagement of Staten Island has; resulted in the loss of almost 1 million cubic yards of soil each year; lowered Staten Island field elevations; and increased failure risks of Staten Island levees. Additionally, Staten’s drainage system has not been maintained, leading to increased seepage and crop-inhibiting accumulation of soil salts.
TNC’s behavior has measurably increased the risks of Staten Island experiencing levee failure and flooding. Neither the DWR or TNC has shown any intention of changing course to address this dangerous situation. If Staten Island’s levees fail and the island floods, there will be serious consequences not only for the Sandhill Cranes’ annual migration and for the local agricultural economy, but also for adjacent islands.
In the Delta, persistent land subsidence degrades the internal stability of levees. For example, as field elevations subside, channel-water pressure increases, resulting in increased seepage through levee cores, and in times of high runoffs, liquefaction of levee foundations.
On Staten Island, TNC has failed to live up to its once-proud environmental traditions. In addition to the mismanagement and degradation of Staten Island’s natural resources, TNC has served its institutional self-interests (and breached its Staten Island conservation contract) by extracting Staten Island farming profits rather than re-investing in the island’s long-term sustainability.