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Bay Park plan moves ahead, despite crisis

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With the coronavirus pandemic leaving many construction projects in limbo, Nassau County officials are still eying early 2021 to begin building the $408 million Bay Park Conveyance Project.

The project will send treated wastewater, from the Bay Park Water Reclamation Facility to an ocean outfall pipe at the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh, by way of a 100-year-old aqueduct beneath Sunrise Highway.

“As far as the pandemic is concerned, so much is uncertain at this time,” said Brian Schneider, the deputy county executive for parks and public works. “I can’t give much other than to say we are proceeding on the procurement end at this time.”

Schneider said the county released a request for proposals to three design-build teams, and the project was expected to be completed in about three years, but he could not give a more exact timetable.

The county will have to construct a two-mile-long pipe, 40 to 50 feet below ground, to connect the Bay Park plant to the aqueduct. Most of the way, it will be built on public land. In seven locations, however, it will run underneath private property, which will require easements from the homeowners, even though construction will be underground and will not affect the properties.

It is one of two underground pipes that must be built. The other is in Wantagh.

The property owners received notices about the project, and county officials hosted a public hearing in February, at which they presented the plan and invited public comment. If the property owners do not agree to easements, county officials have the authority to work beneath the properties by right of eminent domain.

“The easement has no impact on the use of the property, as we are only looking for an easement where the pipe is, some 40 to 50 feet below grade,” Schneider said. “There is no digging on their properties, no equipment and no manholes. They won’t even know that the pipe is being installed.”

The design-build team will be tasked with creating a pump station at Bay Park, relining the Sunrise Highway aqueduct, building the pipeline from Bay Park to Sunrise and from Sunrise to the connection at the Cedar Creek outfall.

The Bay Park, Long Beach and Lawrence treatment plants have, for more than half a century, sent treated wastewater into the Western Bays. The nitrogen-rich effluent accelerates algae growth, and as the algae breaks apart in the tides, it rots, robbing marine life of dissolved oxygen, causing “dead zones.”

When complete, the project will stop 19 billion gallons of treated wastewater from entering Reynolds Channel and the Western Bays per year, reducing nitrogen loading in the waterways by 95 percent, according to county officials.

They also estimate the project will save the county nearly $200 million, compared to the price of constructing a new outfall pipe from Bay Park across Reynolds Channel and Long Beach and into the Atlantic, which was estimated at $600 million.

When requests for qualifications from design-build teams were sent out in December, County Executive Laura Curran specified what officials were looking for.

“Great projects are led by a great team,” she said. “. . . The state and county are seeking a highly qualified team of design-build firms to clean up the bays, restore the marine ecosystem and restore storm/buffering marshes to make the South Shore more storm-resilient.”