Leading the Natural Resources and Permitting Efforts for a Critical New York City Aqueduct

Delaware Aqueduct Rondout-West Branch Tunnel Repair Program


Delaware Aqueduct Rondout-West Branch Tunnel Repair Program


Various Locations, NY


New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP)

AKRF led the environmental assessment and permitting efforts for the Delaware Aqueduct Rondout-West Branch Tunnel (RWBT) Repair Program, which aims to repair leaks in an aqueduct that conveys approximately 50 percent of the drinking water for New York City.

The construction of the bypass tunnel involved multiple geographic and jurisdictional challenges and complex project phasing. It required extensive permit and approval requirements and detailed technical analyses in a number of environmental areas, including traffic, air quality, noise, visual impacts, and impacts to historic and natural resources.

In our assessment of potential impacts to natural resources, AKRF developed and coordinated field survey protocol and scheduling of site reconnaissance activities.

The scope of our natural resources services for this project included:

  • Conducting seasonal reconnaissance surveys of birds, reptiles, and amphibians at the proposed tunnel shaft sites
  • Identifying potential Indiana Bat summer roosting habitat trees within the areas of disturbance for the project
  • Conducting fish and benthic macroinvertebrate surveys in freshwater streams within the project area
  • Preparing the natural resources analyses for the┬áEnvironmental Impact Statement (EIS), including characterizing and assessing impacts to aquatic resources, wetlands, floodplains, terrestrial vegetation and wildlife and threatened or endangered species

The preparation of the first EIS for the program and the federal, state and local permits and approvals proceeded simultaneously, to ensure that the program met the 2013 groundbreaking date.

Working in close collaboration with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) Bureau of Environmental Planning and Analysis (BEPA) and the Bureau of Engineering Design and Construction (BEDC) Permit Resource Division (PRD), AKRF led the effort to identify all federal, state, and local permits and approvals necessary to begin site preparation and shaft construction for the RWBT bypass tunnel, as well as to construct the tunnel itself and connect it to the existing aqueduct.

Alongside the permits and approvals process, AKRF prepared a City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR)/State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) EIS to evaluate potential impacts resulting from construction of the shafts and bypass tunnel. As with permitting, it was essential to work closely with project designers to achieve consensus on the design decisions and information necessary to complete the EIS analyses.

Natural Resources Overview