Gowanus Canal

Located in western Brooklyn, Gowanus Canal extends approximately 1.5 miles, from its northern terminus at Butler Street in the Boerum Hill section, to a line drawn between the western shoreline at Clinton Street and the eastern shore at 25th Street, beyond which the Canal opens into Gowanus Bay and ultimately to Upper New York Bay. The Canal has four short branches that historically served as “turning basins” to allow vessels to reverse direction. Gowanus Canal’s watershed is approximately 1,758 acres, of which 1,612 acres are served by combined sewers draining to either the Red Hook or to the Owls Head Wastewater Resource Recovery Facilities. There are a total of 11 CSOs that can discharge to the Canal.

The present character of Gowanus Canal and its drainage area is considerably different than the character of its pre-urbanized condition. Originally a tidal creek winding through marshland, the waterbody was dredged, straightened and bulkheaded as the surrounding area was drained, urbanized and industrialized during the development of New York City. By 1870, the waterbody had been transformed to very near its present configuration, and Gowanus Canal was serving as a major industrial waterway through which materials were brought to and from the area industries. The surrounding area had been fully urbanized and industrialized, with sewage and industrial wastes discharging directly to the Canal without treatment, and the natural marshlands and freshwater streams had been replaced with combined sewers and storm drains. The urbanization of the surrounding drainage area resulted in an estimated three-fold increase in the annual runoff volume and a six-fold increase in the peak runoff rate to the waterbody. Stripped of the surrounding buffers of marshland and its natural freshwater flow, the waterbody was deprived of any natural response mechanisms that might have helped absorb the increased hydraulic and pollutant loads. The Canal’s limited circulation and exchange with New York Harbor waters allowed pollutants to build up within the Canal, and water quality deteriorated to such an extent that Gowanus Canal was notorious as a polluted waterway.

Long Term Control Plan

DEP completed a Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) to better understand CSO impacts on water quality within Gowanus Canal. Throughout the LTCP’s development the City collected water quality data, performed extensive modeling, held multiple public meeting and analyzed potential projects based on costs and anticipated water quality. To learn more about the Gowanus Canal LTCP and other improvement projects, download the factsheet.

The Gowanus Canal LTCP was submitted in June 2015. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) approved the plan on March 29, 2017.

Public Meetings

Waterbody/Watershed Facility Plan

The Gowanus Canal Waterbody/Watershed Facility Plan was submitted to DEC in July 14, 2009

Additional Materials

Get Involved

For more information, please email ltcp@dep.nyc.gov and visit our LTCP Program webpage.