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Source: North Fork Patch

Dumping to continue in Long Island Sound for decades, elected officials, environmentalists outraged

Elected officials, environmentalists and residents begged the United States Army Corp of Engineers to consider alternatives, to no avail.


Posted: January 14, 2016
Originally Published: January 12, 2016

Despite a sea of public opposition, dumping of dredge spoils is slated to continue in the Long Island Sound for decades — and the news has environmentalists and elected officials outraged.

The United States Army Corp of Engineers has released its highly controversial Dredge Material Management Plan, which sparked heated opposition locally, opening the door for continued dumping at four sites in the Long Island Sound that were initially slated to close in 2016.

The newly released final plan calls for the renewed designation of the four sites in the Sound for open water waste disposal of dredge spoils — according to the plan, dredged materials will continue to discarded at the disposal sites for 30 years.

Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment reminded that environmentalists led a bi-state campaign in New York and Connecticut against the plan 10 years ago, when it was eventually denied by New York State. New York State will need to challenge the plan once again, if it is to be stopped, she said.

“The Army Corps simply ignored the overwhelming public comment to protect Long Island Sound and chose to advance the cheap, easy option of open water disposal instead. They plan to treat Long Island Sound as a landfill and it’s deeply disturbing,” Esposito said.

In August, Esposito and other environmentalists came before the Southold Town board, to raise their voices and ask for support.

In 2004, the DMMP was mandated from New York, Connecticut, and the Environmental Protection Agency, Esposito said, with the aim of phasing out open water dumping in the Sound and providing guidance and tools to create a vibrant re-use program for the dredge spoils.

“Instead, this document is a long-term plan to continue using our Long Island Sound as a dumpster,” she said. “The DMMP does not fulfill the mandate set forth in the agreement signed in 2004. The Army Corps’ rationale that it’s too expensive to protect the Long Island Sound is simply egregious. . . The Corps has clearly treated the public input process as a charade.”

According to a release issued by the United States Army Corp of Engineers, the final Dredged Material Management Plan and Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement were issued with options given for federal dredging projects in the Long Island Sound region.

Options were also given for non-federal dredging proponents — with potential collective federal, state, local and private dredging activities totaling approximately 53 million cubic yards over a 30-year period, the document states.

Sandy materials dredged in and around the Sound are already beneficially used for beach nourishment purposes under federal and state partnerships, and that practice is expected to grow in the future, the ACOE release states.

“Dredged materials which do not pass the stringent testing requirements and are determined to be toxic are not, and will not in the future, be placed in the open waters of Long Island Sound. These materials presently and in the future will require either containment or treatment,” the ACOE said.

But environmentalists have raised concerns regarding tidal and wave forces in the Connecticut waters that could carry toxic dredge spoils from Connecticut to the North Fork area, something that could mean potentially devastating impacts to fragile marine ecosystems.

Fine-grained dredged materials which do pass the stringent testing requirements may be used for beneficial uses such as marsh creation or remediation capping of former disposal areas, but only if state and local governments wish to sponsor such projects; federal cost sharing may be available for those uses, subject to further study, the ACOE said.

“If beneficial uses are not pursued then those materials may be placed in open water sites in the Sound,” the ACOE release read.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell voiced outrage at the ACOE’s decision: “The Army Corp of Engineers completely ignored all the voices of all of the agencies, organizations, and individuals who spoke out against this foolish plan. The Long Island Sound has been the focus of countless hours and considerable costs in an effort to restore it, recognizing its ecological significance,” he said. “To completely ignore those efforts, all for the benefit of a few private interests, speaks volumes about who the ACOE really works for.”

In August, environmentalists and residents came before the Southold Town board to discuss their anger over the plan.

The issues centered on the fact that on the North Fork, dredge materials consist largely of sand, which can be used for beach replenishment, but in Connecticut, the dredge materials contain toxic contaminants, they said.

Environmentalists cried out over a 30-day comment period, saying it did not give residents enough time to respond; that period was later lengthened.

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski has also voiced objections to the continued use of the Sound for dumping.

Today, he said, in all fairness, he has not fully read the more than-600-page document. But, he added, “Any consideration of open water dumping of dredge material is still unacceptable.” He decried the notion of state and local government sponsorships proposed for potential alternatives: “I don’t think so. The people who want to do the dredging and who are going to benefit from the dredging should sponsor the alternative uses.”

New York State Senator Ken LaValle also voiced his displeasure with the decision: “Throughout my tenure, I have worked to put in place policies and programs to protect this vitally important resource. Last year alone, we secured $5 million towards clean water studies and initiatives across Long Island,” he said. “To dump dredge spoils from potentially contaminated sites would do irreparable harm to Long Island Sound. There have been numerous studies that collectively demonstrate pollution, overfishing, and contaminated dredge material disposal have eroded the health of the Sound over time, thereby reducing its resilience capacity to deal with additional ecological stressors. I will certainly study the recommendations of the Army Corp’s Plans, but I stand by my position that the Long Island Sound should not be a dumping ground,” he said.