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Source: North Fork Patch

Cuomo: New York State Will Sue Over Dredge Spoil Dumping in Long Island Sound

The governor joined forces with environmentalists and elected officials who've been crying out about the dumping for months.


Posted: August 5, 2016
Originally Published: August 4, 2016

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has one word for continued dredge spoil dumping in eastern Long Island Sound: No.

At a press conference Thursday held in Sunken Meadow State Park, Cuomo announced that New York State will take legal action against the United States Environmental Protection Agency to prevent the designation of new permanent open water disposal sites off the coast of eastern Long Island.

In a letter signed by more than 30 federal, state and local elected officials, the governor provided notice to President Barack Obama and EPA officials that the state will take necessary steps to prevent the EPA from issuing a rule allowing dredged materials from Connecticut to be dumped in the eastern region of the Long Island Sound.

The EPA has failed to show that there is need for an additional disposal site, Cuomo said, adding that the state objects to the dumping on the eastern end of Long Island, a tourist destination and ecologically vital areas, he said.

A copy of the letter sent to President Obama and EPA Administrators can be viewed here.

“The Long Island Sound is one of New York’s greatest natural treasures and a vital component of Long Island’s tourism industry," Cuomo said. “The EPA’s plan to establish a new disposal site not only poses a major threat to this ecologically vital habitat, but impedes our progress in ending open water dumping in Long Island’s waters once and for all. This state is committed to ensuring the Sound remains a viable source of economic and tourist activity and we will continue to take any action necessary to preserve this precious jewel for generations to come.”

In 2005, New York State called for, and EPA agreed to, establish a goal of reducing or eliminating dredged material disposal in the open waters of the Long Island Sound, he said.

The recent EPA decision to allow new dumping sites in eastern Long Island Sound contradicts this agreement, Cuomo maintained.

Currently two dredged material disposal sites exist in the Sound, where sediment has been dumped since the 1980s, including Western Long Island Sound and Central Long Island Sound. The EPA designated the Western and Central Long Island Sound as ocean disposal sites for long-term use. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been using the eastern sites for short term disposal and now EPA is proposing to make these sites long-term permanent sites, he explained.

The EPA claims that the Central and Western disposal sites do not have the capacity to accept additional dredged materials and has issued a proposed rule, making the short-term dumping sites in eastern Long Island Sound, which are scheduled to expire on December 23, 2016, permanent, he said.

A New York State review found that eastern Long Island sound disposal sites are not necessary because there is enough capacity at the Central and Western Long Island Sound sites to meet the needs of future dredged material disposal, Cuomo said.

Over the past six years, New York State has made significant investments to combat the threat to the waters around Long Island and restore its water quality, Cuomo said.

State and local governments along the Sound in New York have spent nearly $2 billion to build or upgrade sewage treatment plants to restore water quality and protect drinking water from Long Island’s aquifers, and environmentalists have banded together to protest the dumping of dredge spoils.

“I'm very grateful to Governor Cuomo and New York State for taking this important action to protect the Long Island Sound," said Rep. Lee Zeldin. "Any continuation of open water dumping in the Eastern Long Island Sound is unacceptable after the EPA committed to close these sites at the end of this year. So much progress has been made in saving the Sound, one the nation’s most critical and populated watersheds. It is critical that the EPA and Army Corps do not impede this progress through this misguided proposal."

He added, "The Long Island Sound shouldn't be a dumping ground, especially when there are many viable alternatives to open water dumping, including recycling and safe disposal on land."

Other elected officials agreed.

“The natural beauty of Long Island Sound makes Suffolk County a special destination for fishing, boating, and boundless tourism opportunities. I proudly support Governor Cuomo's letter to the EPA — sending a message to the federal government that the Sound is ours to cherish, and ours to protect," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, supported the governor's charge: “Governor Cuomo is standing up to protect our national treasure — The Long Island Sound. Environmental and civic groups have consistently and rigorously opposed EPA’s dredge dumping scheme. The public loves this water body and has always considered the Long Island Sound to be an extension of our home. We consider the Sound as our front yard, or our back yard, but never as a junk yard. We expect the EPA to protect the Sound, not pollute the Sound."

This summer, Esposito said, humpback whales and dolphins have been seen once again visiting the Sound, a sign that restoration efforts are working.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who was unable to make the event Thursday, applauded the governor's announcement.

"I am pleased that New York has stepped in to help Congressman Zeldin, Senator Kenneth LaValle, Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo, Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski and other East End representatives to wage this battle that has gone on for some time now."