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Source: Hartford Courant

New York To Sue Over L.I. Sound Dredging

BY GREGORY B. HLADKY
CONTACT REPORTER

Posted: December 7, 2016
Originally Published: December 6, 2016

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed Tuesday that his state will file suit to overturn federal approval of plan to allow sludge dredged from harbors in Connecticut to be disposed of in the open waters of Long Island Sound.

The New York lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which isn't expected to be filed for at least 60 days, is the latest round in a long-running dredging dispute between Connecticut officials and those in New York.

Environmentalists in both states warn that dumping dredge sediment in an open-water site could harm the Sound's marine ecology — a claim rejected by the EPA and state environmental officials in Connecticut.

New York officials want all dredged materials to be reused to restore beaches, salt marshes and dunes, or to be disposed of someplace other than the Sound. Connecticut officials insist there is simply too much material that can't be reused, and to ship the sediment elsewhere would be prohibitively expensive.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration supports the final dredging ruling issued by the EPA last month.

"The science is clear: open water disposal is safe and doesn't harm the biological integrity of the water quality of the Sound," Chris Collibee, a Malloy spokesman, said in an emailed response to the New York lawsuit decision.

But environmental activists disagree. "EPA's expansion of dumping in Long Island Sound is a reckless plan that will damage this estuary," Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said in response to Cuomo's lawsuit decision. "Long Island Sound is an ecological gem that should not be used as a dump site."

The debate over disposal of dredge sediments in open-water sites in the Sound has been going on for years. Part of the dispute between New York and Connecticut involves the fact that most of the dredge material that would be disposed of in the open-water site is expected to come from Connecticut harbors.

The 1.5 square-mile dump site in the eastern Sound is located between New London and Fishers Island, and is within Connecticut waters. An estimated 17.9 million cubic yards of materials is expected to be dredged from Connecticut harbors in the next few decades, and only 4.7 million cubic yards from New York harbors on Long Island.

"Connecticut has significant dredging needs, far more significant than the other states that share Long Island Sound," Collibee said in his email.

Collibee noted that, since 2011, Connecticut has spent $17.5 million in state funds on maintenance dredging, and has authorized an additional $22 million for dredging through 2018.

Another issue is that dredging deep channels for submarines to reach the U.S. Navy's base in Groton also requires a major disposal site, and Connecticut officials are determined to keep that base in this state.