Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions
Campaigns:

CCE IN THE NEWS

Source: The Day

Draft plan for disposal of Long Island Sound dredge materials released

BY JUDY BENSON

Posted: August 17, 2015
Originally Published: August 17, 2015

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday released a plan for handling the silt and sand dredged from harbors, coves and navigation channels in Long Island Sound for the next three decades.

The draft plan, created over the last 10 years, examines alternatives for handling the 52.7 million cubic yards of material that will need to be dredged from the Connecticut and New York sides of the Sound. Rather than recommending one or two sites be used for all the material, the plan examines 10 alternative disposal sites for each of the 60 dredging projects the Army Corp will be responsible for in the coming decades, according to Michael Keegan, chief of civil, international and interagency support for the corps’ New England office.

Before each project is begun, each alternative would be analyzed to determine which would be the “least costly and environmentally acceptable,” he said.

“It’s basically a top 10 list for each project that would be examined in detail,” he said.

Public comment on the draft plan will be received until Oct. 5. Two public hearings will take place in Connecticut next week: on Aug. 26 at the University of Connecticut’s Stamford branch; and Aug. 27 at the Holiday Inn, 35 Gov. Winthrop Boulevard in New London. Registration for both hearings will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the hearings will start at 6 p.m. Two additional hearing are planned for New York.

Keegan said existing dredge disposal sites in western and central Long Island Sound would remain open, but the Cornfield Shoals site off Old Saybrook and the New London disposal site near Fishers Island are slated to close in December 2016.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently studying whether there are one or more new sites in eastern Long Island Sound that would be suitable for future use, he said.

Keegan said the Army Corp plans to finalize the draft plan by the end of this year.

In response to the release of the draft, the Citizens Campaign for the Environment called on the Army Corps to extend the comment period into November and to schedule additional hearings. The draft plan is more than 1,000 pages long and the Oct. 5 deadline for comments is not enough time to properly review and respond, the group said in a news release. The Citizens Campaign for the Environment is among groups that have been pushing the Army Corps and the EPA to phase out open-water dumping of dredge spoils.

“From a preliminary review of the documents released today, it clearly seems that the plan dramatically fails to meet the agreed-upon goal to move towards environmentally-friendly reuse options and instead allows for the continued status quo of dumping dredge spoils in our Long Island Sound,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “After investing billions of dollars to restore the waterway, permitting continued dumping of contaminated materials in the Long Island Sound is unacceptable. And so the battle to protect the Sound continues.”


Also responding to the release of the draft report was Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District. In a statement, he emphasized the importance of dredging and access to disposal sites for the region’s economy.

“A sustained effort to maintain federal waterways and access to Connecticut’s many ports and harbors is critical to our regional economy and the free flow of commerce through Long Island Sound,” he said in a news release. “Studies have shown that maritime-related commerce provides nearly $7 billion in economic output and 40,000 jobs in Connecticut alone. For years, we have advocated to the Army Corps of Engineers to keep critical waterways, such as the Thames River, which provides our nuclear submarine fleet access to SUBASE New London and Electric Boat, safe for navigation.”

Maintaining continued access to open water sites for dredge materials that are too fine and laden with salt water for placement on land is an important option for these projects, he said, and ending the practice would be “prohibitively expensive and logistically difficult.”

Courtney said he supports the examination of alternatives, such as restoration of a beach with dredged sand, as was done in Madison, and projects that curtail runoff into waterways. However, he said, open water placement is crucial to maintaining full access to the Sound.

He said the draft plan outlines a procedure for future projects that is “a step in the right direction to ensure that the Army Corps has the tools it needs to perform necessary dredging activities in years to come.”