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Source: CT Post

One more step toward Sound renewal

Posted: August 20, 2015
Originally Published: August 20, 2015

The 582-page study with the unwieldy title, “Dredged Material Management Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, Long Island Sound, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island,” a tome put together by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England district, is not exactly light reading.

But sprinkled through this 30-year proposal to revitalize the state’s ports and harbors are some forward-thinking alternatives to the historical practice of dumping the silt, sand and assorted muck into designated pits in the sound, depending on the outcome of physical, chemical and biological testing.

They include proposals to use the dredged material as fill in brownfield projects, or to backfill abandoned mines and gravel pits, and as construction material in transportation infrastructure projects, like road, railway and airport construction.

And clean, sandy material, of course, can be used to restore beaches, marshes and other coastal habitat.

Nearly all of Connecticut’s ports and rivers — including Bridgeport Harbor, the Housatonic River, Stamford and Greenwich harbors — are included in the study.

The elephant — no, make that the whale — in the room is the cost of doing the work, which will be a battle for another day. The report deals primarily with the options for handling the dredged material once the work is under way.

Speaking of money, though. There are many reasons to clear passageways and deepen channels and harbors, not the least of which is the potential economic impact. The study puts a figure of $9.4 billion a year — and 55,720 jobs — as the contribution of navigation-dependent activity in the three-state sound region.

Additionally, according to the report, navigation-dependent activity generates some $1.6 billion in federal and state tax revenue.

Environmental efforts over the last 30 years have helped restore the sound. The federal Clean Water Act and crackdowns on sewage-spilling waste-water treatment plants, and up-river polluters have brought renewed life to the sound. Various grasses and marine life that had faded from the sound have reappeared.

Just a week ago, photos of a frolicking and feeding pod of dolphins off the Greenwich coast made for a pleasing — and encouraging — photo opportunity.

Those same efforts have included growing resistance to the further practice of dumping dredged material in the sound.

So, we agree with groups like the Citizens Campaign for the Environment and others who are calling for an extended period for public comment.

A public hearing, for instance, on the draft plan is scheduled for Aug. 26 at the University of Connecticut, Stamford, at 1 University Place. That’s not much time for the public to absorb the details of a 582-page document and to offer informed comment.

The group has also called for additional hearings in in October throughout the Long Island Sound region.

You can read the document at http://1.usa.gov/1TSGoXG. It’s a potential blueprint for a continuing revitalization of Long Island Sound, which, as we’ve said before, is arguably Connecticut’s most valuable natural resource.