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The Day: Final Plan For Long Island Sound Dredge Material Released

January 12, 2016
In The News

The final plan for how dredge material is handled in Long Island Sound supports continued use of the four existing disposal sites.

It also recommends that when possible, the sand and silt dug up to unclog navigation channels and harbors be reused for beach nourishment and marsh restoration and other beneficial projects.

The plan, along with a final environmental impact assessment on dredge material in the Sound, was released Tuesday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The corps is responsible for maintaining 52 navigation areas in the Sound, including 31 in Connecticut, 17 in New York and four in Rhode Island. These collectively accumulate about 53 million cubic yards of sand and silt over a 30-year period, the corps said in a news release.

Currently, dredge material is disposed at four sites – one each in the western and central Sound, and sites at Cornfield Shoals near Old Saybrook and offshore from New London harbor.

The plan and environmental report were created by the corps at the request of the governors of Connecticut and New York and the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA required a plan to examine alternatives to open water placement. In preparing the plan, the corps considered more than 1,800 comments from the public, local and state officials and environmental groups.

The plan calls for further study of the possibilities for beneficial reuse of dredge materials, but notes that such studies must be sponsored by state and local governments and the cost shared among federal, state and local sources.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment, one of the groups opposed to continued open water disposal, called the plan inadequate. The group was among those calling for an end to open water disposal.

“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,” Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign, said in a news release. “They plan to treat Long Island Sound as a landfill and it’s deeply disturbing.”

In its plan, the corps said the document will serve as a guide for future decisions about each proposed dredging project. Material from each project would be analyzed to determine whether it can be safely reused or disposed at an open water site. Areas containing toxic materials would have to be removed to an alternative disposal site, and could not be dumped at an open water area or reused, the corps said.

Rob Klee, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, praised the corps’ plan for “identifying a range of environmentally sound alternatives” for handling dredge materials, including both reuse and open water disposal.

“Our ability to conduct dredging in coastal waterways is critical to sustaining Connecticut’s water-dependent economy and practical, cost-effective and environmentally acceptable management alternatives offered by the Army Corps will help meet the needs of our ports and harbors,” he said in a news release.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, also praised the plan, noting that economic activities in the Sound contribute $9 billion annually economic output.

“Maintaining navigable shipping channels is critical to the long-term health of our regional economy,” Courtney said in a news release. “From family-owned marinas to the Subbase New London, the livelihoods of thousands of my constituents directly depend on this comprehensive dredging plan.”

He said he is especially pleased that the plan recommends new involvement by the Navy and the Connecticut Port Authority in future decisions regarding dredging projects. The Navy and Electric Boat in Groton and New London were among groups that sent letters of support to the corps for the continued availability of open water dredge disposal sites.

Courtney said the EPA will now begin an environmental impact study and rulemaking process to replace the New London and Cornfield Shoals sites, which currently are scheduled to close in December. Any regulations implemented by the EPA will follow the recommendations and restrictions established in the plan to reduce overall open water disposal, Courtney said.

The final plan and final impact statement can be found at: https://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/ProjectsTopics/LongIslandSoundDMMP.aspx

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