Courtney Announces EPA Has Issued A Final Rule Establishing A New Eastern Long Island Sound Dredging Disposal Site
NORWICH, CT —Today, Representative Joe Courtney (CT-02) announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its final rule to establish a new Eastern Long Island Sound Dredged Material Disposal Site (ELDS). Courtney has long advocated for the establishment of the site to meet validated long term dredging needs for eastern Connecticut and support the region’s maritime economy.
“I am very pleased that EPA has finalized its rule establishing a new Eastern Long Island Sound dredging disposal site,” said Courtney “This eagerly awaited step is the result of years of intensive scientific study, robust public engagement and advocacy by a wide range of interests in the region, and I firmly believe that the final product reflects the balanced approach that we all know is needed. The need for this site could not be any clearer, with activities ranging from small marinas to commercial maritime transportation and military facilities like Submarine Base New London all relying on access to a long term placement site for dredged materials. The final plan also moved the site to avoid obstructing the route used by Naval submarines while traveling to and from the Port of New London. The new site is also now located entirely within Connecticut waters demonstrating that the hearing and comment period which included hundreds of letters and testimony from the public on both sides of the Sound was incorporated. Completion of this process is absolutely vital to eastern Connecticut’s economy, and I thank the EPA for its diligent work for getting this site done.”
Courtney added, “In just the last week we have seen important developments that underscore the need for this site. For example, the New England Central Rail broke ground on new upgrades to existing rail lines which will greatly increase the freight capacity in the Port of New London adding to the need for regular dredging of the harbor. And, the Navy recently committed over $5 million to plan and design a major pier replacement at the base – a project that will need dredging and, without this site, could see significant increases in costs. Approval of this site could not come at a more important time for our region.”
The final ELDS rule emphasizes alternative upland placement of dredged sediment wherever possible and open-water placement only after rigorous analysis of sediment for any environmental risks. The site will also be monitored closely after materials are placed to ensure that no adverse changes are taking place, and EPA has tools available to manage, limit or close sites if needed. Further, a new “Regional Dredging Team,” consisting of representatives from federal, state and private interest through the Long Island Sound region, will scrutinize projects to assess whether there are practicable alternatives to open-water disposal - and recommend to the EPA and Army Corps that any available alternatives to open water disposal be used to the maximum extent possible.
The rule designating the site will be published in the federal register later this month, and becomes final 30 days later.
Courtney has actively advocated for the designation of a final eastern disposal site. For example, he testified at the [date] public hearing on the DMMP, stressing the need for an eastern disposal site. He also coordinated letters from the Connecticut and Rhode Island Delegations in support of the plan.
To read a letter sent by members from the Connecticut and Rhode Island delegations to the EPA in July, click here
To read a letter sent by members from the Connecticut and Rhode Island delegations to the EPA reaffirming support for the new site in October, click here
Designation of the ELDS has been a particular priority for the regions military and defense industrial base stakeholders, noting how vital access to a dredge disposal site is to submarine construction and national security.
To read a letter of support for the ELDS proposed rule from Groton SUBASE commander Captain A. Whitescarver, click here
To read a letter of support for the ELDS proposed rule from Electric Boat President Jeffrey Geiger, click here
Following the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ final Dredged Material Management Plan (DMMP) issued in January, the EPA determined that a new site was necessary for long-term open-water dredged material disposal in the Long Island Sound region. The two dredging disposal sites currently in operation, Cornfield Shoals and New London, are both short-term sites managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which are set to be closed later this year.
According to the DMMP, Long Island Sound waterways contribute more than $9 billion annually to the economic output in the Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York Long Island Sound region and support more than 55,000 jobs.
The periodic dredging of harbors and channels is essential to ensuring safe navigation. All dredged material placed in the Sound must pass stringent EPA testing requirements to determine whether the material is toxic. Any material that does not pass these tests will not be eligible for open-water disposal in Long Island Sound. EPA will require similar restrictions for the ELDS as those that were recently finalized for central and western Long Island Sound disposal sites. The new restrictions notably include a mandate that alternative means for disposal of dredged material, such as beach nourishment, be used whenever practicable before turning to open-water disposal.