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Congressman Joe Courtney

Representing the 2nd District of Connecticut

Courtney Calls New York Lawsuit Against Dredging Site "Overblown Rhetoric," Vows To Join Stakeholders Defending The Site In Court

August 18, 2017
Press Release

NORWICH, CT —Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) made the following statement after New York State filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to block a finalized EPA rule to permanently designate the new Eastern Long Island Sound dredging disposal site.

"New York's frivolous lawsuit challenging a decade’s worth of painstaking work by the EPA to reform and improve the Eastern Long Island Sound's dredging plan blatantly ignores the facts and the law,” said Courtney. “EPA officials in the last administration conducted an open and transparent process for all stakeholders in proximity to the Sound, to update the dredging process, giving regulatory preference to upland disposal, and tightly screening the composition of dredge material to preserve the Long Island Sound ecosystem. EPA also moved the disposal site for material that cannot be practically moved upland, to Connecticut waters - not New York's - and allows a regional body including New York and Connecticut stakeholders to review any open water disposal that the Army Corps of Engineers determines is practicable.

Courtney continued, "New York's overblown rhetoric characterizing the Eastern Long Island Sound's plan as "dumping" is bizarre because it involves the same disposal process that New York agreed to for the central and western Long Island Sound open water plans over the past few years. Unfortunately, New York's position willfully ignores indisputable facts regarding the volume of dredging material that accumulates in the Eastern Sound and is a destructive attack on the operations of Connecticut and Rhode Island's maritime economies and their ability to provide critical services for country's national defense. Connecticut will join EPA and Army Corps in court to defend the work of the Obama era-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and her highly talented team that understood the true mission of the EPA was to balance environmental policy with normal economic activity in Long Island Sound."

Following the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ final Dredged Material Management Plan (DMMP) issued in January 2016, 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 that were set to be closed.

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.

In December, The Day newspaper published an opinion editorial written by Courtney on the importance of dredging top the local economy in eastern Connecticut.

Courtney has actively advocated for the designation of a final eastern disposal site. For example, he testified at the 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