New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state will oppose a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that would permit continued use of open-water dredge disposal sites in Long Island Sound – potentially a major roadblock to millions of dollars in dredging work for Connecticut harbors.
The interstate waters war has been simmering since last year, when the Corps of Engineers after a decade of study released its dredged materials management plan for projects in the Long Island Sound region. While the plan includes recycling and re-use of dredged material for projects like beach and wetlands restoration, it includes continued use of open-water disposal sites.
“The EPA’s plan to establish a new disposal site not only poses a major threat to this ecologically vital habitat, but impedes our progress in ending open water dumping in Long Island’s waters once and for all,” Cuomo said Thursday. “This state is committed to ensuring the Sound remains a viable source of economic and tourist activity and we will continue to take any action necessary to preserve this precious jewel for generations to come.”
With 52 federal navigation projects in the region that need to be maintained, the Corps projects it will need to get rid of some 53 million cubic yards of materials over the coming 30 years.
Most sandy material that is suitable for beach replenishment is already being used for that purpose, and sediment from industrial waterways that fail the limits for chemical contaminants will continue to be put in containment pits or treated, according to the Corps plan.
That still leaves fine sediments, which have been going to the open water sites. Ramping up beneficial uses like restoring wetlands – which to Corps has been doing on islands in New York’s Jamaica Bay – will need more state and local sponsorship, the plan says.
Connecticut officials threw unanimous support behind the Corps plan, which they see as critical to keeping their state’s three major harbors and marina industry economically viable. Deepening the channel at New Haven, Conn., is seen as one pressing need.
Both states had an agreement back in 2005 to work on “reducing or eliminating the need for open water disposal." New York advocates argue continued use of the mid-Sound disposal areas violates that deal, while Connecticut and Corps officials say it is still not feasible to dredge without the disposal areas.