A legal battle is brewing between New York and Connecticut over the dumping of dredge spoil material in eastern Long Island Sound.
In 2017, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency in response to a decision to allow dredged materials to be dumped in a 1.3-square-mile area entirely in Connecticut waters. The dump site is approximately 2.3 miles northwest of Fishers Island.
In a legal brief filed May 23, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong responded directly to the New York lawsuit, arguing that the EPA decision should be upheld. In the document, filed in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, Mr. Tong states that the claims made by the New York plaintiffs do not have merit. Southold Town and Suffolk County are listed in court records as “Intervenor Plaintiffs” in addition to principal plaintiffs Rossana Rosado, secretary of state; DEC commissioner Basil Seggos; and the State of New York.
In the original 2017 filing, New York State officials claimed the EPA “arbitrarily inflated the projected volumes of dredged materials in order to justify the need for the [Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site]” and argued that the decision would disrupt boaters attempting to navigate in those waters as well as pose environmental risks.
Suffolk Times Article Read More
Suffolk Times Article Read More
Mr. Tong also argues that dredging is crucial to his state’s maritime economy, upon which thousands of people rely on for jobs. He noted that the Army Corps of Engineers found that the ability to build and launch submarines in Groton, Conn., would be “eliminated” without dredging.
“The record is abundantly clear — the selection of the Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site was done properly and lawfully and must proceed. Thousands of maritime jobs and billions of dollars in revenue depend on the ability to dredge and safely deposit materials. This challenge is without merit, and must not be allowed to impede our state’s maritime economy,” Mr. Tong said in a statement last Tuesday.
The document, filed by Mr. Tong on behalf of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, argues that New York had “ample opportunity for notice and comment on the administrative record” and “have not and cannot point to any relevant evidence contradicting the EPA’s record.”
Environmentalists on the North Fork criticized the EPA decision over concerns that the dredged materials from Connecticut could be toxic and the effects on the environment are unknown and potentially dangerous.
An Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers notes that silt and other shoal material dredged from harbors and areas “with a history and contamination and industrial use” would be subject to additional chemical testing.
Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney said in a statement that the dredging management plan dates back to 2005 and was a collaboration between Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island officials.
“My office has been working to get this project across the finish line since 2007 with stakeholders including the U.S. Navy and Electric Boat, as well as local marinas and ferry boat services, all of whom understand the importance of this work. New York’s continued effort to block the designation of this site — which was approved by the EPA after years of intense environmental reviews and robust public engagement — wouldn’t just upend what has been an exhaustive and fully informed approval process, it would also disproportionately harm Connecticut’s eastern shoreline and economic activity, including recreational boating, commercial maritime transportation and shipbuilding, and important projects at the Coast Guard Academy and SUBASE New London,” the statement reads.
When the suit was filed, Group for the East End vice president Aaron Virgin referred to the decision as an “environmental catastrophe waiting to happen.”
Judge Edward Korman, who will preside over the case, has set July deadlines for each state to file their final documents related to the proceedings and could begin hearing arguments this summer.
The dredging would maintain maritime access to Electric Boat, Groton Sub Base
by ANA RADELAT, CTmirror.org
JUNE 7, 2019
Washington – A fierce court battle between Connecticut and New York over the state’s dumping of sediment in the eastern portion of Long Island Sound will come to a head this summer.
Connecticut says the new underwater dump site is needed to maintain the state’s economic development effort – including its lucrative submarine construction business at Electric Boat’s shipyard – and to keep Submarine Base New London off any future base closure list. The dredging is intended to keep harbors and navigation routes open.
New York says the site will be harmful to its ecology and tourism, and Connecticut could, and should, dump the material it dredges up somewhere else.
<em>CT Mirror </em>Article Read More
<em>CT Mirror </em>Article Read More
The feud between Connecticut and New York began nearly three years ago when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers proposed opening a 1.5-square-mile dump site between the mouth of the Thames River and the southeastern tip of Fishers Island.
Two other sites, in the western and central sound, were slated to close in December of 2016. The EPA decided to keep all three sites open for another 30 years.
New York has no objections to the other dumping sites, but sued in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to block disposal of sediment in the Eastern Site.
“EPA’s designation of the Eastern Site… was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law,” New York says in the lawsuit it filed to block the dumping ground.
The case will come to a head this summer Presiding Judge Edward Korman has given both states June and July deadlines to submit their final filings.
Connecticut says the other two sites in the sound lack the capacity to handle the full volume of dredged material long term and are much farther away. The state says transporting material to those other sites results in more pollution and congestion. But, because of the lawsuit, Connecticut has not been able to dump any dredged material in the Eastern Site.
Connecticut also argues that dumping dredged material in the eastern sound is environmentally safe.
“Connecticut is committed to environmentally responsible management of dredged material,” said Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes. The DEEP is a defendant in the lawsuit, along with the EPA.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is representing DEEP, and says New York’s legal challenge “is without merit.”
“The record is abundantly clear —the selection of the Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site was done properly and lawfully and must proceed,” Tong said. “Thousands of maritime jobs and billions of dollars in revenue depend on the ability to dredge and safely deposit materials.”
The state also argues that the Eastern sound disposal site is needed for security reasons because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that without dredging, the ability to launch and build submarines in Groton “would be eliminated.”
New York says there is plenty of room in the two other disposal sites to store dredged material. It says the eastern part of the sound is part of a special estuary, a place where ocean saltwater mixes with freshwater from rivers and streams, providing vital nesting and breeding habitat for many species of fish and other marine life.
Lobstering is still done in Long Island Sound, though there are far fewer lobsters than in the past.
“Long Island Sound has been one of the most productive estuaries in the United States,” the New York lawsuit says. “While commercial fishing has significantly declined, the Sound remains a critical marine resource to New York and neighboring states.”
New York also says “disposing dredged materials in an estuary can present a significant risk of environmental harm,” because it is dredged from in and around rivers and harbors near sites of historic or current commercial or industrial operations that often contain toxic substances “injurious to the marine environment and humans.”
The lawsuit says Connecticut deemed the dredged material environmentally safe under the federal Clean Water Act, but not under the more stringent Ocean Dumping Act. It says lobsters and fish could bring toxins into New York waters as they swim across the sound.
New York’s lawsuit also says the EPA “erroneously evaluated the impacts of designating the Eastern Site on existing commercial navigation and inexplicably excluded commercial vessel traffic data showing heavy passenger and automobile ferry traffic passing directly through the designated site.”
In its most recent filing, submitted to the court last week, Connecticut said, “there simply is not sufficient available disposal volume in the central and western sites to accommodate the needs from the eastern Long Island Sound.”
The federal court’s decision will have a sizable impact on the state’s economy, Connecticut said.
Citing the Connecticut Port Authority, the state’s lawsuit says “Connecticut’s maritime industry contributes more than $9 billion to the state’s economy and employs more than 40,000 people.”
“The availability of the Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal site for use by eastern Connecticut maritime interests is essential to support the vitality of our marine economy in an environmentally responsible way,” DEEP’s Dykes said.
Letter to the Editor
Published in The Day June 10. 2019
The Tragedy of the Commons refers to the unsustainable condition when individual interests overwhelm a common resource. The failure of this model influenced the adoption of private property. Sadly, that lesson is seemingly ignored by the current dredge spoil dispute between New York and Connecticut.
The Day, “Connecticut AG makes case for Eastern Long Island Sound dredging disposal site,” (June 8) and the Connecticut Mirror reported on the impending court suit. Both articles characterize the process leading to the EPA’s decision as objective and fair. This is not the case.
UConn Avery Point, owned by Connecticut, was commissioned to do a key study. The conflict of interest was obvious and it undermined any claim of objectivity.
More disturbing were some unaddressed issues. The Sound has experienced a nearly 10 degree rise in water temperatures since 1991. Among the many resulting impacts is the issue of Millstone Power Station. The nuclear plant’s operating license has always been conditioned by cooling intake temperatures. This restriction has been routinely eased as the Sound has warmed. It is likely that these temperatures will be influenced by the proposed dumping. It cannot help but alter the cooling currents in the area of Niantic Bay.
Whether it repeats or rhymes, history suggests we are headed towards tragedy.
Fishers Island, New York