NY pulls objection to dredging deposits at site by Fishers Island

by Jane Ahrens

Shown in May 2019 is a beach on Fishers Island, which is located near a federally-designated site where dredged materials can be deposited in the Long Island Sound. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

By Jean-Paul Salamanca
Newsday, January 23, 2023

New York State no longer will object to a federal agency’s decision to allow a Connecticut submarine builder to put dredged materials at a Long Island Sound disposal site near Fishers Island. 

The state has withdrawn its objection to a decision from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to let General Dynamics Electric Boat use the site — one of three federally-designated open water disposal sites in the Sound. 

NOAA is a regulatory agency that conserves and manages coastal ecosystems and the site in question is known as the eastern Long Island Sound disposal site or ELDS.

“While the Department maintains NOAA ignored its own regulations and precedent in order to allow this disposal at ELDS to take place, the Department will withdraw and retain its options to revisit these issues in the future,” New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said in a Jan. 19 statement. 

Rodriguez’s office also said federal regulations that in 2015 and 2016 designated the three Sound disposal sites also require the reduction of open water disposal over time.

In September, a federal appellate court ruled in favor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to deposit dredged materials at the site after a lower court upheld the site’s selection in July 2020. 

In 2017, both New York State and Southold separately had sued the EPA to try to halt the planned dumping.  

Amid the lawsuits, the Connecticut company applied in 2019 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use the site for dredged materials while finishing a building they would use to build new Navy submarines.  

In 2020, NOAA gave the go-ahead to the company’s application.  

New York State objected, citing environmental concerns, but NOAA dismissed the state’s complaint and allowed the company’s application to go forward.

State officials now will focus on addressing the need for Connecticut and federal agencies to develop alternatives “to the continuous dumping of contaminated dredged materials into Long Island Sound,” according to Rodriguez. 

EPA spokesman Dave Deegan said the agency would continue to work with New York, Connecticut and the Army Corps of Engineers “to identify environmentally sound alternatives to marine disposal of dredged materials.” 

The Army Corps of Engineers didn’t return requests for comment Monday and a spokesman for General Dynamics Electric Boat, which is based in Groton, declined to comment. 

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said while the outcome was “regrettable,” he was sure the state weighed its decision “very heavily.” 

Robert DeLuca, who leads Group for the East End nonprofit, called the state’s decision “short-sighted.”

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment nonprofit, said Connecticut should consider developing more affordable options for reusing dredged materials instead of putting them in the Sound.

By Jean-Paul Salamanca
jeanpaul.salamanca@newsday.com JPaulSalamanca

Jean-Paul Salamanca covers the East End. He focuses on Riverhead, Southold and Greenport on the North Fork, as well as Hampton Bays, Westhampton Beach, Flanders, Riverside and Quogue on the South Fork.

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USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay. Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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