A federal plan to keep pouring vast amounts of dredged material into Long Island Sound has been finalized despite objections by lawmakers and environmentalists.
New York’s Department of State, which governs the coast, faulted the federal plan for not fulfilling a 2005 agreement with Connecticut to protect the Sound from this way of disposing of the material dredged to allow ship traffic.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has failed to satisfy the parties’ shared goal to reduce or eliminate the disposal of dredge material in Long Island Sound,” a statement by the department said.
“New York’s position throughout this process has been that the plan must provide for clear, staged reductions in dredge material disposal over the next 30 years,” it added.
An Army Corps spokeswoman did not respond to calls for comment.
Under the agency’s Dredged Material Management Plan, finalized Tuesday, 53 million cubic yards of sediment, mainly removed from Connecticut’s industrialized shoreline, could be poured into the Sound in the next three decades.
That is a large increase. For 73 years, from 1941 to 2014, a total of 37 million cubic yards were deposited in the Sound, according to the Department of State.
“We now know better — perhaps in the time frame of 50 to 100 years ago, we didn’t know better, but we now know this is very harmful,” said Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who chairs the Environmental Conservation Committee.
He and Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, criticized the Army Corps for taking the least-costly short-term option.
“Our response to that is that cheap is expensive because the Long Island Sound is an economic engine,” Esposito said.
“We’ve made a lot progress over the last decade . . . to protect the Sound, and the federal government should not bully their way into using it now as a landfill,” she added.
Englebright said he believed the state could block the plan because it violates its coastal policies.
“The bottom line is that we should not use the Sound as a dumping ground for dredge spoils, especially if they may contain contaminants,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the Army Corps did not listen to the many voices from New York and Long Island with many positive ways to improve this plan. I will work with Long Islanders and New York State to push the EPA and other regulators not to approve this plan until it better protects the Sound.”
The Department of State said only that it looked forward to “a continued dialogue” with the Army Corps, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Connecticut.
A spokesman for Connecticut’s Democratic governor, Dannel P. Malloy, had no immediate comment.
Englebright noted the dredging mainly benefits Connecticut, contrasting Suffolk’s northern coast, with its waterfront communities and farms, with Connecticut’s shipyards and large cities, including New Haven and Bridgeport.
Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Suffolk Leg. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) also opposed the federal plan.
“To dump dredge spoils from potentially contaminated sites would do irreparable harm to Long Island Sound,” LaValle said in a statement.
“There have been numerous studies that collectively demonstrate pollution, overfishing, and contaminated dredge material disposal have eroded the health of the Sound over time, thereby reducing its resilience capacity to deal with additional ecological stressors,” LaValle added.
The Army Corps said toxic sediments would be screened out and either contained or treated, though Englebright said the sampling process could miss some of these materials.
Krupski suggested that if Connecticut’s economy benefits from the dredging, those recreational and business users of the Sound should help pay for disposing of the material.
“People pay . . . to maintain the roads.”