The Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site (ELDS) was formally...

The Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site (ELDS) was formally designated as an Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site (ODMDS) by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in December 2016. The site is about 2.5 nautical miles southwest of Eastern Point, Groton, Connecticut. Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Southold officials are criticizing a recent federal court decision that upholds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed dumping of dredged materials at a site in Long Island Sound.

On Sept. 2, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the EPA’s plan to dump at a site near Fishers Island, part of Southold Town, after a lower court upheld the site's selection in July 2020. Both New York State and Southold Town had filed separate lawsuits in 2017 against the EPA to halt the planned dumping, saying it could potentially cause environmental harm to the Sound.

Southold officials previously said they were particularly worried that a dredging dump site near town waters would negatively affect the local economy and the environment, pointing out that Long Island Sound is important to the town’s economy and recreation.

In a statement to Newsday on Sunday, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell called the decision “both upsetting and infuriating.”

“What good does it serve to even have an EPA if it’s going to make decisions so damaging to the environment, it undoes years of hard work by many groups to clean a waterbody as important as Long Island Sound?” Russell said. “They just approved using a public resource to turn into a dumping ground for essentially private operators.”

Addressing the town’s concerns on potential impact on water quality, the court ruled the federal agency had already “adequately responded to Southold’s concerns.”

“The agency noted that designating a new disposal site does not affect water quality,” the decision said. 

The New York State Attorney General’s Office did not return requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont applauded the court decision, noting that his state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the EPA have worked for more than 10 years to evaluate and select the site as “an environmentally-protective and effective solution to the dredging needs of the state’s ports and harbors.”

“Connecticut stands by its marine and coastal management programs,” Lamont said. “We have worked hard to keep our ports and harbors open to commercial and recreational vessels, and this decision will help us to continue to do so and allow Connecticut to build the nation’s submarines and expand the state’s offshore wind opportunities.” 

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