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Cuomo urged to veto plan to dump dredge spoils in LI Sound

View of Hempstead Harbor at dusk, which was

View of Hempstead Harbor at dusk, which was rated a "D+" . The extreme western portion of Long Island Sound is suffering from high nitrogen levels, low oxygen and cloudy water but the 1 million acre system grows healthier in eastern portions. Scientists, politicians and environmentalists released Monday morning a first-of-its-kind ecosystem health report card evaluating the sound, which is bordered by New York and Connecticut. The water surrounding Brooklyn, Queens and North Hempstead scored an F grade. Credit: Julia Zay

Suffolk County lawmakers, civic leaders and environmentalists urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Tuesday to veto a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to continue dumping as much as 53 million cubic yards of dredge spoils in Long Island Sound over the next three decades.

“There are toxic sands running through the hourglass and we’re running out of time,” said Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who was among a bipartisan group of four lawmakers at a news conference in Hauppauge.

“The Sound is dying and they are trying to bury it in dredge spoils,” said Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) a longtime spear fisherman. “This should be an insult to every person on Long Island.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency next week will hold public hearings on the plan at the Port Jefferson Free Library Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m., and another hearing in Stamford, Connecticut, the next day.

Cuomo will have until May 10, the deadline for final adoption of the plan, to act, according to the EPA.

“The top priority here is to protect Long Island and its natural resources,” said Laz Benitez, spokesman for the New York Department of State.

“New York’s position throughout this process has been that the LIS DMMP and EPA regulations must provide for clear, staged reductions of dredge material disposal in the Long Island Sound over the next 30 years,” he said.

Opponents and EPA officials say Cuomo has the authority to block the Army Corps plan under the Coastal Zone Management Act. Corps officials have said the law does not apply.

The pending plan would continue the use of four dump sites for materials from dredging projects.

Critics say the plan does little to begin phasing out potentially toxic dredge spoils that can contain mercury, lead, PCBs, and pesticides that can affect marine life.

Stephen Perkins, a member of the EPA’s dredge group, said no toxic materials would be permitted to be dumped.

He noted that it is costly to remove water from dredge spoils and few places where such work can be done. He also said the Corps’ plan calls for creation of a regional dredge team comprised of officials from the federal government, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island to develop alternative locations for dredge spoils.

The Army Corps dredges as part of 52 navigation projects — 31 in Connecticut, 17 in New York and four in Rhode Island — to keep channels, anchorages and turning basins clear.

Opponents blocked an earlier Corps plan in 2005. The Corps was forced to undertake a new $7 million study, with a mandate to develop alternative ways of disposing of dredge spoils.

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