New York State will spend $5 million transporting material from the demolished Tappan Zee Bridge to bolster six artificial reefs and expand fish populations around Long Island, as officials vowed to battle with federal regulators to expand state fishing quotas.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo used an event at Sunken Meadow State Park Tuesday morning to tout the reef program, which he said would bolster Long Island’s marine economy and increase the biodiversity of the waters. Using materials otherwise sent to the scrap heap for fish habitat saves the cost of having to pay to dispose the material, Cuomo said.
Costs for the project will be paid by the New York Power Authority and a bridge construction contractor in an arrangment Cuomo’s office said will save the state and the builder money, compared with moving and storing materials in salvage yards.
Cuomo noted New York’s artificial reef program, begun in 1993, was “never fully developed.” The addition of 29 scuttled canal vessels and tons of material from the demolished Tappan Zee Bridge in a program to start next month “fosters marine growth” and provides an “alternative to recycling,” he said.
The project required “450 approvals from everybody and their cousin,” to move the project forward, he said, noting that all vessels will be stripped and cleaned of any hazardous material. “Ships as large as 100 feet will be scuttled,” for the reefs, Cuomo said.
Cuomo in comments after his speech reiterated a threat to sue the federal government if “abusive” coastal fishing regulations continue to “cheat” New York fishermen by restricting access to vital local species such as fluke.
“We’ve been going through the process with the federal government for years,” Cuomo said. “They have been unresponsive, and we told them this year if they cheat New York — and that’s what I consider it, it’s cheating New York fishermen — that we will sue.” He added, “people abuse you, you have no alternative [than to sue] and I think their process is abusive.”
As a precursor to a suit, the state last month filed a petition with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to demand a more equitable distribution of the commercial fluke quota.
Cuomo stopped short of saying the state would endorse a plan being discussed in fishing circles and pondered by state regulators to go into non-compliance with the federal rules if federal fisheries managers don’t respond.
“I don’t want to start a war with the federal government,” Cuomo said. “So short of a civil war, count me in.”
New York commercial fishermen get only 7.6 of the coastal quota for fluke while states such as North Carolina and Virginia get combined 50 percent have real impacts on local fishing communities.
Cuomo also rejected the notion that his plan for 2,400 megawatts of wind turbines in the waters off Long Island and New York City would harm commercial fishing interests. Though officials have said fishermen can fish around the turbines, large commercial trawling vessels say it would be unsafe.
“They have been studied to death,” Cuomo said of offshore turbines. “There will be nothing but a benefit to the wind turbines. They even believe that the base of the turbines serves as a habitat itself. So if anything it enhances the fishery.”