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Kirsten Gillibrand, Steve Israel want controversial dredging plan delayed for more public input

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Steve Israel have called on state and federal officials to give the public more time to comment on a controversial proposal to continue burying dredged sediment in the Long Island Sound.

In a letter Tuesday to the state Department of State and Department of Environmental Conservation, Gillibrand (D- N.Y.) and Israel (D-Huntington) said the current April 30, 2016, deadline for a "final rule" on the plan "does not allow adequate time" for the public to consider the proposal, which was released on Aug. 17 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They want the deadline moved to August 2016.

Army Corps and federal Environmental Protection Agency officials have proposed burying dredge "spoils" for an additional 30 years in four existing disposal sites in the Sound.

The draft plan, Gillibrand and Israel wrote, "is hundreds of pages long. . . . It is unreasonable to expect the public to fully review this extensive report in a public review period that is too short to be meaningful due to the internal final rule deadline dictated by your agency."

State officials have said federal authorities ignored a 2007 agreement to curtail the amount of dredged material dumped in the Sound. Federal officials have defended the plan.

In a statement Wednesday, Department of State officials said they "will continue to agree to extensions until a . . . [dredging management plan] is developed to our standards."

Army Corps project manager Meghan Quinn said Wednesday Corps officials "will consider extending the comment period" if state officials push back the deadline for the final plan.

Quinn said Army Corps officials had extended the deadline for written public comments about the plan by 30 days, to Oct. 16.

In an interview Wednesday, Israel said he was "uncomfortable" with the disposal plan.

"We have to get all the parties involved to extend the deadline . . . and there's really no reason for them not to do that," Israel said. "They unveiled this in the dead of summer when they thought that no one is really paying attention."

The Army Corps and EPA have held three public hearings on the plan this week, including two on Long Island, Port Jefferson and Uniondale, and one in Connecticut. Another hearing is planned Thursday in New London, Connecticut.

Two additional hearings are planned for Sept. 16 and 17, Quinn said. The locations of those hearings have not been set, she said.


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