Southold Town has joined New York State’s lawsuit filed in August against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the federal agency’s rule allowing the dumping of dredge material in eastern Long Island Sound.
In November 2016, the EPA released a final rule designating one Eastern Long Island Sound Dredged Material Disposal Site, which would receive dredged sediment from ports and harbors in Connecticut and New York, though most of those ports and harbors are in Connecticut.
The newly named Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site is immediately to the west of the current New London Disposal Site, and while it is in Connecticut waters, Long Islanders have long maintained that currents will push the dredged sediment, which comes primarily from Connecticut’s many industrialized river navigation pathways, onto the shores of eastern Long Island.
“In the mid-1970’s, famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau commented that the Long Island Sound was “dead.” Since then, so much time and public funding has been spent to help bring the Sound back to life,” said Southold Town Councilman Bob Ghosio in a statement announcing the town’s decision to join the lawsuit. “Allowing dumping of potentially contaminated dredge spoils in the Sound just flies in the face of common sense. The fact that these dump sites are just off the environmentally sensitive shores of Southold Town is especially troubling. The town board’s unanimous support of joining the state’s lawsuit against the EPA will ensure that our interests are represented and hopefully stop this ill-conceived plan.”
Long Island environmentalists have attempted to block dredge spoil dumping in the Sound for decades.
In 2004, EPA attempted to issue a rule allowing the dumping to continue, but stopped pursuing the plan after New York State refused to grant a new 20-year permit without the preparation of a Dredged Material Management Plan and an Environmental Impact Statement.
At the time, the state called on the EPA to set a goal of reducing or eliminating dredged material disposal in the open waters of the Long Island Sound.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed that plan in 2015, but environmentalists were dismayed that it still called for dumping in the Sound.
Prior to last year’s rule, there were two sites in the eastern Long Island Sound — at Cornfield Shoals off of Southold and a site whose boundaries vary slightly for the new site picked off of New London.
After this rule was issued, there is now just one site, the newly renamed Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site near New London.