Cuomo Announces Intent to Sue EPA Over Long Island Sound Dredge Spoil Dumping

Governor Cuomo announced the new Long Island water initiatives on Thursday
Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference earlier this year.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that New York intends to sue the United States Environmental Protection Agency, challenging that agency’s decision to designate the eastern Long Island Sound as a permanent disposal site for dredged materials.

In a notice of intent filed Tuesday, New York informed the federal government that the EPA’s designation of the eastern Long Island Sound as a disposal site is “a direct violation of the designation criteria outlined in existing federal law, referred to as the ‘Ocean Dumping Act,'” according to Mr. Cuomo’s office.

“As I have said time and again, New York is deeply concerned with the EPA’s efforts to designate a permanent dumping site in the eastern part of the Long Island Sound,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement Tuesday. “Continuing to use this precious economic and ecological resource as a dumping ground is unacceptable and, on behalf of current and future generations of New Yorkers, we intend to fight this decision using any and all legal means.”

In early November, 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 the sites 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.

The EPA’s final rule was published Tuesday, and New York filed the notice of intent to sue the same day. The state must now wait 60 days to file a legal claim against the EPA under the Ocean Dumping Act.

“I commend Governor Cuomo for this action to prevent the disposal of dredged material in the Eastern Long Island Sound. We remain committed to protecting these waters, which serve many New Yorkers in so many way,” said New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado.

“Long Island Sound is an essential economic and environmental treasure in New York and one in which the state has invested billions to restore,” added New York Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC commends Governor Cuomo’s resolve in ensuring this vital estuary is not turned into a dumping ground.”

The issue of dumping of dredge spoils in the Long Island Sound goes back for decades, and Long Island environmentalists have long attempted to block the dumping. 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. There are currently 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 is issued, there will be just one site, the newly renamed Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site near New London.

The New York Departments of State and Environmental Conservation maintain that “the EPA has not sufficiently considered the cumulative effects of dumping dredged materials into the Sound, did not prioritize alternatives to open water dumping, and didn’t go far enough in analyzing other existing and available disposal sites,” according to the statement on the state’s intent to sue.

“New York also maintains that increasing the volume of open-water disposal of dredged materials, and the number and availability of open water disposal sites, is inconsistent with public investment and policies that are already in place aimed at restoring the Long Island Sound,” they added. “Further, the EPA has not been responsive to the state’s concern about the sediment testing and its reliability and has made insufficient assurances that the dredged material will not have a negative impact on the environment.”

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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