The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to go ahead with long-languishing plans to continue to allow the dumping of toxin-laden dredge spoils from Connecticut rivers into the Long Island Sound, and environmentalists on Long Island are gearing up for a fight.
The Army Corps plans to release a Dredged Material Management Plan and an Environmental Impact Statement, ten years in the making, next Mon., Aug. 17, and will hold the first of four public hearings on Aug. 24 in Port Jefferson.
North Fork Environmental Council President Bill Toedter and Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito asked the Southold Town Board at its work session Tuesday to join a growing coalition of lawmakers and environmental advocates in asking for more time to review the plan, which will be available online next Monday here.
Ms. Esposito said in 2004 the EPA attempted to allow for the continued practice of dumping of dredge materials, but stopped pursuing the plan after New York State refused to grant a new 20-year permit without the management plan and the EIS.
“We waited 10 years and they’re going to come out with a document Monday that’s going to say we should keep dumping in the Long Island Sound and keep all sites open for 30 years,” she added.
Mr. Toedter said there are four designated dredge spoil dumping sites in Long Island Sound, but East Enders should be most concerned about the ones at Cornfield Shoals and outside New London, which could have an effect on the ecosystem surrounding Plum Island, Great and Little Gull islands and the fishing grounds at Plum Gut.
“On Long Island, [dredge spoils] are mostly sand, but in Connecticut, it’s silt and mainly mud. It’s also high in VOCs [volatile organic compounds] and heavy metals,” he said.
Mr. Toedter said Connecticut is reusing some of its cleanest dredge material for marsh restoration, but the most contaminated spoils are expected to be dumped in the Long Island Sound.
Mr. Toedter pointed out that there are six federally designated dumping sites in the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Virginia, but the Long Island Sound has four such sites in a much smaller area.
Southold Town Planner Mark Terry agreed.
“The fact that they have dumping in a national estuary is absurd,” he said, adding that federal stormwater runoff mandates are costing towns substantial amounts of money, while the federal government is allowing dumping in the same water bodies it is asking towns to protect.
“The fact that they have the audacity to propose these uses in a living water body — it’s absurd,” he said.
Mr. Toedter and Ms. Esposito asked the board for help in pushing the Army Corps of Engineers to allow more time for public comment on the documents.
“It took them 10 years to craft the documents, which are about 1,000 pages, and they’ll start public hearings seven days after their release,” said Ms. Esposito. “That’s really inappropriate and absurd.”
Ms. Esposito added U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and state assembly members are calling for a 120 day public comment period.
“That’s just good government, transparency. We felt the public hearings are too soon,” she said. “It’s August. I’m actually taking some days off, as I hope you all are.”
Mr. Toedter asked the board to reach out to state lawmakers to back up the case for an extended comment period.
As it currently stands, public hearings are slated for Aug. 24 at 101-A East Broadway in Port Jefferson; Aug. 25 at the Marriott Long Island in Uniondale; and in Stamford, Conn. on Aug. 26 and New London on Aug. 27. Registration for all meetings begins at 5:30 p.m. and the hearings begin at 6 p.m. The Army Corps will accept written comment until Sept. 18.