Editorial: When a public hearing goes unheard for LI Sound dump plan

Bill Toeder

At a series of public hearings late last summer, environmentalists and elected officials from across the region came out in strong opposition to the Army Corps of Engineers’ latest plan for disposing of dredged materials in Long Island Sound.

They expressed concern for the health of the water that divides Long Island and Connecticut if dredged materials, possibly containing toxins, were dumped back into it over the next 30 years.

Despite this fear, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the plan in January without changing much of what was initially proposed. It appears to local officials — and this newspaper’s editorial board — that the issues raised at the hearings fell on deaf ears.

[related story] Suffolk to Gov. Cuomo: Don’t dump dredge spoils in LI Sound

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said his town’s concerns — including the potential use of 450 acres of Mattituck agricultural land to de-water 2 million cubic yards of dredge spoil — were entirely “ignored.”

“It is clear that the Army Corps of Engineers had a clear understanding of what conclusions it would draw despite what the public had to say,” Mr. Russell said.

In Riverhead, Supervisor Sean Walter said the Army Corps of Engineers never even reached out to his office about the proposal.

That lack of communication might explain why, after 10 years in development, the Dredged Material Management Plan was approved within months of the hearings.

If that doesn’t sound rushed, consider this: In her comments at a hearing in Port Jefferson last August, Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito said, “The Dredged Material Management Plan took over 10 years and $7 million to create, yet stakeholders were given seven days before being asked to attend public hearings and comment on a plan that will drive policy for the next 30 years.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should listen to the unanimous outcry from the Suffolk County Legislature and reject the Army Corps of Engineers’ approved plan. Too much time and money has been spent on this proposal for it to be accepted despite unanimous rejection by every single legislator in one of the few counties it affects.

It would be wise to take more time to get things right. The health of Long Island Sound is too important to delay another 30 years to address what is a pressing concern today.

Photo: Bill Toedter, president of the North Fork Environmental Council, at a public hearing in September. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo, file)

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