Gov. Andrew Cuomo, backed by about 30 elected officials, announced on Thursday the state may take legal action against the Environmental Protection Agency to stop a plan to allow dumping in Long Island Sound of materials dug up from dredging.
“The EPA’s plan to establish a new disposal site not only poses a major threat to this ecologically vital habitat, but impedes our progress in ending open water dumping in Long Island’s waters once and for all,” Gov. Cuomo said during the announcement at Sunken Meadow State Park.
Mr. Cuomo said the state objects to any further dumping in the eastern region of Long Island Sound. The notice was sent in a letter to both EPA officials and President Obama, according to the governor.
In March, Suffolk lawmakers and local environmentalists urged Gov. Cuomo to reject the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers’ plan for about 53 million cubic yards of dredge spoils to be dumped into the Sound over the next 30 years. A month later, the EPA reached a conclusion to allow dumping of dredge materials. Most of the dredging has occurred in Connecticut harbors and rivers and is done to deepen waterways to allow for ships to pass easier.
Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, has been a vocal critic of the dumping plan.
“We expect the EPA to protect the Sound, not pollute the Sound,” she said in a statement. “This summer we once again see humpback whales and dolphins visiting the Sound, a sign that our restoration efforts are working. A reckless plan to increase dumping of dredged material thwarts continued progress.”
In 2005, the state called for, and the EPA agreed, to establish a goal of reducing or eliminating dredged materials in open waters of Long Island Sound, the governor said. The recent decision to allow dumping is contradictory to that agreement, the governor said.
Local officials such as County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) and Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell have opposed any plan for dumping in Long Island Sound.
According to the EPA, dumping some of the dredge material in one part of the eastern Long Island Sound about 1 1/2 miles northwest of Fishers Island concentrates “the effects, if any, of disposal practices to small, discrete areas that have already received dredged material, and avoid distributing any effects over a larger geographic area.” The EPA has also said monitoring will alert authorities if the material begins to spread.
Last month, the State Department of Environmental Conservation along with the New York Department of State said there are several concerns with the proposed designations starting with the eastern Long Island Sound disposal site as being unnecessary, according to the governor. The EPA has argued there is an inadequate capacity at the western Long Island Sound, central Long Island Sound and Rhode Island Sound disposal sites. The governor said the state’s review of those estimates is wrong.
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) was among the elected officials at Thursday’s press conference.
“The Long Island Sound shouldn’t be a dumping ground, especially when there are many viable alternatives to open water dumping, including recycling and safe disposal on land,” Mr. Zeldin said in a statement.
Photo caption: Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces potential legal action against the EPA at Thursday’s press conference at Sunken Meadow State Park. (Credit: Governor’s office)