The dumping of dredged materials in the Long Island Sound will continue for the next 30 years under a controversial plan approved yesterday over the protests of local officials and environmental activists.
Open-water dumping of dredged materials – material that has been dug up from the bottoms of rivers, harbors and inlets – was set to end completely in the Long Island Sound this year.
But it will now continue for the next three decades under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’s final Dredge Material Management Plan, which was finalized yesterday despite vocal opposition from local officials, environmentalists and residents.
“The Army Corps simply ignored the overwhelming public comment to protect Long Island Sound and chose to advance the cheap, easy option of open water disposal instead,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “They plan to treat Long Island Sound as a landfill and it’s deeply disturbing.”
The plan renews the designation of four sites in the Long Island Sound as disposal sites, including two local sites north of Greenport and Orient.
They are the only four open-water dumping sites left in the Sound today, leftover from a practice that once allowed dredged materials to be dumped in 22 different sites in the Sound prior to 1980.
After the draft plan was released in August, more than 1,800 comments, letters and emails were sent to the Army Corps in response.
Local environmental advocates have accused the Army Corps of failing to consider alternatives to open-water dumping, such as beach renourishment, wetlands restoration and landfill capping.
The Army Corps was mandated to consider such alternatives when a previous version of this plan was rejected in 2004. Open-water disposal was supposed to be phased out under that mandate in favor of beneficial reuse of the waste.
But the Army Corps’ new plan does not address those concerns, according to local activists and elected officials. In fact, it significantly increases the amount of dumping from 20 million cubic yards, which was proposed in 2004, to between 30 to 50 million cubic yards.
“This plan is on the same bad premise that got it rejected in the first place,” Esposito said at an August press conference. “It’s just a bigger, badder plan.”
The Army Corps says it will put some dredged materials to beneficial use “should state and local governments wish to sponsor such projects.” If not, those materials will likely be dumped in the Sound.
All dredged materials will undergo “stringent testing,” according to the Army Corps, and those that are determined to be toxic won’t be dumped into the Sound.
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