Gov. Andrew Cuomo at Sunken Meadow State Park in August 2016. Courtesy photo: Governor's office

New York State will take legal action against the United States Environmental Protection Agency to prevent the designation of new permanent open water disposal sites off the coast of eastern Long Island, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today at a press conference at Sunken Meadow State Park.

The governor today released a letter signed by more than 30 federal, state and local elected officials, providing notice to President Barack Obama and EPA officials that the state will take necessary steps to block the EPA from issuing a rule allowing dredged materials from Connecticut to be dumped in the eastern region of the Long Island Sound.

“The Long Island Sound is one of New York’s greatest natural treasures and a vital component of Long Island’s tourism industry,” Cuomo said.

New York has spent “billions and billions of dollars” to clean up and protect the Sound, Cuomo said.

“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.”

“This state is committed to ensuring the Sound remains a viable source of economic and tourist activity and we will continue to take any action necessary to preserve this precious jewel for generations to come,” Cuomo said.

The EPA has failed to show that there is need for an additional disposal site, the governor said.

In 2005, New York State called for, and EPA agreed to, establish a goal of reducing or eliminating dredged material disposal in the open waters of the Long Island Sound. The recent EPA decision to allow new dumping sites in eastern Long Island Sound contradicts this agreement.

The EPA claims that disposal sites in central and western L.I. Sound do not have the capacity to accept additional dredged materials and has issued a proposed rule, making the short-term dumping sites in eastern Long Island Sound, which are scheduled to expire on Dec. 23, 2016, permanent.

Last month, the New York Department of State and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation laid out the state’s concerns regarding the plan to establish a new disposal site, the governor said. A New York State review found that eastern Long Island sound disposal sites are not necessary because there is enough capacity at the central and western Sound sites to meet the needs of future dredged material disposal. Permanent designation of a new dredging site will impede the state’s goal to reduce or eliminate open water disposal in the Long Island Sound.

Dredging is necessary to maintain navigable waterways in the Sound, but open water dumping of dredged materials can be harmful to the diverse marine ecosystem, the governor’s office said in a press release. Eastern Long Island sound is a popular tourist area and home to several ecologically important designated coastal fish and wildlife habitats. Contaminants present in the dredged material can potentially affect the feeding activities of these fish and other organisms, and at extremely high concentrations can kill or injure them, according to the release. Designating permanent disposal sites in eastern Long Island Sound will impede public access and limit uses such as fishing (recreational and commercial), shell fishing, swimming, and diving, the governor said.

Congressman Lee Zeldin said he is “very grateful” to the state for its action.

“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,” Zeldin said. “I will continue doing everything in my power to stop this misguided proposal to allow for the continued protection of the Long Island Sound.”

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.