Governor George E. Pataki announced today the successful conclusion of negotiations that lasted nearly a year between New York, Connecticut and the federal government to impose historic restrictions on the dumping of dangerous dredged materials into the open waters of the Long Island Sound.
"This is a great victory for all of the communities located on the Long Island Sound and for those who make use of its waters, including the commercial fishing industry, recreational boaters and everyone who swims along the Sound's wonderful beaches," Governor Pataki said. "This agreement will protect the open waters of Long Island Sound from harmful dredged materials, so that we can preserve this precious water resource."
Senator Carl Marcellino, Chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee said, "This agreement builds upon our commitment to keeping the Long Island Sound clean and safe for generations of New Yorkers to enjoy. Our investment today, will pay dividends in a cleaner environment, a stronger economy and safer future for those of us who use the Sound."
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto said, "This agreement assures that Long Islanders will have a clean Long Island Sound for generations to come. The Secretary of State has kept to his word and remains steadfast in his commitment to reduce or eliminate open water disposal of contaminated sediments in Long Island Sound."
Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, "This agreement advances the giant step forward that the two State leaders took in seeking alternatives to open water disposal, and begins a new era of state and federal commitment to reducing the need for open water disposal."
Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell said, "This agreement protects one of our most important and irreplaceable natural resources - Long Island Sound - while allowing essential dredging work to move forward. Dealing with dredged sediment is vital to the economic and environmental well-being of both Connecticut and New York. We have made enormous strides in recent years in improving the environmental quality of the Sound. We are restoring natural habitat and tidal wetlands, and we have significantly improved water quality. This is another step in balancing the protection of this critical resource and our vital ports and harbors."
The agreement, which involved negotiations between the Governor's Office, New York State Department of State, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, and the State of Connecticut, will continue the State's efforts to protect and restore Long Island Sound. The agreement imposes 14 specific restrictions designed to ensure that alternatives to dumping are sought, and only if absolutely necessary, allow for the safe disposal of dredging materials in two sites. If any of the restrictions are not met, the EPA has agreed to rescind the disposal site designations and cease dumping altogether.
The agreement outlines conditions requiring State and federal agencies to work cooperatively to develop and implement a regional Dredged Material Management Plan (DMMP). The DMMP will provide a framework for advancing alternatives to open water disposal including efforts to use dredged material beneficially, as well as the application of innovative technologies to process and treat dredged sediments, which often contain dangerous, toxic ingredients such as heavy metals.
The negotiation process dates back to June 3, 2004, when the New York State Department of State, pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management Act, objected to a proposal by the EPA to designate two dredged material sites in the Long Island Sound. In an effort to avoid risky and possibly unsuccessful litigation, the Department of State sought a negotiated settlement with the
first key agreement reached on February 8, 2005 in a joint letter from Governor Pataki and Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell to the Army Corps of Engineers calling on the federal agency to develop a DMMP for Long Island Sound. This process was completed May 13, when both States and the federal government reached final agreement. It will be published in the Federal Register on May 27.
Under the agreement, three currently permitted projects will be allowed to use two designated sites located in the Western and Central regions of Long Island Sound for the next three years. The projects include dredging projects being undertaken in New Rochelle and Rye, New York, and Norwalk Connecticut.
Secretary of State Randy A. Daniels said, "I am very pleased that we were able to achieve agreement with the State of Connecticut and the Federal Government to realize this historic agreement that will protect Long Island from unregulated dumping of dredged materials that ultimately will lead, I am confident, to the ultimate elimination of all dumping of dredged materials in the Long Island Sound in the reasonable future. The ooperative stance taken by all parties in this negotiation was a model of modern federalism and good government."
The agreement additionally calls for the formation of a Regional Dredging Team (RDT) comprised of regulatory and coastal policy specialists from the States and federal agencies. The RDT will be charged with identifying alternatives to open water disposal and seeking solutions for dredged material use on a project- by-project basis until the completion of the DMMP. The RDT will be a coordination mechanism between the States and federal agencies while the DMMP is being developed. As a condition of the agreement, the use of the Central and Western disposal sites will not be allowed if any practical alternatives are available within the region.
Upon completion of the DMMP, use of the sites will be allowed for permitted projects that comply with the standards and procedures outlined in the DMMP. These standards will ultimately minimize open water disposal in Long Island Sound.