Appeals Court Affirms EPA’s Long Island Sound Dumping Plan

Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound, Photo: Barbara Lassen

A federal appeals court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency can allow dredge spoils to be dumped in the Long Island Sound over the objections of the Town of Southold and others.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan affirmed a lower federal court’s ruling that the EPA plan did not run afoul of efforts to improve water quality in the Sound and dismissed claims that the material dumped will negatively affect marine life and fishing.

“The EPA’s designation of the new disposal site passes muster under the (Coastal Zone Management Act),” a panel of federal appeals court judges wrote in the decision. The ruling quoted F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in describing the waterway at the center of the dispute as “the most domesticated body of saltwater in the Western hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound.”

At issue is what to do with material dredged from the bottom of boat channels that isn’t the quality of sand that would be used to replenish beaches. Some of the material is contaminated with pollutants and should not be dumped in the Sound, critics say.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Connecticut officials, Suffolk County and Southold town appealed the 2020 ruling that greenlit the EPA plan, in which areas where marine life is most likely to live will be avoided. It is unclear if the plaintiffs will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The DEC said it is reviewing the decision.

“Having to go to court so we can pursue exactly what their own mission statement is, to protect the environment, is bizarre even by federal standards,” said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell. “They are working in conflict with years of hard work and considerable expense by environmental organizations, community groups, educational institutions and agencies from all levels of government, including federal, to restore a significant national estuary. The effort to restore the Long Island Sound has been successful and now an ill-thought-out, reckless plan can undo all of that.”

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