Conn.'s Congressmen Endorse Army Engineers' Dredging Plan

Sep 4, 2015

The attack submarine USS Missouri (SSN 780) passes under the Gold Star Bridge as it departs Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn., June 18, 2013.
Credit defenseimagery.mil

Connecticut’s congressional delegation has endorsed a 30-year U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan for dredging around Long Island Sound. Some lawmakers in New York are opposed to that plan.

Silt and sand collects at the mouths of rivers in Connecticut. The Army Corps dredges up the silt and sand. Don McKenzie owns a marina in Niantic, a harbor town. He says his marina and others rely on that dredging to allow boats to access Long Island Sound and the nearby Niantic River.

“We have about 2,500 boats inside. Those people don't live in Niantic. That's a destination," he said. "All that economy will come from Western [Massachusetts], Hartford, Avon, Glastonbury, down to the shoreline. If they don't have access to the water, they'll do something else.”

The Connecticut delegation said the Army Corps plan would protect up to 55,000 jobs in Connecticut that depend on dredging to keep ports and harbors open. Those include jobs on the U.S. Navy submarine base on the Thames River, and the nearby Electric Boat shipyard, which builds submarines for the navy. They also include jobs in commercial shipping, in addition to the jobs stemming from recreational boating.

The Army Corps’ plan would extend the practice of dumping dredged materials in Long Island Sound for the next 30 years. The Army Corps says the sediment they dump in the Sound is rigorously tested to make sure it isn’t contaminated.

But some Long Island lawmakers, including Congressman Lee Zeldin, New York State Senator Ken LaVall, and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, have said they’re worried dredged material could pollute the Sound.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said more than 55,000 jobs in the Long Island Sound region rely on dredging to keep ports and harbors open. Those include jobs on the U.S. Navy submarine base on the Thames River, and the nearby Electric Boat shipyard, which builds submarines for the Navy. They also include jobs in commercial shipping and recreational boating.

“Connecticut has about 300 miles of shoreline and some of the most valuable ports and harbors in the eastern seaboard. Dredging is necessary for them to be utilized," he said. "That’s an economic challenge. It’s a $9 billion economic challenge, because that’s the number of dollars generated by Long Island Sound.”

The public comment period on the plan ends on Oct. 18.