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Burlington City Orders Dredge Plan Halted

Posted on October 18, 2016

By Carol Comegno, Courier-Post

The city is demanding the state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halt plans to clear part of its island for future dumping of Delaware River dredge spoils.

City officials issued Thursday a cease-and-desist letter compelling the state and the Army Corps to hold off on the project.

Burlington City Mayor Barry Conaway said he believes the excavating activity due to start Saturday on a portion of Burlington Island is illegal because of the city’s ownership rights to the island and for other reasons.

Additionally, he said the city will launch a social media campaign asking those who support its position to visit its Save Burlington Island Facebook page.

“Our citizens are looking for ways to express their outrage,” said Conaway.

Conaway said it is not clear to city officials why the state or the Army Corps did not officially inform them of the intent to award a contract two weeks ago for land clearing.

“What is the rush?” Conaway asked. “First, we were not even notified. Then we only found out by chance, then we were told that work would start Saturday and be completed in 90 days. I say something just isn’t right here… and we need answers to these questions.”

He said the city also needs to determine why there has been no call for an environmental impact study and no consideration given to the possibility of unearthing historical artifacts that could be discovered during this process. The Burlington Island Board of Managers also is unhappy with the prospect of part of the 400-acre uninhabited island being leveled so river bottom silt can be dumped there.

The Army Corps awarded a contract Sept. 30 for removal of trees and other vegetation on 40 acres of land the state claims it owns at the southern end of the island, citing riparian rights around part of the island lake.

“The Army Corps is saying it will resume dumping dredge materials on Burlington Island because they did it in 1989, but that just doesn’t work for me,” the mayor added. “Just because it happened once, doesn’t mean it is going to happen again. Not on my watch.”

He also said anyone who goes onto the island will be treated as a trespasser and that the city would seek damages if necessary.

An Army Corps spokesman recently said there is no maintenance dredging planned now for the river in the vicinity of Burlington City, but that when it happens, there has to be a place to dump spoils removed from the river bottom to maintain the shipping channel. The agency could not be reached Thursday night for comment on the letter from the law firm of Parker McKay on behalf of the city.

While the Army Corps oversees dredging, the state Department of Environmental Protection designates sites for dredge deposits.

The mayor also questioned why the island was selected.

“Other towns have been approached and dredge spoils have not been dumped there, so why are we any different? Don’t we get a say in the matter?”

Source: Courier-Post

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