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New PCB Dredging Plan for Champlain Canal Under Wraps


Posted on June 27, 2016

By Brian Nearing,

A revamped state plan to dredge the PCB-impaired Champlain Canal was filed months ago with the federal government.

But state and federal officials said Wednesday the proposal won’t be released until “it is found to be complete.”

Last fall, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering told the state Canal Corp. that it needed to replace its original 2012 dredging plan, which relied for disposal of PCBs on a now-defunct GE processing plant in Fort Edward.

The new plan was filed in February, and remains under internal review for potential completeness, Corps spokesman Hector Mosley said. “We are not releasing the plan at this time, until it is found to be complete, and are not yet taking public comment on it,” he said.

Canal Corp. spokesman Shane Mahar confirmed the plan was filed, but could provide no information on the application or a description of what it contains. Canal officials have estimated that dredging the silted-in canal could cost $180 million.

Several environmental groups that unsuccessfully pushed for the canal to be part of the massive GE dredging project are eager to see the proposal. At the end of the six-year dredging project last fall, GE dismantled the Fort Edward site despite protests from pro-canal advocates.

Daniel Raichel, a staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said his group has been seeking access to the plan since February.

Based on conversations with canal agency staffers, he said, it appears the new plan calls for the Canal Corp. to build its own replacement PCB processing facility on the Fort Edward site. The GE facility processed about 300,000 pounds of PCBs for later disposal via rail to out-of-state hazardous waste landfills.

“Of course, the devil is in the details, and we are still waiting to see the new plan,” Raichel said.

Environmental, civic and government leaders had urged that the canal dredging be done with the GE processing plant as part of the overall river dredging project, but the company declined, saying the canal project was outside of its agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Because of the toxic PCBs, the Canal Corp. has not dredged the channel since 1980. The channel has gradually silted in, making it too shallow or narrow for most commercial vessels.

In some portions, parts of the channel are as shallow as four feet deep, according to information posted on the Canal Corp. website last month. Local economic development officials have said a fully functioning canal is important to the area’s economic future.

“I would certainly like to know what the Canal Corp. plan is,” said Pete Bardunias, president and CEO of the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County. “The biggest thing is, are we going to have the full 12 feet of water (in the depth of the navigation channel)? That would mean we can continue to try to attract companies that would use this form of marine transportation.”

A section of the state constitution requires that the canal navigation channel be maintained to a minimum depth of 12 feet.

According to a Canal Corp. statement in October, the 110-acre Fort Edward facility will be returned to private owners. One of the owners is the Canal Corp., which owns the area around the wharf.

Under the 2012 proposal, canal officials sought federal permits to dredge about 587,000 cubic yards of PCB-tainted sediments from about 40 miles of river between Fort Edward and Troy. GE dredged about 2.7 million cubic yards from this area in its project.

The original plan proposed dredging about 102 acres of river bottom from 107 different places in the canal’s navigation channel.

Source: timesunion

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