Posted on November 24, 2020
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has upheld Electric Boat’s request to use an eastern Long Island Sound dredging disposal site, according to a news release from U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District.
Citing environmental concerns, the state of New York had taken several legal actions seeking to stop use of the site, referred to as ELDS. The state issued an objection to EB’s permit application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in December 2019, prompting the company to file an appeal with the U.S. Department of Commerce through NOAA, which makes decisions in interstate disputes over coastal resources.
The NOAA decision, which was issued Monday, rejects New York’s objections to EB’s use of the ELDS. The dredging work is considered essential for the construction of the company’s new South Yard Assembly Building, which will be used for building the Navy’s new Columbia class of submarines.
NOAA said the Navy warned that if EB can’t proceed with using the ELDS, the Columbia-class program would be negatively impacted “by a delayed construction schedule and an increase in costs.” The Navy also said “the use of any other site other than ELDS will not allow the dredging effort to be completed in the available dredging window,” noting that would delay the delivery of the first Columbia-class submarine.
In a news release Wednesday, Courtney praised the NOAA decision.
“There has been a groundswell of input from small marinas, local and state officials, large stakeholders like Submarine Naval Base New London, Electric Boat, and many others, all strongly in favor of the sound selection of the ELDS,” Courtney, who serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, said in the release.
He said the decision should not come as a surprise. The 1.3-mile underwater site, between the mouth of the Thames River and Fishers Island, was designated by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016. It is viewed as crucial to maritime businesses like EB and Cross Sound Ferry, along with the Naval Submarine Base and a host of industries that depend on dredging of area channels, marinas, boatyards and harbors.
The EPA had taken “painstaking care to document both the environmental and economic impacts” of the dredging disposal site, Courtney said. He noted the selection of the site has been upheld in court — the U.S. District Court in New York in July upheld the choice of the dredge disposal site — and that approval of EB’s permit application was critical to national security.
“I’ll continue to work with my colleagues in the Connecticut and Rhode Island delegations to ensure that the lawful, sound selection of the ELDS is upheld once and for all for the benefit of our region,” he said.