NOAA rejects objections to EB’s use of disposal site

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has upheld Electric Boat’s request to use an eastern Long Island Sound dredging disposal site, according to a news release from the Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney’s office.

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NOAA’s decision will allow dredging work that is essential to EB’s new South Yard Assembly Building – which will house upcoming construction for the new Columbia-class Submarine program – to move forward, despite lingering, unfounded legal challenges to the ELDS levied by the State of New York.

“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,” said Congressman Courtney. 

“Today’s decision by NOAA shouldn’t come as a surprise – the EPA under President Obama took painstaking care to document both the environmental and economic impacts of the ELDS, the selection has been upheld in court, and approval of EB’s permit application was critical to national security as the South Yard Assembly Building will house construction of the next-generation Columbia-class submarine. 

“Nonetheless, following several failed and drawn-out legal challenges by the State of New York, the decision to approve EB’s permit and put the ELDS to use is a welcome one. 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.”

The NOAA decision, which was issued on Monday, soundly rejects New York’s objections to Electric Boat’s use of the ELDS for necessary dredging to support the Navy’s Columbia class program. In its decision, NOAA cited Navy input that “If EBC is unable to proceed with the proposed action, the COLUMBIA program will be negatively impacted by a delayed construction schedule and an increase in costs.”

The Navy further warned that “the use of any other site other than ELDS will not allow the dredging effort to be completed in the available dredging window, directly resulting in a delay to the required delivery of the first COLUMBIA Class submarine.”

For eastern Connecticut, dredging activity is essential to everything from boating and fishing, to submarine launch and construction, and more – and the ELDS is critical to that activity.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final designation establishing the ELDS in 2017 under the Obama Administration following years of years of intense environmental reviews, robust public engagement, and diligent consideration of all views about the future of dredging in the region. 

The State of New York has levied several failed legal challenges against the environmentally sound selection of the ELDS.

Most recently, in July, Rep. Courtney and Connecticut Attorney General William Tong applauded a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled to uphold the lawful selection of the ELDS for dredged materials. 

On September 18, 2020, the State of New York filed a motion indicating its intention to appeal this decision, continuing its efforts to overturn more than a decade’s worth of work and block the use of the ELDS.