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EPA Proposes Long-Term Dredging Disposal Site in Rhode Island Sound

Release Date: 05/03/04
Contact Information: Contact: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1014

For Immediate Release: May 3, 2004 ; Release # 04-04-37

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced its preferred site for disposing of sediments dredged from harbors and navigation channels in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) recommends a site in Rhode Island Sound – the same location as site 69b which has already been selected to receive material on a short-term basis from the Providence River dredging project. EPA is seeking public comments on the proposed designation of this long-term site and will issue a final EIS after reviewing, considering and responding to public comments.

This proposed site is one square nautical mile located about 9 nautical miles south of Point Judith and 6.5 nautical miles due east of Block Island.

EPA’s proposed designation of the disposal site would make it available for about 20 years for disposal of dredged material which has been determined to be non-toxic and therefore suitable for ocean disposal under federal criteria. Currently, each dredging project must go through a thorough site selection process (as was done for the Providence River project). With the designation, a full site selection process for each dredging project would not be necessary. Each project will still be required to go through the permitting process and dredged material proposed for ocean disposal would be required to meet stringent criteria.

The DEIS was prepared by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New England District, in close cooperation with other federal and state agencies and in consultation with a “working group” comprised of local representatives from the marine trades industries and fishing, lobster and shellfishing communities. After determining the future dredged material disposal needs of the region, the DEIS identified two potential disposal areas that required further evaluation and analysis. After this detailed evaluation, EPA concluded that there was a need for designation of a long-term dredged material disposal site and that the proposed site had less overall environmental impact than other alternatives.

“The proposed designation of this site is a major step forward in addressing Rhode Island’s long-term dredging needs while also ensuring that water resources are being protected,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “This designation is a credit to the support and cooperation we’ve received from fishermen, environmentalists, the marine industry and state and federal regulators on an issue which has major ramifications for the economy and the environment of Rhode Island.”

“The working group’s effort in identifying the local concerns was critical in developing and refining the criteria used in the initial screening process,”said Lieutenant Colonel Brian Green, Acting District Engineer of the Army Corps of Engineers New England District. “The local knowledge that they brought to the evaluation team supplemented and confirmed information that was collected in field surveys.”

EPA is seeking public comments on the DEIS. The comment period runs from April 30, 2004 to June 21, 2004. Comments can be submitted by mail, electronically, or in person at two public hearings at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on June 15, 2004. The tentative location for the hearings is the Lighthouse Inn in Narragansett.

Full text of the EIS and other supporting documents, are available on the internet at www.epa.gov/region1/eco/ridredge/index.html or by contacting Olga Guza at guza.olga@epa.gov or by calling 617-918-1542. Guza’s mailing address is U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region I, 1 Congress Street, Suite 1100, mail code CWQ, Boston, MA 02114

Additionally, copies of the study and site monitoring plans and management plans are available at local town libraries in both Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.