Submitted by Patrick Cassidy, Communications Director
WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, released the following statement today after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ruled to uphold General Dynamics Electric Boat’s (EB) application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to lawfully utilize the Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site (ELDS) for dredged materials. 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.
Rep. Courtney has worked for years to help build support amongst stakeholders across New England for the environmentally sound selection of the ELDS, and for EB’s 2019 permit application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would allow EB to place dredged material in the ELDS. In November of 2019, Courtney led a letter signed by the entire Connecticut and Rhode Island Congressional delegations expressing their continued strong support for the ELDS, and for EB’s permit application—the approval of which was critical not just to eastern Connecticut’s economy, but also to U.S. national security.
- On January 11, 2016,after a 10-year collaborative process involving the EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the State of New York and the State of Connecticut, the Dredged Material Management Plan (DMMP) for the region, was finalized.
- On December 6, 2016, EPA published its final ELDS selection rule in the federal register
- On August 17, 2017, the New York Department of State (DOS) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court challenging EPA’s final rule designating the ELDS.
- Rep. Courtney organized the first stakeholders meeting to discuss Connecticut stakeholders’ response to the lawsuit on October 19, 2017
- In June of 2019, amid the ongoing legal challenge levied by the State of New York, Electric Boat submitted a permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting permission to utilize the ELDS as it worked to complete construction of the new South Yard Assembly Building—a program critical to U.S. national security, and to eastern Connecticut’s manufacturing sector.
- In November of 2019, Courtney led the Connecticut and Rhode Island Congressional delegations in a letter to Gen. Todd Semonite (Commanding General & Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) and to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, expressing their support for EB’s permit application. According to the rules of the DMMP for the region, New York State had until December 27, 2019 to respond to EB’s proposal to make use of the ELDS.
- On December 27, 2019, the New York DOS issued an objection to EB’s permit application.
- On January 24, 2020, Electric Boat filed an appeal with the US Department of Commerce through NOAA, the agency responsible for adjudicating interstate disputes about coastal resources.
- Following continued input throughout 2020, NOAA ruled on November 16, 2020 to uphold EB’s permit application on the basis of national security.