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For Release: Tuesday, July 24, 2012

DEC Creates Dredge Team for Port of NY & NJ

Team Will Work with Local, State & Federal Partners to Develop Environmentally Responsible Strategy to Keep New York's Maritime Economy Strong

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has created a team to work with local, state and federal partners in developing environmentally responsible and economically feasible dredging strategies for the Port of New York & New Jersey to promote commerce and protect the harbor estuary, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced today.

Shipping channels of adequate depths are needed to keep water-dependent businesses moving and growing. Properly maintaining these channels requires dredging and managing between one and two-million cubic yards of sediments, or dredge material, from the local waterways each year. Finding sustainable management strategies for this quantity of material is a challenge to be undertaken by DEC and its local, state and federal partners.

DEC Commissioner Martens said, "The harbor estuary is home to our thriving port as well as hundreds of species of birds, fish, plants and important terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates. DEC embraces the challenge of finding ways to support the needs of the maritime businesses that use these waterways while protecting this critical wildlife habitat."

Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said, "Our ports are vital to the economic well-being of our region, and we must do all we can to ensure the unimpeded flow of ships and cargo into and out of our marine terminals. At the same time, we have an absolute duty to be responsible stewards of the environment and protect it for future generations. The DEC's dredging-management strategy announced today helps further both of these goals."

Empire State Development Corporation CEO Kenneth Adams said, "Economic development and revitalization for New York Harbor depends on maintaining the health of the port for the maritime industry. The creation of the dredge team will help grow jobs, protect our unique marine environment and make government more responsive through process reform."

Commerce at the Port of New York and New Jersey generates more than $20 billion in
economic activity in the region every year, including $5 billion in state and local tax revenue, and provides more than 230,000 jobs. New York's cruise industry provides an additional $145 million in direct spending to the local economy. Maritime support services, such as the tug and barge industry, provide nearly 12,000 jobs in New York, with a payroll of $1.1 billion annually.

To work with other Port stakeholders, DEC will create a six-member, interdisciplinary dredge team of environmental analysts, engineers and biologists that will:

  • Participate with harbor stakeholders to identify, develop and implement economically feasible and environmentally sustainable dredge material management sites, technologies and methods;
  • Work with other government agencies to coordinate and, as appropriate, revise dredging and dredge material management procedures, policies and protocols;
  • Provide permitting guidance to dredging and dredge material management project sponsors, ensuring that all dredging and dredge-material management permit applications are reviewed within the mandated timeframes;
  • Develop clear, concise on-line permitting guidance documents that will benefit all applicants seeking to work in or at the water's edge;
  • Identify potential marine environment restoration projects for dredged sediment reuse;
  • Expand opportunities for the use of dredged sediments at "brownfield" and other development sites.

The dredge team will work cooperatively with the Army Corp of Engineers, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The dredge team will be funded for five years using approximately $3.7 million in Port Authority funds set aside under the 1996 Joint Dredging Plan and managed by the Empire State Development Corporation. The dredge team will be housed at DEC's Region 2 office in New York City.

Roland Lewis, president & CEO of Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance said, "The rising tide and hidden challenge of silt is an environmental and economic threat to our harbor. DEC's new and necessary staff, made possible through the Bi-State Dredge funds, is critical to realizing an environmentally restored and economically vibrant 21st century waterfront. It is a great and timely waterfront investment."

Edward J. Kelly, executive director of the Maritime Association of the Port of NY/NJ, said, "Timely, cost-efficient dredging operations are a vital component of keeping our waterways safe, operational, and environmentally sustainable. We are hopeful that the newly incepted DEC Dredge Team will play a key role in regulating and facilitating these essential operations. A well managed dredging program is essential to the well being of the Port. We congratulate all the many organizations that have worked together so diligently to create this new tool."

Debbie Mans, baykeeper & executive director, NY/NJ Baykeeper said, "It is a great step forward to have a program in place in New York dedicated to properly managing dredged material that is similar to the one in place across the harbor in New Jersey. This will result in a coordinated response and strategy to increase the beneficial use of dredged material from NY-NJ Harbor, especially for environmentally responsible projects such as wetlands restoration and brownfield redevelopment."

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