Gales Ferry Site ‘the Wrong Place’ for Dredging Business on the Thames

Oyster Boat plying the Thames River (Credit: Bruce Edwards)


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To the Editor:

Cashman Dredging & Marine Contracting Co., LLC is seeking permits to operate a Solid Waste Treatment Facility, GFI, in Gales Ferry. GFI will treat and transport dredge spoils (bottom material/mud & rocks)
overland to “brownfield” locations in the northeast.

Responsible dredge spoils management is understood and supported but, to threaten and damage the safety, environment and welfare of a community, the Thames River Valley/estuary, and Submarine Base operations & security, seems to be a massive imbalance designed to mostly serve the profits and convenience of one company. In short: there are more suitable locations elsewhere.

Cashman claims “verbally”, in their community presentation, to about 150 departures of 40-ton dump trucks daily, 5 normal workdays a week. For roundtrips, that is 300 dump trucks each day added to local two-lane roads. Yet, their “written DEEP application” states 1000 dump truck trips per day in a 24/7 operation. It is 5 miles in either direction to intersect multilane highways. This presents numerous local traffic safety, traffic flow and environmental issues. Added to trucks on the road, is the 24/7 operation of on-site trucks, front end loaders and cranes that will transfer the “Dredge Spoils” from barge to concrete pads for processing and, finally, to the trucks. Trains may also be involved on an old, dated, rail bed.

Does Cashman believe the audible ambiance of back up alarms, diesel engines and “Jake Brakes” will not irreparably harm our community and the environmental tenor? This is a quiet, friendly, safe, home to bald eagles, osprey, herons and people, etc. Schools, churches, small businesses and homes are within a radius measured in yards, not miles. What will be the dollar costs to the town to cover expanded traffic safety, emergency response, monitoring and legal claims relative to GFI vs tax revenue on a facility that is not likely to see any new structure or even the dump trucks taxed in our Town. What will be the real, total cost? Doing the math: The GFI site will be capable of holding 158,000 cubic yards of dredge material on just 2 of the three pads planned. This equates to about 13,000 full truckloads transferring out, or 26,000 truck trips. How fast will the material be treated and turned around?

Gales Ferry has no choice but to consider only the 24/7 operational levels stated in the DEEP application, which isn’t even the worst-case scenario in front of us. Cashman admitted that pursuit of additional operations promises to expand the intrusion further. Even the best case “verbal” claims are unacceptable. Air quality and health issues are involved. Road safety and wear and tear are factors. Transfer and transport spoils spillage into the river, on land and in the air, is inevitable. The environmental impact is more than meets the unsuspecting eye. These will not be piles of clean white beach sand and it will not be quiet. Real estate values are expected to plummet, making it harder to escape. For evaluation, imagine running a 1000 dump trucks a day past Cashman’s Kilkea Castle resort in Ireland and predict what would happen there. Gales Ferry is our castle, our home.

On the Thames River, there will be tugs moving mud filled hopper barges and crane/equipment barges. Cashman states verbally, that just to begin with, two 200-ft hopper barges a day will be pushed to Gales Ferry. Each will carry about 2100 tons (roughly 1500 cubic yards wet) of bottom material of questionable contamination. If it wasn’t contaminated, they would dump at sea. These heavy vessels will pass, via a narrow channel, very close to nuclear submarines and piers at the Submarine Base. They will continue north, also passing close to oyster beds that have taken many careful years to develop. A 30-fold increase in barge traffic, using rake front hopper barges that are more difficult to handle than the two notched fuel barges currently supplying NRG power plant and AmSty (formerly Dow) each month, raises many red flags.

Has the Navy or the Coast Guard performed a security analysis to ensure the safety and security of these new barges? Will the numerous barges interrupt the ever-present waterfront operations at the Naval base? An errant barge could disable a sub or block the channel in, literally, seconds. What processes will be put in place to ensure that additional collision and terrorist threat preventions will be suitable, and who will pay for it? If you ever have watched the visible security operations of the arrival and departures of nuclear submarines, you will realize it is serious and very expensive.

My belief is that GFI presents potentially serious unnecessary risks, impairments, and costs to Submarine Base operations and, on that alone, should be denied permits to operate in Gales Ferry. I also believe it is in the best interest of national security, that the Department of the Navy and Department of Defense should review this thoroughly with expert analysis before GFI is allowed to advance any further with current development of their dock and facility. Better now than later.

The full potential adverse impact of GFI in Gales Ferry and the Thames River Valley estuary is sufficient to warrant additional investigations by the Department of the Interior regarding War of 1812 historical sites and tribal archeology, Army Corps of Engineers for dock and dredge work, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for eagle, osprey, fish and shellfish habitat protection.

Cashman openly claims to be transparent but their conflicting and obscured information has made the whole truth quite foggy and hard to see. beyond one public presentation, repeated requests by Gales Ferry residents for additional public meetings have failed. Cashman’s verbal representations don’t agree with their DEEP applications and their application information is deeply flawed. They have been very tactical and even verbally dispute their own application, but do not change the paper. Cashman may be trying to do a good thing, but profits and convenience are clearly the prime motives, not the good of the environment or the community. The big picture is clear: the GFI proposal is In the Wrong Place.

Bruce Edwards
Gales Ferry, CT