Thursday, December 09, 2004

Giving Away Public Waters to Broadwater

I argued a few days ago that the key issue concerning Broadwater's proposal to put a major industrial facility in the middle of the Sound would not be one of safety but rather would be the question of what Long Island Sound is best used for. Leah Lopez, Save the Sound's director of legislative and legal affairs, wrote to me and said that on the contrary, the two issues are the same. And she has good point.

Leah argues that because the LNG plant is a safety risk, an area of the Sound with a radius of 1 to 2.5 miles would have to be made off-limits to boats, fishermen, etc.

This "would result in public trust waters being removed from the public's use -- something that radically changes the way the Sound has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years. These policy shifts absent a sustainable plan are very poor procedures and very damaging precedents."

She is referring to the Public Trust Doctrine which, as I understand it, basically holds that the waters and the shores of the sea (among other things) are held by the government in trust for use by the public.

If I have my geometry right, a circle with a radius of 2.5 miles encompasses about 20 square miles. In other words, if Broadwater builds its LNG terminals, as much as 20 square miles of public waters will be usurped by private industry. Twenty square miles is almost two percent of the surface of the Sound.

So in addition to having to look at this LNG terminal, which Save the Sound says would be “10-stories tall, four football fields long, and 180-ft. wide – larger than the QE2,” boats will have to stay away from it.

One would think that boat clubs, boating associations, marinas etc. would be unhappy about that.


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