Without Passage of Legislation, Long Island Sound Stands To Lose Millions In Federal Dollars
On June 22, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D – NY), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Charles E. Schumer (D – NY), Joseph Lieberman (I – CT) and Richard Blumenthal (D – CT) announced a key Senate panel’s passage of legislation to bring federal dollars to support the restoration of Long Island Sound.
The Sound borders New York and Connecticut, with 8 million people living on the coast and 20 million people living within 50 miles. Although decades of overdevelopment, pollution, dumping of dredged materials, and releases of untreated sewage have severely hurt the water quality, the Sound’s economic contribution from sport and commercial fishing, boating, recreation and tourism is estimated to be just over $5.5 billion a year. The Long Island Sound Restoration & Stewardship Act extends two complementary water quality and shore restoration program authorizations through 2016 at $325 million over the next five years. In April, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Steve Israel (D – NY) held a roundtable with Long Island stakeholders to discuss efforts to protect Long Island Sound.
“We need more federal investment in the Long Island Sound,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Long Island Sound is a natural treasure – it makes Long Island and Westchester a great place to work, play, and raise a family. With more than 8 million people living along its waters, the Sound is not only critical to Long Island and Westchester’s environment and economy, but the entire region. During these tough economic times, the Sound provides an opportunity to promote economic growth on Long Island and in Westchester. I am committed to taking the steps needed to restore the Sound and promote environmental protection and economic development for generations.”
“The Long Island Sound is a beautiful natural resource that is crucial to the environment and the local economy,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why it’s essential that we preserve funding for the Long Island Sound Study. These funds are a huge step towards protecting this majestic part of our state and ensuring its health for years to come.”
“Long Island Sound is both a remarkable natural treasure and an essential economic resource for the residents of Connecticut,” said Senator Lieberman. “I am proud to have worked to protect and restore it for over two decades, which is why I am so pleased to see this legislation move forward. This important legislation will ensure that water quality and habitat protection improvement efforts continue along the Sound, and I hope to see this become law before the end of the year.”
“This national investment is critical to sustaining the Sound as a precious national treasure – and for millions in Connecticut who enjoy its waters and coasts every day,” said Senator Blumenthal. “As important as the $325 million is the spirit of stewardship and common commitment spanning state borders. United, we can stop threats like contamination, coastal erosion and habitat depletion, and restore this historic estuary. I commend and thank Senator Gillibrand and my colleagues for their leadership.”
In 1985, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), in agreement with the States of New York and Connecticut, created the Long Island Sound Study (LISS), an office under the EPA charged with advancing efforts to restore the sound and address low oxygen levels and nitrogen levels that have depleted fish and shellfish populations as well as hurt shoreline wetlands. In 1990, the Long Island Sound Improvement Act passed providing federal dollars to advance Sound cleanup projects, including wastewater treatment improvements. In 2006, identifying the need for increased stakeholder participation and the need to focus on coastal restoration and improved public access and education, Congress passed the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act which provided federal dollars for projects to restore the coastal habitat to help revitalize the wildlife population and coastal wetlands and plant life.
The Long Island Sound Restoration Act expired, and the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act combines two separate authorizations through 2016 at $325 million over five years. This legislation includes new areas of concentration in the remediation efforts including climate change adaptation, sea level rise and resource management. The new bill also includes additional reporting requirements to better outline the activities and projects enacted to improve the health of the Sound. ✦
This article originally appeared on the website of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (gillibrand.senate.gov) and is reprinted with permission.