A broad swath of bipartisan federal lawmakers are looking to extend the federal government’s support of the restoration of the Long Island Sound.
In late June, a consortium of Connecticut and New York lawmakers introduced legislation that would extend the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act from now until 2020. If passed, it would provide a large pool of federal money to clean up the Sound.
In 1985, the EPA, in agreement with the New York and Connecticut, created the Long Island Sound Study, an office under the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) that works to restore the Sound, addressing low oxygen levels and high nitrogen levels that have depleted fish and shellfish populations and hurt wetlands.
In 1990, the Long Island Sound Improvement Act passed. providing federal money for cleanup projects, including wastewater treatment improvements.
In 2006, Congress passed the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act, which provided federal money for projects to restore coastal habitats to help revitalize wildlife populations, coastal wetlands and plant life.
Since then, for every $1 appropriated, the Long Island Sound Study has leveraged $87 from other federal, state, local and private funding sources, totaling more than $3.8 billion, enabling the program to significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the Long Island Sound from sewage treatment plants by 35,000,000 pounds per year. They’ve also used the money to restore at least 1,548 acres and protect 2,580 acres of habitat land.
New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer and Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy joined forces with Representatives Steve Israel and Lee Zeldin to introduce the legislation on June 24.
The act would continue to fund two complementary water quality and shore restoration program authorizations at their previous authorization levels of $40 million and $25 million per year, respectively. This legislation also provides for additional focus, oversight and coordination of federal activities in the restoration of Long Island Sound.
“We need more federal investment in the Long Island Sound,” said Senator Gillibrand when the extension of the act was announced. “The Sound is not only a natural treasure that makes Long Island and Westchester great places to work, play, and raise a family. It’s also a vital economic anchor that local businesses rely on every day. I’ll continue to push for the resources we need to restore the Sound and promote environmental protection and economic development for generations to come.”
“The Long Island Sound is the ideal setting for a host of recreational activities that draw families, tourists and anglers to our shores and is a major contributor to Long Island’s economy. We must do everything to help restore and protect the Long Island Sound, so that it can be enjoyed for years to come,” said Senator Schumer.
“I am proud to help lead the effort to pass the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act,” said Congressman Lee Zeldin. “This legislation is necessary to help protect the Long Island Sound; an essential environmental resource that is so important to the life, culture and economy of Long Island.”
“We are excited by the significant progress in restoring Long Island Sound,” said Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito. “Last year hundreds of bottlenose dolphins visited the Sound, this year rare and beautiful bulga whales graced the estuary, and an estimated four million menhaden fish have rebounded in Sound waters.”
“However, failing septic systems, polluted run-off, beach closures, diminished lobster populations, invasive species and massive fish kills continue to be critical threats plaguing this ecosystem,” she added. “The Restoration and Stewardship Act provides the needed federal money that ensures continued progress and tackles new threats.”
The full text of the bill, which has been sent to committee, is online here.