January 14, 2015

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce $10 Million In USDA Funding For Long Island Sound Watershed Conservation

Senators Have Led Fight to Improve Long Island Sound Watershed, A Key New York Economic Anchor

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $10 million in federal funding for the Long Island Sound Watershed. The funding was allocated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and will be used to help improve soil health, assist farmers in implementing whole-farm nutrient management programs, and will establish a program to protect agriculture and forestry in the region. The award announced today is one of four grants totaling $30.5 million awarded across New York State to protect wildlife and the environment and improve water quality.

“This major investment will help better protect and conserve the Long Island Sound Watershed, which so many local farmers rely on, and which protects all Long Islanders from storms and flooding” said Senator Schumer. “Improving water quality in the Long Island Sound is a priority for all Long Islanders, including farmers, fishers and families and I am pleased that the USDA is investing in Long Island’s wildlife, water quality and environment.”

“The Long Island Sound Watershed is not only a treasured natural resource that must be protected but it is also a key economic anchor in our state,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and lead Senate sponsor of the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act. “This critical funding is an important step in the right direction as we continue fighting to protect the Sound and work to help the local farmers who rely on its resources. I will continue to push for investments that support New York farmers and businesses and will work to keep our Sound clean and safe for the businesses and families who live in its watershed.”

The Long Island Sound borders New York and Connecticut, with 8 million people living in its watershed 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. Authorization of federal funding for restoration and stewardship programs to protect Long Island Sound expired at the end of 2011, however Congress has continued to fund these important efforts, ensuring that it remains a federal priority.

In 1985, the EPA, in agreement with the States of New York and Connecticut, created the Long Island Sound Study (LISS), an office under the Environment Protection Agency (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 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), promotes coordination between Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its partners to provide federal assistance to farmers and landowners. Regions must apply in order to be eligible partners in the program and access federal funding. The program was authorized under the most recent Farm Bill.