March 17, 2010

Gillibrand, Lieberman, Dodd, & Schumer Introduce Legislation To Protect Long Island Sound

Long Island Sound Contributes $5.5 Billion A Year To Local Economy From Sport And Commercial Fishing, Boating, Recreation And Tourism

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Joe Lieberman, Christopher Dodd, and Charles E. Schumer introduced 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 combines two complementary water quality and shore restoration program authorizations through 2015 at $325 million over the next 5 years. 

“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 a great place to work, play, and raise a family. With more than 8 million people living within the watershed, the Sound is not only critical to Long Island’s environment and economy, but the entire regions. During these tough economic times, the Sound provides an opportunity to promote economic growth on Long Island. I am committed to taking the steps needed to restore the Sound and promote environmental protection and economic development for generations.”

“The Sound is a true environmental, economic and recreational treasure that millions of Connecticut families enjoy,” said Senator Lieberman. “We have an obligation to save the Sound and its natural habitat for future generations – an obligation this legislation will help us to fulfill.”

“Thousands of Connecticut workers and residents depend on the health of the Long Island Sound,” said Senator Dodd. “This legislation will provide essential funds to keep the Sound clean by removing pollution and untreated sewage in order to protect this Connecticut jewel for future generations.”

“The Long Island Sound is a gift, for both Long Island and all of New York, and we must do everything in our power to protect it,” Senator Schumer said. “The Sound is not only a natural resource on Long Island, it is a critical to the Long Island economy and is a precious source of recreation for countless people. This important legislation will preserve its beauty and value, ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy all that the Sound has to offer.”

"We applaud Senator Gillibrand for leading the charge with Senator Schumer and the Long Island Sound Caucus to reauthorize and streamline the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Acts,” said Albert E. Caccese, Executive Director of Audubon New York the state program of the National Audubon Society.  “This important Legislation will ensure that desperately needed water quality improvements, habitat protection initiatives, and enhanced public access opportunities will continue so that future generations will be able to enjoy a cleaner, healthier Long Island Sound.” 

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. Last year, the Congress funded both programs at $7 million. 

This year, the Long Island Sound Restoration Act expires, and the Long Island Sound Stewardship ActLong Island Sound Restoration & Stewardship Act combines two separate authorizations through 2015 at $325 million over 5 years. This legislation includes a new provision that would increase stakeholder oversight by providing additional information how the EPA distributes the funds, requiring annual reports on how the money is allocated.