June 22, 2015

Gillibrand, Schumer, Blumenthal, Murphy, Israel & Zeldin Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Protect & Restore Long Island Sound

Legislation Provides Additional Resources for Long Island Sound Restoration

U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Charles E. Schumer, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy with Representatives Steve Israel a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, and Lee Zeldin today introduced legislation to continue to support the restoration of Long Island Sound through 2020. The Sound borders New York and Connecticut, with 9 million people living on the coast and 24 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, including from sport and commercial fishing, boating, recreation and tourism, is estimated to be between $17 billion and $37 billion annually. The Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act combines 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 related to the restoration of Long Island Sound.     

“We need more federal investment in the Long Island Sound,” said Senator Gillibrand. “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.

“This critical measure will ensure the preservation, restoration and maintenance of the Long Island Sound – a vital resource that provides crucial economic and environmental benefits to the state of Connecticut,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Not only is the Sound one of our nation’s more precious natural resources and home to a diverse array of wildlife, the Sound is a foundation for hundreds of jobs in the tourism, shellfish, manufacturing, and maritime industries. I am proud to join with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle in supporting this legislation to ensure that the Sound can be enjoyed for many generations to come.”

“Long Island Sound is Connecticut’s most valuable natural resources,” said Senator Murphy. “The Sound is a  proven economic driver for Connecticut, generating billions of dollars in tourism, fishing, shellfishing, and boating for the state annually, not to mention the more than 1300 square miles of coast that serve as home to hundreds of diverse wildlife species. For the millions of people who rely on Long Island Sound for work and recreation each year, we have an obligation to prioritize federal investments in its restoration and long-term health. The Long Island Sound Stewardship Act is a meaningful first step.”

“If my congressional district was a factory town, Long Island Sound would be the factory, generating more than $5.2 billion in direct wages and supporting at least 190,000 jobs,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington). “That’s why I am proud to be the lead Democratic sponsor of this bill in the House. As Chair of Congress’ Long Island Sound Caucus, I have no greater local environmental and economic priority than getting this passed and signed by the President.”

“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.”

“Enactment of the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act is of critical importance to the long-term health of the Long Island Sound and our own Hempstead Harbor,” said North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth. “I would like to thank Senator Gillibrand for advocating for this legislation which increases oversight over Long Island Sound Study programs, expands public awareness and education, and promotes coordination among the numerous agencies involved in this effort. I look forward to continuing to work with the Senator and all of our federal and state partners, as we move toward attaining our mutual goal of making the Long Island Sound the cleanest and safest body of water it can be.”

“We thank Senators Gillibrand and Schumer, Congressmen Israel and Zeldin and the Long Island Sound Congressional Caucus for introducing the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act,” said Erin Crotty, Executive Director of Audubon New York. “This legislation is vital for keeping Long Island Sound on the road to recovery, and is critical for maintaining the federal government’s commitment to conserve, protect, and restore this globally significant ecosystem which provides critical bird habitat and is the backbone of Long Island’s quality of life and economy. We look forward to working together to pass the legislation this year.”

“We applaud Senators Gillibrand, Schumer, Blumenthal, Congressmen Israel, and Zeldin for working together on introducing this important legislation,” said Carol DiPaolo of the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor. “It is this type of collaborative effort that has enabled us to achieve the dramatic turnaround in Hempstead Harbor, and it is what is needed to continue making water-quality improvements in and around Long Island Sound.”

“We are excited by the significant progress in restoring Long Island Sound,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Last year hundreds of bottlenose dolphins visited the Sound, this year rare and beautiful bulga whales graced the estuary, and an estimated 4 million menhaden fish have re-bounded 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.  The Restoration and Stewardship Act provides the needed federal money that ensures continued progress and tackles new threats. We are thrilled that Senator Gillibrand is reintroducing the bill and we are hopeful this will provide a stable and ample funding source.”   

“The recipe for improving Long Island Sound first and foremost requires a diverse team of stakeholders with a vision and the necessary resources to carry out that vision,” said Eric Swenson Executive Director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee.  “The Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act provides that framework as well as the resources to make this happen.  We are very pleased with the bipartisan support shown by Congress and for Senator Gillibrand’s choice of Hempstead Harbor to make this announcement.  Federal funds and teamwork in the past have helped this harbor not only re-open a large portion to shellfishing in 2011 but then to see it become New York State’s second largest producer of hard clams in 2014.”

In 1985, the EPA, in agreement with the 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. Since then, for every $1 appropriated, the LISS has leveraged $87 from other Federal, state, local and private funding sources, totaling more than $3.8 billion.  This funding has enabled programs to significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the Long Island Sound from sewage treatment plants by 35,000,000 lbs. per year as of 2013 compared to the 1990s, restored at least 1,548 acres and protected 2,580 acres of habitat land.

Enacting the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act will allow the LISS to maintain the important gains that have been made, and build on those achievements to further protect and restore the sound and watershed for future generations.