December 16, 2011

Gillibrand, Lieberman, Blumenthal & Schumer Introduce Legislation to Protect Long Island Sound

Without Passage of Legislation this Year, Long Island Sound Stands To Lose Millions In Federal Dollars

Washington, DC – With federal funding to protect Long Island Sound set to expire this month, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Joe Lieberman, Richard Blumenthal, and Charles E. Schumer today introduced legislation to continue to support the restoration of Long Island Sound through 2016. 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 2015 at $325 million over the next 5 years. Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY) is introducing the measure in the House today. 

“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, and thankful to my colleagues on the Environment & Public Works Committee for their unified support of our legislation.” 

“This legislation continues our efforts to preserve and protect the Long Island Sound,” said Senator Lieberman. “I am proud to have worked on this legislation throughout my years in the Senate and I look forward to working with my colleagues to defend this natural treasure, which is crucial to our region’s economy, quality of life and heritage.” 

“Investing in this national treasure- a unique natural resource – is a national obligation, met through this measure,” Senator Blumenthal said. “ More than merely a source of natural beauty, Long Island Sound is home to a rich and diverse array of wildlife, and the foundation for hundreds of jobs in the tourism, shellfish, manufacturing, and maritime industries, to name a few. Water quality and shore restoration investments are vital to preserve and protect the Sound’s pristine beauty and economic vitality for future generations.”

“The Long Island Sound is an important source of industry, transportation and recreation for countless New Yorkers and is critical to the local economy, quality of life and fishing industry,” said Senator Schumer. “We must ensure that the Sound protected and improved, and I will fight hard to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy all the Long Island Sound has to offer.” 

“Long Island Sound is truly an irreplaceable treasure for New York and Connecticut,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.   While we have made substantive progress over the last decade to advance the recovery and protection of the Sound’s water quality, we need to continue the fight for greater improvements and protections of this critical water body.  CCE is thrilled that Senator Gillibrand has taken such a strong and aggressive role in championing the protection of our Sound and we will be working with her to advance this essential legislation.”  

“The waters and wildlife of Long Island Sound don’t recognize geographic and political boundaries, and we are fortunate that, when it comes to the Sound, our political leaders do not either,” said Albert E. Caccese and Tom Baptist, executive directors of Audubon New York and Connecticut. “We applaud Senators Gillibrand, Schumer, Leiberman and Blumenthal for leading the charge to keep people working on desperately needed water quality improvements, habitat protection initiatives, and enhanced public access opportunities so that future generations will be able to enjoy a cleaner, healthier Long Island Sound. We urge Congress to act quickly on this important bill.”  

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 Act combines two separate authorizations through 2016 at $325 million over 5 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.  The legislation also authorizes $1,000,000 for a pilot project to demonstrate the use of nutrient bioextraction technologies as a possible tool for remediation of the Sound.  Nutrient bioextraction uses sea plants, mollusks, or other organisms to naturally absorb nutrients, which are then harvested from the Sound; demonstrating potential commercial applications in this great source of seafood for the region and the nation.