June 30, 2010

Gillibrand, Lieberman, Dodd, & Schumer Announces Key Senate Panel Passes Legislation To Protect Long Island Sound, An EPA “Imparied Water Body”

Without Passage Of Legislation, Long Island Sound Stands To Lose Millions In Federal Dollars

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 today announced key Senate panel passage of 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 extends 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 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’s. 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.”

“I would like to thank Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on this bill,” said Senator Lieberman. “This legislation will help us fulfill our obligation to preserve and restore the Sound and its natural habitat for future generations.”

“The Long Island Sound is a national treasure that generations of Connecticut families have enjoyed over the years,” said Senator Dodd. “In addition to its natural beauty, thousands of Connecticut’s residents depend on the Long Island Sound for their economic livelihood, which is why I am so pleased to see this legislation move forward, and I hope to see this important bill become law before the end of the year.”

“The Long Island Sound is a gift, for Long Island, Westchester, 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 and Westchester, it is a critical to the local 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 Senators Schumer, Leiberman and Dodd 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.  We urge the Senate to quickly pass this measure and the entire package of ‘Great Waters’ ecosystem restoration bills under consideration.” 

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 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.