Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Charles Schumer (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) today announced that the Omnibus Appropriations bill, which is set to pass Congress, includes $3.9 million in federal funding for the Long Island Sound program. The federal investment is $1 million more than the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request of $2.9 million and approximately $200,000 more than last year’s funding levels. The Senators aggressively lobbied members of the Appropriations Committee to boost funding for the program in this year’s spending bill.
“The Long Island Sound is a natural treasure – it makes Long Island a great place to work, play, and raise a family,” Senator Gillibrand. “With more than 8 million people living within the watershed, federal investment in the Sound is not only critical to Long Island’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. I will continue to press for needed resources to improve the health of the Sound.”
“Preserving and improving the Sound is a main priority for all Long Islanders, which is why I pushed hard to increase federal funding for this New York gem,” said Senator Schumer. “This additional $1 million bolsters efforts to make the Sound a safe and clean place for all New Yorkers to boat, fish and recreate for generations to come.”
“Not only is Long Island Sound an economic driver for Connecticut, generating billions of dollars annually for the state, it has defined Connecticut’s traditions and values for hundreds of years,” said Senator Murphy. “In order to continue to benefit from this incredible natural resource, we need to prioritize federal investment for the preservation of Long Island Sound – not only for the millions of people who currently rely on it for work and recreation, but for future generations as well. This investment is not only responsible, but necessary for the health of Long Island Sound. I’ll continue to fight to protect this precious resource in the years to come.”
“These funds will help to meet an important national obligation—protecting the Long Island Sound,” said Senator Blumenthal. “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. Water quality and shore restoration investments are vital to preserve and protect the Sound’s scenic splendor and economic vitality for future generations.”
“This is great news for Long Island Sound,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “These federal dollars are needed to continue to reduce harmful nitrogen from sewage, install green infrastructure, and protect sensitive habitats. We are thrilled that this funding will maintain and enhance these kinds of programs. Long Island Sound is an extension of our backyards and essential to a healthy economy. Thank you to our federal leaders for their continued commitment to Long Island Sound.”
“Audubon New York applauds the leadership of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and the entire New York and Connecticut Delegations for securing increased funding to keep Long Island Sound on the road to recovery,” said Erin Crotty, Executive Director of Audubon New York. “The enhanced funding to the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Acts and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund will keep New Yorkers working to protect this globally significant ecosystem which provides critical habitat for birds and is the backbone of Long Island’s quality of life and economy.”
Federal funding for restoration and stewardship programs to protect Long Island Sound expired at the end of 2011. In 2012, Senators Gillibrand, Schumer, Lieberman, and Blumenthal introduced legislation 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 more than 23 million people living within 50 miles.
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.
Senators noted that investments made by the Environmental Protection Agency in Long Island Sound Study area has been effectively used to leverage additional resources from state, local and private partners. According to the Long Island Sound Study Office, since 2006, for every $1 in EPA funding, $70 was leveraged from other sources. As a result, over $2.4 billion has been leveraged in direct environmental project support to carry out activities to restore and protect the 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.