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 a key Senate committee’s passage of legislation to bring federal dollars to support the restoration of Long Island Sound. The Long Island Sound Stewardship Act that Senators Gillibrand, Schumer, Blumenthal and Murphy introduced last year passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
The Sound borders New York and Connecticut, with 8 million people living in its watershed 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. Authorization of federal funding for restoration and stewardship programs to protect Long Island Sound expired at the end of 2011, however Congress has continued to fund these important efforts, ensuring that it remains a federal priority. 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, adaptation and resource management to address the threats posed by climate change.
“This is an important step forward towards investing in the restoration of the Sound and promoting environmental protection and economic development for generations,” 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. 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. That is why I introduced The Long Island Sound Stewardship Act, which would increase federal funding for this New York gem,” said Senator Schumer. “This Act would significantly bolster efforts to make the Sound a safe and clean place for all New Yorkers to boat, fish and recreate for generations to come, and I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to pass it.”
“This legislation will help to meet an important national obligation – protecting Long Island Sound,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Such significant steps are vital to protect a rich and diverse array of wildlife, and hundreds of jobs in the tourism, shellfish, manufacturing, and maritime industries. Water quality improvements and shore restoration investments are critical to preserving and protecting the Sound’s scenic splendor and economic vitality for future generations.”
“I applaud the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for moving forward on key legislation to protect and preserve Long Island Sound,” said Senator Murphy. “This natural resource is a proven economic driver for Connecticut, generating billions of dollars annually for the state, and has defined Connecticut’s traditions and values for hundreds of years,” said Senator Murphy. “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. I’ll continue to fight to protect this precious resource in the years to come.”
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.