October 29, 2009

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce Congress Set To Approve $7 Million To Protect Long Island Sound – Engine Of Recreational And Economic Activity Is In Danger Due To Years Of Pollution And Neglect

Feds Oversee Environmental Health of the LI Sound but Funding in Danger of Being Drastically Curtailed

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that the 2010 Interior Appropriations will include $7 million for to help clean up and restore the Long Island Sound.  As the premier natural resource in the area and as an estuary of national significance, the Long Island Sound is crucial to the long-term health of the environment and local economies of Long Island and Connecticut.  Each year, the Long Island Sound produces over $8 billion of economic value from recreational activities. At the same time, storm-water runoff and treated sewage seep into the Sound each day, threatening the health of the Sound and the industries that rely upon it for recreation. Without upgrades to sewage treatment plants and plans to control pollution, the sound is faced with the potential of serious damage.

"The Long Island Sound is a treasure to Long Island and we must do everything in our power to protect it," Schumer said. "The Sound is not only a natural resource in the area, it is critical to the health of the local environment and the Long Island economy. There is simply too much at stake to sit back and let the Long Island Sound Study funding fade away. And while there is much to be done, this additional funding will be a huge step in protecting this majestic part of our state and ensuring its heath into the future."

"We need more federal investment in the Long Island Sound," said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "The Long Island Sound is a natural treasure - it makes Long Island a great place to work, play, and raise a family. With more than 8 million people living within the watershed, the Sound is not only critical to Long Island's environment and economy, but the entire regions. During these tough economic times, the Sound provides an opportunity to promote economic growth on Long Island. I am committed to taking the steps needed to improve the health of the Sound."

For over a decade, the Long Island Sound Study has contributed immensely to the re-proliferation of native species throughout the estuary.  For example, efforts to raise disease-resistant oysters have reversed the effects of the 1990's collapse, particularly in Oyster Bay, where nearly 90% of New York's oyster harvest is produced, and more recently along oyster beds in Connecticut. According to the study's most recent report, the oyster harvest Soundwide has increased from 70% in 2006 to 93% in 2007.   However, there is still more work to be completed, as the Sound still produces well below its peak harvest of $48 million in 1992.

There are four main areas on which the Long Island Sound Study will focus during FY10 if the funding remains in the Conference report. First, improving and growing the collection of public reserves and parks around the Sound.  Historically, these efforts have been limited due to financial resources. Second, the study will focus on restoring wildlife habitat, particularly in the areas of restoring depleted dunes and flushing of tidal marshlands. Third, it will focus on restoring lobster and shellfish industries.  With a small investment, New York can build off of the highly successful Connecticut model of lobster v-notch programs. And finally, the study will continue the research and monitoring needed to keep the Sound healthy and ecologically vibrant.