(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) today introduced bipartisan legislation with U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and New York Representatives Steve Israel (D-3) and Lee Zeldin (R-1), to continue to support the restoration of Long Island Sound through 2020. The Sound borders Connecticut and New York, with 9 million people living on the coast and 24 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, including from sport and commercial fishing, boating, recreation and tourism, is estimated to be between $17 billion and $37 billion annually. The Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act combines two complementary water quality and shore restoration program authorizations at their previous authorization levels of $40 million and $25 million per year, respectively. This legislation also provides for additional focus, oversight and coordination of federal activities related to the restoration of Long Island Sound.
“This critical measure will ensure the preservation, restoration and maintenance of the Long Island Sound – a vital resource that provides crucial economic and environmental benefits to the state of Connecticut,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Not only is the Sound one of our nation’s more precious natural resources and home to a diverse array of wildlife, the Sound is a foundation for hundreds of jobs in the tourism, shellfish, manufacturing, and maritime industries. I am proud to join with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle in supporting this legislation to ensure that the Sound can be enjoyed for many generations to come.”
“Long Island Sound is Connecticut’s most valuable natural resource,” said Senator Murphy. “The Sound is a proven economic driver for Connecticut, generating billions of dollars in tourism, fishing, shellfishing, and boating for the state annually, not to mention the more than 1300 square miles of coast that serve as home to hundreds of diverse wildlife species. For the millions of people who rely on Long Island Sound for work and recreation each year, we have an obligation to prioritize federal investments in its restoration and long-term health. The Long Island Sound Stewardship Act is a meaningful first step.”
In 1985, the EPA, in agreement with 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. Since then, for every $1 appropriated, the LISS has leveraged $87 from other Federal, state, local and private funding sources, totaling more than $3.8 billion. This funding has enabled programs to significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the Long Island Sound from sewage treatment plants by 35,000,000 lbs. per year as of 2013 compared to the 1990s, restored at least 1,548 acres and protected 2,580 acres of habitat land.
Enacting the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act will allow the LISS to maintain the important gains that have been made, and build on those achievements to further protect and restore the sound and watershed for future generations.