Lawmakers join effort to rescue the Sound from decades of pollution

With new legislation to continue the restoration of the Long Island Sound, Connecticut and New York area lawmakers hope to reverse the effects of over-development, pollution, dumping of dredged materials and releases of untreated sewage on the estuary’s water quality.

The bill — the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act — will combine two water quality and shore restoration programs to be funded by respectively $40 million and $25 million per year through 2020.

Co-sponsoring the bill are Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, who called the Sound Long Island’s “most valuable natural resource.”

“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,” Murphy said Monday morning. “The Long Island Sound Stewardship Act is a meaningful first step.”

The watershed bordering New York and Connecticut is home to 9 million people on the coast and 24 million within 50 miles. Each year, it generates between $17 billion and $37 billion in economic contributions from sport and commercial fishing, boating, recreation and tourism.

The Sound makes the states that border it “great places to work, play and raise a family. It’s also a vital economic anchor that local businesses rely on everyday,” said co-sponsor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. “I’ll continue to push for the resources we need to restore the Sound and promote environmental protection and economic development for generations to come.”

The effort to restore the Sound began in 1985 with the creation of the Long Island Sound Study, an office under the Environmental Protection Agency tasked with addressing low oxygen levels and nitrogen levels that deplete fish and shellfish populations in the watershed. In 2006, Congress passed the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act, which has provided more than $3.8 billion in funding for restoration projects to date.

Last week, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation reported that human activity was causing the harmful release of pollutants like fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides into the Sound. Days later, a report by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science rated the majority of the Sound between ‘F’ and ‘C’ in rankings on phosphorus, a pollutant seen in lawn fertilizers which can kill marine life.

Tatiana Cirisano