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Senators Schumer, Gillibrand, Blumenthal & Murphy Urge Senate to Boost Federal Funding to Protect Long Island Sound

Written by Long Island News & PR  |  15. March 2016

Washington, DC - March 15, 2016 - U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), today urged Senate leaders of the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies to fund the Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound program for Fiscal Year 2017. The Senators are requesting $10 million in federal funding for FY17 to facilitate habitat restoration projects, water quality projects and water quality monitoring. The Sound borders New York and Connecticut, with 8 million people living in its watershed and 23 million people living within 50 miles.
 
The Long Island Sound is a natural treasure and an economic engine for the whole region that draws families, boaters, tourists and anglers to our shores. That is why we must do everything we can to secure federal funds that will restore and protect the beaches and waters in and around the Long Island Sound for current and future generations,” said Senator Schumer.
 
“The Long Island Sound is a key natural resource that must be protected,” said Senator Gillibrand a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “It’s a vital economic anchor that local businesses rely on every day. I will continue to work hard to ensure that this funding is included in the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations bill to restore the Sound and promote environmental protection and economic development in the area.”
 
“This measure helps to protect one of our nation’s most precious environmental treasures,” saidSenator Blumenthal. “Such much-needed funding will help restore, preserve, and enhance the Sound--- ensuring it can continue to play a key role in our state and region’s environmental and economic future for generations to come.” 
 
“Long Island Sound is a giant job creator for our state.  Keeping it clean isn't just the right thing to environmentally, it's the right thing to do for our economy," said Senator Murphy. “This is exactly why I fought to get on the Appropriations Committee – to make sure Connecticut gets funding we deserve.”
 
The Senators in their joint letter explained this federal funding through the Environmental Protection Agency is critical to the regional economies and the quality of the environment. The Long Island Sound is one of 28 estuaries included in the National Estuary Program, and with more than 23 million people living within 50 miles of the Sound, it is a major contributor of economic development and a source of recreation for residents and visitors alike. According to the Long Island Sound Study, the annual economic value of the sound is approximately $8.9 billion. The Sound is home to more than 120 species of fish, which contribute to our states’ vibrant commercial and recreational fishing industries. 
 
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.
 
Full text of the Senators’ joint letter is included below:
 
Dear Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall:
 
We are writing to urge you to fund the Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Geographic Program at $10 million in the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill.
 
Federal funding to continue the Environmental Protection Agency’s program for Long Island Sound is critical to our regional economies and the quality of our environment.  The Long Island Sound is one of 28 estuaries included in the National Estuary Program, and with more than 23 million people living within 50 miles of the Sound, it is a major contributor of economic development and a source of recreation for residents and visitors alike.  According to the Long Island Sound Study, the annual economic value of the sound is approximately $8.9 billion.  The Sound is home to more than 120 species of fish, which contribute to our states’ vibrant commercial and recreational fishing industries. 
 
In 2000 and 2006, respectively, Congress enacted the Long Island Sound Restoration Act and the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act, which together authorized $65 million annually to fund projects that improve water quality, restore and protect habitats, and increase public awareness to the issues affecting the Long Island Sound and its watershed.  This funding has allowed the federal government, working with state and local partners, as well as with the private sector, to make significant progress in improving the Sound.
 
For example, as of 2013, the amount of nitrogen entering the Sound from sewage treatment plants has decreased by 35 million lbs. per year as a result of programs funded by this appropriation.  Continuing to fund the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Acts will allow the EPA to continue to work collaboratively with local stakeholders to address water quality and invest in new strategies to reduce pollution and improve the environmental quality of the region. 
 
Investments made by the Environmental Protection Agency in the Long Island Sound Study area have 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, $87 was leveraged from other sources.  As a result, from 2006 to 2013 over $3.5 billion has been leveraged in direct environmental project support to carry out activities to restore and protect the Long Island Sound.
 
Thank you for your leadership on the Appropriations Committee, and for your consideration of this request. We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that Congress continues to appropriate funding to protect and restore Long Island Sound. 
 
Sincerely,
Charles E. Schumer, United States Senator
Kirsten Gillibrand, United States Senator
Richard Blumenthal, United States Senator
Chris Murphy, United States Senator

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