Friday, July 2, 2010

U.S. Senate Panel Passes Legislation to Protect Long Island Sound - Empire Staten News.

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U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Charles E. Schumer, Joe Lieberman and Christopher Dodd, announced key Senate panel passage of legislation to bring federal dollars to support the restoration of Long Island Sound. The Sound borders New York and Connecticut, with 8 million people living on the coast 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. The Long Island Sound Restoration & Stewardship Act extends two complementary water quality and shore restoration program authorizations through 2015 at $325 million over the next 5 years.

“We need more federal investment in the Long Island Sound,” 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 and in Westchester. I am committed to taking the steps needed to restore the Sound and promote environmental protection and economic development for generations, and thankful to my colleagues on the Environment & Public Works Committee for their unified support of our legislation.”

“The Long Island Sound is a gift, for Long Island, Westchester, and all of New York, and we must do everything in our power to protect it,” Senator Schumer said. “The Sound is not only a natural resource on Long Island and Westchester, it is a critical to the local economy and is a precious source of recreation for countless people. This important legislation will preserve its beauty and value, ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy all that the Sound has to offer.”

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. Last year, the Congress funded both programs at $7 million.

This year, the Long Island Sound Restoration Act expires, and the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act expires next year.