Federal funds U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer just included in a bipartisan infrastructure package will improve water quality by reducing nitrogen, restore and protect wildlife habitats, mitigate climate change impacts and help preserve recreation and fishing industries. The federal monies come at a time that nitrogen threatens to ruin Long Island Sound’s fish and aquatic life.
More than 120 species and six states depend on the Long Island Sound for so many economic and environmental reasons.
Standing with a wave of Long Island Sound supporters and local officials at the Port Washington Town Dock, Schumer revealed that $106 million dollars, specifically secured to protect, improve and preserve the Long Island Sound, was included in the bipartisan federal infrastructure bill he just led to passage. Schumer detailed the unprecedented amount of funds, explained why he pushed to include them and detailed what they will do for the EPA’s federal Long Island Sound program that provides Long Island and six other states with federal funds to protect this treasured watershed in a variety of environmental and economic ways.
“Today, I am unveiling a “Surge to the Sound”—over $100 million dollars in funds we included in the bipartisan infrastructure package that will do a lot of good for America and New York, and some critical things to save one of Long Island’s crown jewels—the Sound,” Schumer said. “This $106 million guarantees funding for the next five years, while allowing us to continue to fight for more as part of regular appropriations – so this is really unprecedented support for one of Long Island’s most critical natural resources.”
Schumer also detailed the latest economic impact of the Sounds, talked details about the funds and why climate change will require an even greater focus on protecting the Sound as well as the aspects of Long Island life that depend upon its sustainment. Schumer was joined by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Town of North Hempstead’s Wayne Wink, The Nature Conservancy, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Save The Sound and many others as he detailed the incoming Surge to the Sound funds.
“The infrastructure plan championed by Majority Leader Schumer will help protect the Long Island Sound, which is one of the most productive ecosystems in America and a major economic engine for our region,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “This funding will clean our waters, bring back abundant wildlife, boost our economy, and make our communities and shores more resilient to climate change.”
Specifically, Schumer explained these surge funds will support the Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound program, which according to the EPA, protects “one of the most densely populated areas of the United States, with nearly nine million people living in the watershed.” Schumer explained that these dollars will improve water quality by helping to reduce nitrogen, restore and protect wildlife habitats, mitigate climate change impacts and help preserve Long Island’s recreation and fishing industries.
In total, the Long Island Sound watershed comprises more than 16,000 square miles, including New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. The EPA says millions flock yearly to the Long Island Sound for recreation, and the Long Island Sound provides a critical transportation corridor for goods and people. In addition, the Sound continues to provide feeding, breeding, nesting, and nursery areas for diverse animal and plant life. The ability of the Long Island Sound to support these uses is dependent on the quality of its waters, habitats, and living resources. The Long Island Sound watershed’s natural capital provides between $17 and $37 billion in ecosystem goods and services every year. Improving water quality and reducing nitrogen pollution are priorities of the federal Long Island Sound Program.
In total, the EPA program has invested more than $2.5 billion to improve wastewater treatment and the total nitrogen load to Long Island Sound. The nitrogen load in 2020 was 47 million pounds less than the 1990 annual baseline discharge, a 60 percent reduction. The program also is focused on habitat protection and restoration. The program restored 350 acres of coastal habitat between 2015 and 2019 and by the end of 2020 achieved 45.6 percent of the long term goal to restore one thousand acres of habitat by 2035, according to the EPA.
“By helping to obtain this $106 million for Long Island Sound improvements, Senator Schumer again demonstrates his commitment to the preservation and conservation of North Hempstead’s local environment, especially our waterways,” North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. “The Long Island Sound is the fundamental feature of the town’s maritime infrastructure. Manhasset Bay and Hempstead Harbor are vital resources for local flora and fauna, as well as local business, and it is imperative that they are preserved for many generations of future use. Through this funding, Senator Schumer is making it abundantly clear that our environmental and business priorities will not be ignored, and I am immensely proud to have such a progressive leader representing us in Washington.”
—Submitted by the Office of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer