Breakdown: Water quality money from Albany and where it’s going

04/06/2015 8:00 AM |
The Riverhead Town sewer plant off Riverside Drive. (Credit: Paul Squire file photo)

The Riverhead Town sewer plant discharges into Peconic Bay (Credit: Paul Squire file photo)

Several million dollars in the state’s newly passed $142 billion budget has been allocated to fund water quality initiatives across New York State, including two projects on Long Island.

Here is a breakdown of water quality initiatives supported in the 2015-16 state spending plan:

NITROGEN MITIGATION

What’s going on?

The state budget includes $5 million in funding to create The Long Island Nitrogen Mitigation Plan, a comprehensive strategy for mitigating nitrogen pollution in Suffolk and Nassau county waterways.

Why is it needed?

Water quality degradation related to nitrogen pollution has been a “regional environmental crisis,” according to Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) and Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-C, Port Jefferson) who have secured the funds for the plan. The initiative, which was supported by several regionally environmental groups, is vital to identify causes and recommend courses of action to reduce the amount of nitrogen appearing in the water, they say.

Group for the East End president Bob DeLuca said Friday the plan would be the catalyst for turning research into action.

“The plan will help us turn the information we already have about nitrogen problems into a specific action that we can track over time to make progress we can measure,” Mr. DeLuca said.

Who is developing the plan?

The Long Island Regional Planning Council and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are partnering.

PECONIC ESTUARY PROGRAM

What is it?

Peconic Estuary Program is charged with protecting and restoring the water bodies that lie between the North and South forks, including Flanders Bay, Great Peconic Bay, Little Peconic Bay, Shelter Island Sound and Gardiners Bay. The organization is responsible for surface and groundwater monitoring, restoring wildlife habitats, protecting fishing and shellfishing and educating the public about the issues impacting the estuary.

How much?

Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle secured $200,000 to support the continue work of the Peconic Estuary Program.

Why is the money needed?

The organization, a part of the National Estuary Program, is funded jointly by the state of New York, Suffolk County and the federal government. In recent years, fewer federal dollars have been allocated to the organization and the state is stepping in to fill the gap, Mr. Thiele said Friday.

INFRASTRUCTURE UPGRADES

What’s going on?

The budget includes $200 million for the NYS Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015, which the Assembly pushed to include in the fiscal plan.

Where’s the money going?

Through the measure, local governments will be able to apply for state aid of up to $5 million to repair or replace sewage systems, water mains and other water-related infrastructure. The goal is to make infrastructure improvements more affordable to municipalities and shift some of the costs associated with such upgrades away from taxpayers, according to the act.

The grants, which will be allocated over the next three years, can cover up to 60 percent of a project’s cost. No grant issue will be greater than $5 million, according to the budget.

Where is it needed?

Essentially, everywhere. Assembly speaker Carl Heastie’s office released this statement last week on the measure: “The need to provide clean drinking water and sewage treatment results in significant challenges for municipalities that are unable to take on sufficient debt to fund the overall costs of the projects.”

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