Bi-state plan to protect Long Island Sound unveiled

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop met with state legislators from New York and Connecticut on Monday in Port Jefferson to discuss a plan to protect the Long Island Sound.

A comprehensive plan to save the Long Island Sound was unveiled Monday afternoon in Port Jefferson after local municipalities from New York and Connecticut agreed on common goals that aim to preserve the shared body of water.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the new bi-state effort will help achieve “clean waters, safe beaches and a healthy ecosystem.”

“The Long Island Sound is an $8 billion economic engine,” she said. “It captures our maritime history and we believe it holds the promise of the future.”

While the health of the Long Island Sound has been in peril over the years from stormwater runoff pollution and an increase in nitrogen loading, water quality improvements are on the rise as fish abundance has recently increased, Ms. Esposito said.

“We want to build on that momentum,” she said, adding that she believed protecting wildlife while creating new jobs on the North Shore would result in a sustainable economy.

Ms. Esposito’s group met at the Port Jefferson Village Center dock with representatives from the Audubon Society and state legislators from Connecticut and New York. The group has planned a month-long schooner tour, stopping at different ports to promote the new plan, which is called “Sound Vision.”

The plan advocates for new jobs and promotes environmentally sound infrastructure along the shoreline.

Congressman Tim Bishop said he agreed with the plan’s objectives because he believes the local economy is tied to the environment, especially on the East End where many farming communities and wineries are located.

“Long Islanders know there is an important connection between the health of the Long Island Sound and the health of our economy,” he said. “The environment is the economy and the economy is the environment.”

Some of the plan’s recommended projects include stormwater remediation, which would help deter polluted runoff from entering into the Sound, and septic and sewage treatment system upgrade requirements that would reduce nitrogen loading.

The plan also calls for the creation of environmentally friendly tourist areas. Landscaping for waterfront communities should include rain gardens to help filter pollutants and conserve water, according to the report. In addition, natural habitats should also be preserved and protected.

An investment plan to maintain current government funding and increase private donations is included. One idea already underway in Connecticut is a “Preserve the Sound” license plate in which proceeds go to the Long Island Sound Fund, a charity based in Hartford.

The plan was developed by a 37-member committee, known as the Long Island Sound Study’s Citizens Advisory Committee. The group is comprised of various municipalities from both sides of the Sound, environmentalists, business associations, civic leaders and academic organizations.

Mr. Bishop conceded that the economic climate for the federal government to fund such an effort is “a very difficult one” given the recent cutbacks, including $3 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget. But, Mr. Bishop said, he believes having both states join together along with non-profit groups and the private sector will prove to be beneficial.

“To step up where government used to be — and hopefully someday will return — I think it couldn’t have possibly come at a better time,” Mr. Bishop said.

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