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Congressman Zeldin calls for fully funded estuary programs

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) on Monday called on his colleagues in Congress to ensure continued funding for the Long Island Sound and National Estuary programs in upcoming appropriations votes.

This week, Congress expects to see initial drafts of President Donald Trump administration’s budget requests, Mr. Zeldin said at a press conference at Veterans Beach in Mattituck, noting that the requests do not have force of law behind it.

“Regardless of who is in the White House, the Constitution puts government funding strictly under the control of Congress through the appropriations process,” he said.

Last year, $26 million was secured for the National Estuary Program, while $10 million for the Long Island Sound Program was not approved by the Senate, he said. The programs together fund efforts to protect Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay from threats such as nitrogen, algae blooms, flooding and wetland loss. He said he is also calling for support of the Long Island Restoration and Stewardship Act, which would reauthorize funding toward the sound’s water quality and shoreline restoration.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said at the press conference the people of the East End make it clear the environment is a top priority and thanked the congressman for his support.

“The congressman has been a zealous advocate on behalf of us, on behalf of this environment, on behalf of our natural resources,” Mr. Russell said. “Time and time again the congressman disproves the myth that Republicans aren’t friends of the environment. Republicans are. He is.”

But some members of the 1st Congressional District showed they are not so convinced. About 10 protesters stood along Peconic Bay Boulevard chanting, “Hold a town hall,” and “USA needs EPA.” They were not allowed inside the press conference with the signs.

Mattituck resident Wendy Annibell held a sign that read, “Hey Lee! There is no Planet B.” She said she thinks the congressman’s voting history on other environmental actions is “contradictory” to his support of the local environment.

“It just makes no sense, in my opinion,” she said.

The congressman said there have been rumors that there will be proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency in the president’s budget draft, but until sees it in writing, he said cuts can come from particular “pots of money.” A tentative plan from the Office of Management and Budget showed the EPA’s funding would be reduced by about 25 percent, the Associated Press reported earlier this month.

“It’s a possibility and it’s one that we want to get ahead of, lean in front of and put it on record that the Long Island Sound program and the national Estuary Program are two particular pots of money we want to see fully funded,” he said. He said he would be supportive of any idea to improve the EPA and noted he voted against a 17 percent funding cut to the agency last year.

Southold Town Board members Jim Dinizio, Jill Doherty and Bob Ghosio, as well as Southold Board of Trustees president Michael Domino and vice president John Bredemeyer, also thanked Mr. Zeldin for his work in Congress to secure funding for programs to protect local estuaries. The Town Board and trustees “are always considering the environment first and foremost,” Mr. Dinizio said.

In addition, Riverhead Town Councilman Tim Hubbard pointed to the congressman’s work to preserve Plum Island with a bill to prevent the sale of Plum Island by the federal government to the highest bidder and on the issue of helicopter noise on the East End.

Doris McGreevy, commissioner of the Mattituck Park District, said the area never got a chance to formally thank Mr. Zeldin for FEMA funding after Hurricane Sandy that damaged Veterans Beach. She said the congressman heard the park district and helped it through the FEMA process, with funds that went toward bulkheads and the beach’s parking lot.

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Top photo: Congressman Lee Zeldin at Veterans Beach in Mattituck Monday morning. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the congressman has been an advocate for the environment. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)
Wendy Annibell, left, of Mattituck and Bob Wilson of Sag Harbor holding signs outside Monday’s press conference. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)