NORWALK, Conn. – U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) joined local leaders conservationists on the piers of Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk on Tuesday to promote a new federal bill that would devote $65 million a year toward the protection of Long Island Sound.
Murphy introduced the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act last week along with fellow U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). The act would authorize $350 million over the next five years to invest in water quality and coastal management along the Sound.
“Long Island Sound is an economic powerhouse,” Murphy said, adding that the tourism, fishing and maritime industries bring in tens of billions of dollars a year in economic activity to New York and Connecticut.
“But Long Island Sound doesn’t remain clean without major federal investments. Right now we put in about $8 million a year, but we need a lot more in order to make gains in water quality and shoreline management.”
Murphy referred to a recent ecosystem health report card issued by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, which gave the Norwalk area a B- in terms of water quality.
“The Long Island Sound report card is a reminder that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to water quality. As you move east along Long Island Sound, it gets a lot cleaner, but in the areas off the coast of Fairfield County, the water quality still needs a lot of work, and if we want to bring back a lot of native plant and fish species we need to make some more major investments. That only happens if we pass this piece of legislation.”
“The Sound is much better than it was 30 years ago,” said Terry Backer of Soundkeeper Inc. He said that a lot of work has gone into improving the water, but more needs to be done to ensure that the water remains swimmable and fishable. The political momentum needs to continue and more federal money needs to be brought in to continue to deal with issues like nutrient pollution.
Curt Johnson, executive director of Save the Sound, said that studies are revealing new information, such as nitrogen in bays that is fueling growth of algae and seaweed that is sucking oxygen out of the water. More funding would be able to address this problem.
“This is new information that we have and we need to be able to work with those localities and identify where those sources of nutrients are coming from and fix that.”
“These funds are really critical not only in improving water quality, but to protecting and restoring and stewarding the many habitats along Long Island Sound in New York and Connecticut that help secure the species that depend on this environment,” said Sally Harold of the Nature Conservancy in Connecticut.
Murphy said he hopes the act can be passed this summer so the money can be appropriated as quickly as possible.
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