Protecting the Long Island Sound

The Long Island Sound Stewardship Act, which passed last night in the House, will help ensure that future generations of New Yorkers and all Americans, will enjoy a clean, well-preserved Long Island Sound. The legislation supplements conservation and preservation efforts along the shoreline of Long Island and Connecticut, and authorizes $25 million in federal appropriations over the next four fiscal years.

The Long Island Sound is critically important to our nation and vital to the health and well being of the communities I represent. As an Estuary of National Significance, the Sound provides habitat for a wide array of plant and animal life, and contributes an estimated $5.5 billion to the regional economy from boating, fishing and tourism-related commerce. Boating and fishing are deeply enmeshed in the culture and traditions of Long Island, and the Sound has long been our region's gateway to the seas.

Unfortunately, the effects of millions of people living adjacent to the Sound's shore have been profound. At the turn of the millennium, lobster catch rates plummeted by 90%, costing our local economy between $30 and $50 million. Dangerous levels of toxins continue to threaten the well-being of the Sound's diverse habitats and wildlife breeding areas, as well as the livelihoods of those who depend on these resources for their livelihood.

This bill is not perfect. I strongly support and will continue to advocate for funding at the original proposed level of $40 million annually. Properly conceived, the legislation should include wetlands and underwater lands within the authority of the Long Island Sound Stewardship Initiative, which will be established by this legislation. Additionally, I strongly support fully funding conservation and preservation offshore via the Long Island Sound Restoration Act, which has fallen victim to the Republican's budget cuts. The Long Island Sound, however, is a national treasure and I believe that any preservation efforts to conserve any part of the Sound should be embraced.