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Source: The Day

Long Island Sound restoration asks for more federal aid

Posted: October 8, 2009
Originally Published: October 7, 2009

Washington - Long Island Sound will need more federal aid and more formalized public education to continue to make it cleaner and safer for fishing, a panel of officials and activists from Connecticut and New York told a House subcommittee Tuesday.

In addition to money, the panel told members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, efforts to restore the Sound would require a federally-led, multi-state approach and more guidance from Washington in educating people about their impact on the Sound.

The subcommittee was meeting to discuss legislation to reauthorize the Long Island Sound Restoration Act. The law, enacted in 2000 and renewed in 2005, expires next year.

”When those pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, you don't think they survived on turkeys they found on the beach that winter, they were lobsters,” said Nicholas Crismale, president of the Connecticut Commercial Lobstermen's Association of Guilford.

Crismale told the subcommittee about the struggles lobstermen face in the region today and about the Sound's diminishing habitat for shellfish.

The water, experts on the Sound say, is being sapped of oxygen because of excessive amounts of nitrogen from wastewater treatment plant discharges, from urban area runoff and from the natural settling of the element on the water's surface.

Officials became more aware of the nitrogen problem in 2001, when a study of the water in the Sound was completed, and began working on extracting the nitrogen from the Sound. They hope a new study set to be released in the next year will help them assess the effect of their efforts.

”Sometimes signs of progress come in unusual ways,” said Amey Marrella, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. “This past June a pod of nearly 200 bottlenose dolphins passed through the Sound for the first time in at least 30 years. We think this is an important symbol of the Sound's improved water quality.”

Even with some measurable progress, some organizations believe there is still work to be done.

”Give us more, you'll get more,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, testifying on behalf of its members in New York and Connecticut.

Esposito wants more funds, but she is also looking for more systemic change. Rather than yearly allocations of government funds, she said, “we need it in three-to-five-year increments, not year-to-year, because that has acted as a roadblock to the larger holistic programs that need to be implemented.”

Educating residents of the watershed area is important, she and many other panelists testified. Esposito suggested a marketing campaign.

”I can tell you that the most challenging thing to do is to change public behavior; it's very difficult,” she said. “However, it also reaps the best and the biggest rewards because then you have sustained change.”