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Source: Newsday

More funding urged for Long Island Sound cleanup

BY TOM BRUNE

Posted: October 7, 2009
Originally Published: October 6, 2009

WASHINGTON - More money, better coordination and a more involved public are needed to continue the restoration of Long Island Sound, officials and advocates told a House panel Tuesday.

Cleanup efforts so far have resulted in decreasing discharges of nitrogen, toxic contaminants and pathogens into the Sound, said Mark Tedesco, head of the Long Island Sound Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

But, he said, storm-water pollution, sea-level rises and warming temperatures continue to be problems - resulting in summer shutdowns of beaches and fishing - that will require money and coordination of efforts in the region.

Tedesco presented that snapshot of the Sound's condition and recommendations on its restoration to the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, as the panel took stock of federal law and the Long Island Sound Study.

Money continues to be a key issue, especially as states face tightened budgets.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southhampton), a subcommittee member, asked about the outlook for state funding in Connecticut and New York.

"Connecticut is quite committed to clean water even in these tight times," said Connecticut Environmental Protection Commissioner Amey Marrella, noting it had $145 million in bond issues this year for sewage plant fixes and updates.

Peter Scully, LI director of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said there is no indication the state "is going to back away from funding for Long Island Sound." But he said, "I can't really say what the situation will be like in the days and weeks ahead."

Scully urged the federal government to step up its funding.

The House has appropriated $15 million for the Sound, the largest amount ever, said Bishop, who credited Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), an Appropriations Committee member.

But the Senate appropriated just $3 million, the same as last year. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, are urging the Senate-House conference committee to raise the final amount to $15 million.

Adrienne Esposito of the nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment told lawmakers year-to-year budgeting has become a "roadblock" to long-term projects because of uncertainty about funding. She recommended a three- to five-year budget.

She also stressed the need for a broad public campaign to inform people of steps to take to help the Sound.