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Source: CBS New York

New Legislation Could Help Protect, Restore Long Island Sound

Posted: June 24, 2015
Originally Published: June 22, 2015

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Officials and environmentalists from several communities along Long Island Sound gathered at Hempstead Harbor on Monday to sound the alarm.

Overdevelopment, pollution, algae blooms and sewage are some of the problems plaguing Long Island Sound.

Without new federal funding, environmental activist Adrienne Esposito said Long Island Sound will go downhill.

“We have toxic algae blooms, too much nitrogen, we have invasive species and warming waters from climate change,” Esposito said.

“We’ve already seen several episodes of fish kills. We still experience beach closings from runoff following a rainfall,” said Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff beach goers on the sound take in the views, but some are reluctant to take a dip.

“It’s not clean. I don’t know if it’s safe frankly,” one woman said.

The sound has come a long way.

“I swim in this water, paddle board, and I’m not afraid of this water,” Seacliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy said.

A recent report card gave failing grades to the western sound, surrounded by New York City and only a D+ in Nassau County.

“Funding for the Long Island sound in the federal budget has been woefully anemic. Other estuaries have been funded. This one hasn’t,” Adrienne Esposito, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment said.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said a new funding bill in Congress would give Long Island Sound $65 million each year for 10 years for protection and restoration.

“The beautiful body of water behind me is one of our nation’s greatest national treasures,” Gillibrand said. “Long Island Sound is central to the lives of so many men and women and families in Westchester, in Connecticut and on Long Island.”

Gillibrand said it’s not just for the environment; it’s an investment.

“Sports fishing, boating, commercial fishing, recreation, tourism — Long Island Sound contributes up to $37 billion to the economy every year,” Gillibrand said.

A stream of money could restore wetlands, and seed shellfish, replant seagrass, filter storm water, upgrade sewage plants, and expand sewers.

“One of the best solutions would be to extend sewers to all the homes in Nassau and Suffolk county,” Eric Swenson, Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, said.

Septic waste in storm runoff adds unhealthy levels of nitrogen as evidenced by recent fish kills to the east, toxic algae blooms, and brown tides.

Town of Mamaroneck Supervisor Nancy Seligson said the sound is crucial to Westchester.

“Other very important water bodies in our country have a lot more funding,” Seligson said.

Experts said the recent beluga whales sighting in the sound proves that clean up efforts are working.

“It’s so much better than it was, but it’s not good enough,” Judy Bosworth said.

A federal law to restore the Long Island Sound expired in 2010. Since then funding has been on the decline. The new bill, if it passes, will make $65-million per year available for ten years.

Senator Gillibrand introduced a similar bill two years ago that didn’t pass. She said she’s optimistic this time, because the bill has strong bipartisan support.

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