Federal officials announced $3.8 million in grants Monday to local governments and community groups in New York and New England for 38 conservation projects focused on the Long Island Sound.
New York State received $1.1 million from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund for 16 projects, about half of them overseen by Long Island-based groups. The grants combine funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
"Since it’s inception in 2005, the Futures Fund has awarded more than $19.5 million in funding and the total program, including local project matching funds, has generated $63 million for locally-based conservation," said Pete Lopez, the EPA's Region 2 administrator, based in New York.
"The importance of the Long Island Sound to our region cannot be underestimated or understated," Lopez said during a virtual program announcing the grants that attracted about 100 participants, including Congressional representatives, government agency officials and members of conservation groups.
"More than 10% of Americans live within 50 miles of its shores," Lopez said, adding that "activities that take place on the Sound, such as boating, fishing and beachgoing, generate about $9 billion a year for the region."
EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel, said the "grants will treat 5.4 million gallons of stormwater annually, open 3.7 river miles for fish passage, restore 108 acres of critical fish and wildlife habitat in open space, install 23,000 square feet of green infrastructure and prevent 3,000 pounds of nitrogen from entering Long Island Sound."
Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) both noted bipartisan efforts to increase funding to improve the Sound.
Suozzi said when he entered Congress in 2017, funding for the Sound was $4 million and this year it's up to $21 million, with $30 million proposed for next year.
He highlighted the Hempstead Harbor 2021 Water Quality Monitoring Program that will receive a $75,000 grant from the fund in noting improvements to the Sound in recent years.
"It’s just remarkable to me how much clearer it’s been … I talk about all the wildlife that I see that I didn’t see when I was a kid," Suozzi said. "I never saw the red tail hawks and the osprey around the Sound when I was growing up … They weren’t there. They were all killed off by DDT, and now they’re back."
Zeldin emphasized grants with an educational focus, such as one for the Henry L. Ferguson Museum on Fishers Island that will be used to educate the community about the importance of eelgrass protection. The museum is sharing a $44,798 grant with New London, Connecticut. The Citizens Campaign Fund for the Environment's "Long Island Sound Student Action Plan" for four Long Island high schools, received a $65,500 grant.
"I think it highlights the multi-generational aspect here," Zeldin said of the conservation funding. Noting the "next generation coming up behind us," he said educating young people was needed to prepare them to advocate for the Sound.