Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday that $106 million to help and protect Long Island Sound is included in the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill the Senate recently approved and the House is now considering. Newsday's Steve Langford reports from Port Washington.    Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

More than $100 million in federal funds to protect the Long Island Sound and reduce nitrogen levels in the massive watershed will be available in the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday.

The funding package passed the Senate earlier this week but must still clear the closely-divided House.

The infrastructure bill would provide $106 million in funding to continue existing federal programs to protect and preserve the Sound, which stretches from New York City along the North Shore of Long Island, through Connecticut and to the Block Island Sound.

"This is one huge shot in the arm to keep the Long Island Sound beautiful," Schumer said at a news conference Friday with local elected officials on the Town Dock in Port Washington.

The five year "surge" of funding, Schumer said, will support the Environmental Protection Agency's Long Island Sound Study to improve wastewater treatment, reduce nitrogen levels, restore and protect wildlife habitats, preserve recreation and fishing industries and mitigate the impact of climate change.

"Long Island Sound restoration efforts are working," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "The Long Island Sound is getting cleaner. Oxygen levels are up. Dead zones are down. Clam stock and shellfish stocks are up. Dead fish events are down. Wetlands are being restored. Stormwater is being filtrated and sewage treatment plants are being upgraded."

In 2020, the nitrogen load in the Sound was 47 million pounds less than in 1990 while 350 acres of coastal habitat were restored between 2015 and 2019, advocates said.

"This money is building on previous successes," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. "We cannot afford to backslide."

While the Senate passed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Tuesday with support from 19 Republicans, passage in the House appears to be more complicated.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants her caucus to first pass a separate $3.5 trillion spending bill before taking up the infrastructure package.

But on Friday nine Democratic House members wrote to Pelosi threatening to withhold support for the spending bill unless the infrastructure bill is passed first.

"I came up with this two-tract procedure and we are on track on both," Schumer said. "We need to pass both. That's what we aim to do and what I believe we will do."

The Long Island Sound watershed comprises more than 16,000 square miles, including New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. More than 23 million people live within 50 miles of the Sound, which serves as a breeding, nesting and nursery for a host of wildlife and plant life and is home to more than 120 species of fish.

"This legislation recognizes that climate, water and coast are essential basic parts of our natural infrastructure," said Louise Harrison, a conservation biologist and New York's natural areas coordinator for Save the Sound, an environmental advocacy group.

According to the Long Island Sound Study, the annual economic value of the Sound is approximately $8.9 billion.

North Hempstead Town Clerk Wayne Wink called the Sound the "lifeblood" of many North Shore communities.

"And not just for recreational purposes," Wink said. "It's for business purposes and for ecological purposes. What you are providing … will really ensure that it will continue to be a vibrant community going forward."

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