A planting project at the Northport Yacht Club on Friday....

A planting project at the Northport Yacht Club on Friday. Planting programs help stem stormwater runoff and add greenery that is compatible with shorelines. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Efforts to clean up and restore Long Island Sound by rebuilding salt marshes, installing modern septic systems and testing water quality have received a $31 million boost from the federal government.

The funds, part of a $1.5 trillion federal spending plan signed into law in March by President Joe Biden, are expected to accelerate ongoing efforts by the federally funded Long Island Sound Futures Fund, which maintains more than 500 projects aimed at revitalizing the Sound.

Those projects have since 2005 built or restored 115 miles of river for fish passages, treated 201 million gallons of polluted stormwater and rebuilt 805 acres of fish and wildlife habitat and open space in New York and Connecticut, according to the fund's website. The fund also provides public education programs.

On Long Island, Sound restoration projects include planting new greenery to stem stormwater runoff, salt marsh restoration at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, North Shore oyster plantings, and programs to remove abandoned lobster traps, monitor water quality and help homeowners install new septic systems.

The result is a marked improvement in water quality on the Sound, which had suffered from decades of nitrogen caused by raw sewage being pumped into bays and streams, Mark A. Tedesco, director of the Long Island Sound office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told Newsday.

“We’ve reduced by close to 50 million pounds a year the amount of nitrogen going into Long Island Sound,” he said. “It’s a demonstration in the improvement in water quality. People talk about the water being a little cleaner and clearer.”

The EPA works with local municipalities and community groups on restoration projects through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund and the fund's parent, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The funding bill received support from the entire Long Island delegation in the House of Representatives and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

The bill also included $1 million each for renovation of North Hempstead Beach Park and Nancy Court Pump Station in Glen Cove, and $300,000 for shellfish seeding in Hempstead Harbor, Oyster Bay and Huntington Harbor.

In a statement, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who is running for governor, called the funding package "one of the largest single federal investments in environmental cleanup and restoration across Long Island and Northeast Queens," adding it would "go a long way in restoring and improving the Long Island Sound for generations to come."

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the Sound is noticeably cleaner as new filtering systems have removed pollutants that had killed fish and wildlife.

“The dead zones in the Sound are diminishing," she said. "We are harvesting shellfish where we didn’t before." 

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