On Tuesday, EPA regional director Pete Lopez discussed federal grants for Long Island Sound environmental projects that will include plastic cleanup, Hempstead Harbor water quality testing and building rain gardens in Port Jefferson. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

Federal officials on Tuesday announced almost $2.6 million in grants for Long Island Sound environmental projects, including $500,000 for New York projects.

Projects on Long Island include a plan for a mesh sea turtle statue to be stuffed with cleaned-up plastic, water quality testing in Hempstead Harbor and rain gardens in Port Jefferson.

“The funding is seed money, the funding is investments,” Environmental Protection Agency Regional Director Pete Lopez said during the presentation at Port Jefferson Village Center. “The funding is leading to improvements in the Long Island Sound.”

The 36 grants funded through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund combines money from the EPA and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a congressionally mandated organization that administers the grant.

Long Island projects include:

  • $67,500 for Group for the East End to remove invasive species, restore habitat and conduct outreach at Hallock State Park Preserve in Jamesport.
  • $75,000 for water quality monitoring at Hempstead Harbor. Funding will go through the village of Sea Cliff and Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee to the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor.
  • $41,000 for Audubon New York to hold a program to encourage people to “share the shore” with birds, including the piping plover and terns.
  • $45,000 for Citizens Campaign for the Environment to conduct an anti-plastic pollution campaign, including against plastic straws. Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the group, said a mesh statue of a sea turtle planned for Sunken Meadow State Park will be filled with plastic collected in beach cleanups.
  • $43,000 to the Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson to build a series of rain gardens, which help clean storm runoff and educate the public.

Grants also went to projects in New York City, Westchester, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, which are in the Long Island Sound watershed. The money will be matched with $3.1 million in grants from local governments and community groups.

Asked about the disparity in funding between Long Island and other locations, Mark Tedesco, director of the Long Island Sound Office of the EPA, said grant awards depend on projects that applied and each project ultimately benefits the region. In other years, New York had done better, he said.

A couple of boaters get in some clamming in the...

A couple of boaters get in some clamming in the inlet off Long Island Sound by Lloyd Harbor in May. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said federal funding for Long Island environmental programs has increased overall, thanks to advocates in the region.

“It’s important to look at all EPA spending,” he said. He called the grants and environmental work “an opportunity to leave the world a better place.”

Carol DiPaolo, programs director for the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, said the money will allow the nonprofit to continue testing waters as it monitors nitrogen and bacteria levels, and to pay for private laboratory fees.

She called Hempstead Harbor a "tremendous success story" where shellfishing has been reopened.

Jackie Brennon Brooks, president of the Long Island Explorium, a nautical-themed museum in Port Jefferson, said it plans to build four rain gardens on Route 25a in Port Jefferson Village with its consultant, Nelson, Pope & Voorhis. She said the rain gardens, which filter stormwater runoff through plant roots and soil, would be an example for those passing through the village.

"It's environmentally friendly and a teaching opportunity," she said.

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