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Long Island Sound nitrogen plan needs funding, Schumer says

Sen. Chuck Schumer, left, and Town of North

Sen. Chuck Schumer, left, and Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth call on the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prioritize federal funds needed to implement the newly released "Nitrogen Reduction Strategy" for the Long Island Sound on Monday, April 4, 2016 in Port Washington. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A new federal nitrogen-reduction strategy for Long Island Sound unveiled late last year needs a promise of funding to be successful, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said Monday.

The plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, detailed in a Dec. 23 letter to New York and four other states that include the Long Island Sound watershed, would tackle the specific harms caused by nitrogen overload in the Sound’s bays and coasts.

At a morning news conference on the shore of Manhasset Bay in Port Washington, Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledged to push for money for the EPA plan.

“Without federal funding, the EPA strategy could stall,” he said. “All of Long Island would suffer.”

Neither Schumer nor the EPA specified how much money the new strategy would cost.

Schumer, who was flanked by North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth and leaders of environmental groups, outlined several possibilities for the money he said the program needs.

He said he would ask for a $10 million line-item allocation for the Long Island Sound in the next federal appropriations bill.

Schumer said the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides grants to local governments, nonprofits and other groups to address conservation issues and also could provide funding. Last year, the program granted $10 million to six states, including New York, to help protect the lands that make up the Long Island Sound watershed.

And the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides lump sums to states to administer for projects, could be used for the effort, he said.

“We want some of those dollars allocated to Long Island,” Schumer said.

A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

“We are thrilled that EPA has produced a new, revitalized strategy,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. But, she said, “a new plan without funds does not protect Long Island Sound.”

The EPA did not provide comment Monday on the funding requirements for its strategy.

But in its December letter, the EPA urged New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont — all states that either border the Long Island Sound or have tributaries that feed into it — to work together to reduce the amount of nitrogen that enters the water body.

Excess levels of nitrogen, largely from septic systems and fertilizer runoff, lead to low oxygen levels in the water and can foster harmful algal blooms that can cause shellfish beds to be closed to harvesting. It also can lead to the loss of eelgrass beds, which provide crucial habitat for marine life.

The EPA told the states that their current efforts to reduce nitrogen in the Sound would not be sufficient to protect the water body, and proposed an additional strategy that would target coastal wetlands, tributary watersheds and coastal watersheds within the Sound where wastewater-treatment plants discharge effluent.

Next week, the agency is holding two public meetings to gather input on that strategy — one on April 13 in Stamford, Conn., and another at 2 p.m. on April 15 at Huntington Town Hall.

New York already has begun work on a Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan that targets the pollutant, which the EPA has lauded.

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