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Congress must help save Long Island Sound

The Long Island Sound.

The Long Island Sound. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The effort to restore Long Island Sound has been underway for some time. But it's been chronically underfunded. Now, an updated plan has been produced by a group of federal, state and local officials, scientists and environmentalists. And it's a good one.

But it won't work without money to implement it. And that requires federal action. Our representatives in Congress need to stay focused on getting the proper financial support. They could begin by fighting to restore funding for the Long Island Sound Study back to the $7.8 million the group received as recently as 2010. The Sound is too important economically and recreationally to let this work languish.

The comprehensive 20-year plan in the Long Island Sound Study has lots of good goals and steps to achieve them. They include restoring eelgrass and tidal wetlands, reducing closures of shellfishing areas and beaches, and conserving 3,000 acres on the Sound's coast.

That would build on the progress made so far. Nitrogen has been reduced by upgrades of wastewater treatment plants that dump into the Sound, a process monitored and enforced by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Towns have implemented storm-water runoff programs. More than 1,600 acres of coastal habitat have been restored, and there is more eelgrass. But the new plan was released as the state closed or limited shellfishing in more than 670 acres in the Sound and North Shore bays. Clearly, more must be done.

Local municipalities should revive land preservation programs. But the Sound also needs federal dollars. Other estuaries of national significance get more. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Reps. Steve Israel and Lee Zeldin have sponsored the right legislation. It's time to bring it home.