I visited the Sound every summer as a child, and now my wife Cathy and I bring our two boys there every summer. Like thousands across Connecticut, I know that our state’s health depends on protecting Long Island Sound. From the thousands of species of wildlife the Sound supports, to the fishing and aquaculture industries, to submarine manufacturing and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Long Island Sound is both an ecological treasure and an engine for our state’s economy. But the health of the Sound depends on an alphabet soup of federal and state agencies and programs. That is why I drafted a Long Island Sound Investment Plan – to demystify the complex federal budgeting process and to provide a user-friendly roadmap to keep Long Island Sound a vibrant landmark for generations to come.
Securing funding increases is not always easy in Washington. That’s why I am so proud that the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $106 million for the EPA’s Long Island Sound Geographic Program to protect the watershed. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have fought to secure millions in federal funding for the Long Island Sound. During my time on the committee, funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Geographic Program grew by more than 300%. This money will help fund local projects to improve water quality and restore shoreline habitats. In addition, I have worked to increase funding for the National Sea Grant College Program and the Long Island Integrated Coastal Observing System, both located at UConn Avery Point, and aquaculture research at sites like Milford Laboratory. Through the Congressionally Directed Spending process, I secured millions for Connecticut projects, such as $5 million for a new soil survey of Long Island Sound, which will help towns address issues from resiliency to sitting shellfish beds.
As our planet warms and the climate changes, there are new sets of challenges facing the Sound. That is why I introduced the Living Shorelines Act, which provides funding to help communities build environmentally friendly coastal resiliency projects.
Finally, we must acknowledge that the health of Long Island Sound is inextricably linked to the health of our global oceans. In 2015, I helped pass the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which bans polyethylene and polypropylene microbeads that were typically found in personal care products and are proven to harm aquatic life, water quality, and public health. In 2017, I helped pass the Save our Seas Act, which reauthorizes federal programs on marine debris. And in 2020, I led an effort to pass an even more comprehensive ocean conservation policy, the Save our Seas Act 2.0, which invests in domestic infrastructure, marine debris programs, and international engagement to restore our oceans. The bill, which was signed into law in December 2020, included a bipartisan provision I drafted to fund a competition program for research and development projects to replace single-use plastic and innovations that remove and prevent plastic waste from the ocean.