$2.6 million in grants awarded to improve the health of Long Island Sound

Milford Mirror

Top federal and state environmental officials from New England and New York announced 35 grants totaling $2.6 million to local state and local government and community groups to improve the health and ecosystem of Long Island Sound. Twenty grants totaling $1.4 million benefit Connecticut. Three grants totaling $250,000 benefit Massachusetts and Vermont.

The activities funded through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund (LISFF) show how projects led by local groups and communities make a big difference in improving water quality and restoring habitat around the Long Island Sound watershed, the organization said. This grant program combines funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

“EPA has a longstanding commitment to help protect and restore Long Island Sound, which provides numerous environmental benefits and economic and recreational opportunities,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel. “These grants will help reduce impacts on the Sound from sources like stormwater and marine debris, which are priority issues for our agency.”

The LISFF 2019 grants will reach more than 200,000 residents through environmental education programs and conservation projects. Water quality improvement projects will include: treating 8.2 million gallons of stormwater, collecting 46,000 pounds of floating trash, installing 23,000 square feet of green infrastructure, and preventing 17,000 pounds of nitrogen from entering Long Island Sound. The projects will plan to open 13.5 river miles and restore five acres of riparian habitat for fish and wildlife. The grants are matched by $3.8 million from the grantees themselves resulting in $6.4 million in funding for conservation projects around the Long Island Sound watershed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont. In Connecticut, the $1.4 million in grant funds will be matched with $1.4 million from the grantees resulting in $2.8 million in community conservation. In Massachusetts and Vermont, the $250,000 in grant funds will be matched with $300,000 from the grantees resulting in $550,000 in community conservation.

“These significant federal grants totaling $900,000 go to 15 great organizations to preserve and improve our beloved Sound. The purposes are as varied and visible as the needs. The work will be tangible and real: install litter traps and trash skimmers, begin restoration of salt marshes, spur growth of fish and bird populations, and support environmental education,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

“This is great news for Connecticut. These federal grants will go a long way in our efforts to preserving and protecting Long Island Sound, which is central to our state's economy. I'll keep working to increase funding for Long Island Sound through my seat on the Appropriations Committee so more deserving projects like these get funded,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy.

“The Long Island Sound is deeply important to the economy and ecology of Fairfield County. Conservation of the Long Island Sound is paramount, and these grants will go a long way in protecting its beauty and health stated U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (4th, CT). “Our shared hope is that residents of Fairfield County will be able to enjoy it for generations to come.”

“One of the greatest environmental challenges facing our nation and its communities is the protection and restoration of highly productive estuaries,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The funding awarded today represents the foundation’s and U.S. EPA’s continuing commitment, as well as the commitment of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal and state partners, to restoration efforts aimed at improving the overall health of Long Island Sound.”

The Long Island Sound Study initiated the LISFF in 2005 through EPA’s Long Island Sound Office and NFWF. To date, the LISFF has invested $22 million in 451 projects. The program has generated an additional $39 million in grantee match, for a total conservation impact of $62 million for regional and local projects. The projects have Connecticut up 176 river miles for fish passage, restored 1,114 acres of critical fish and wildlife habitat and open space, treated 212 million gallons of pollution, and educated and engaged 4.9 million people in protection and restoration of the sound.

“Healthy estuaries, rivers and wetlands fuel surrounding communities that rely on them,” said Wendi Weber, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service North Atlantic-Appalachian regional director. “We are pleased to support these efforts that inspire people to be stewards of the natural world and restore free-flowing rivers and resilient marshes. These are investments that will pay off in water quality, recreational opportunities, healthy wildlife populations, and public safety."

“The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has been pleased with the review of this year’s applications and impressed with the caliber and quality of the projects submitted,” said DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes. “These projects represent grassroots, on the ground opportunities to improve water quality in the sound, restore tidal wetlands, improve public access and build resiliency to the communities surrounding this important natural resource.”

Long Island Sound is an estuary that provides economic and recreational benefits to millions of people while also providing habitat for more than 1,200 invertebrates, 170 species of fish and dozens of species of migratory birds.

The grant projects contribute to a healthier Long Island Sound for everyone, from nearby area residents to those at the furthest reaches of the Sound, the announcement said All 9 million people who live, work and play in the watershed impacting the Sound can benefit from and help build on the progress that has already been made, it said.

To learn more about the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, visit nfwf.org.

For more information about the Long Island Sound Study, visit longislandsoundstudy.net.