If there was any doubt about the value of Long Island Sound to the people of Connecticut, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy spelled it out during a visit to Greenwich Point Park on a perfect beach day.
"People want to spend time by the water — it is why people come to Connecticut," Murphy said Thursday in the Bruce Museum Seaside Center, a rustic Environmental Center just steps from the water.
Long Island Sound is "a $5 billion asset — with fishing, tourism, boating, aquaculture — you name it," said Murphy. "It is an unbelievable ecological and economic asset to Connecticut."
And he delivered good news to a crowd of about 50 people in attendance — including the new Soundkeeper Bill Lucey.
A proposal by President Donald Trump to eliminate the Long Island Sound Program was not only stopped by the Appropriations Committee, lawmakers were also able to double the allocation.
“So, $4 million a year appropriated to that fund, president proposes zeroing it out. Which makes the end result even more remarkable," said Murphy, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"The final appropriations bill didn’t eliminate the Long Island Sound fund, it doubled its funding. So the Long Island Sound Program this year will have $8 million.”
That federal money is used for the cleanup of the Sound.
"Every year, the Sound gets cleaner and cleaner," said Murphy, who praised the water quality and large number of fish he saw in the water during a recent family trip to the shoreline.
But Ed Stilwaggen, who owns Atlantic Clam Farms in Greenwich, asked Murphy for help in keeping trash out of Long Island Sound. Stilwaggen said he collects 200 to 300 pounds of trash every day while out on his boat.
“It is criminal how much physical garbage you pull in,” Murphy said. “You wouldn't believe it if you don't see it with your own eyes.”
The senator said a public relations campaign similar to the "Don't Mess With Texas" anti-litter drive would be helpful in combatting the amount of trash dumped in the waters of Long Island Sound and the surrounding watershed.