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Senator Points To EPA, USDA And LI Sound Federal Dollars To Help Get Job Done; Efforts Have Been Made To Address Nitrogen Pollution Along South Shore But North Shore Still In Trouble; New Plan To Reduce Nitrogen Will Require Fed Help Along The Way 

Every Summer, Beaches Are Closed & Shell Fishing Areas Are Contaminated Due To Nitrogen & Wastewater Pollution That Hurts Boaters, Tourists, Anglers & Other Shore Goers 

Schumer: Sound Strategy Will Require Fed Investment If Nitrogen Levels Are To Fall  

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prioritize federal funds needed to implement the newly released “Nitrogen-Reduction Strategy” for the Long Island Sound. The EPA’s strategy outlines a coordinated effort to address and reduce low-oxygen zones within the Long Island Sound. Schumer today said that now that the strategy has been finalized, localities need access to federal funds so that the plan can swiftly move forward. Schumer explained that without federal funds, contamination could continue and nitrogen levels could continue to rise.

Schumer was joined by North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Boswork; Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Tracey Brown of Save the Sound and Paul DeOrsay of Friends of the Bay.

“The Long Island Sound is a natural treasure and economic engine for the region and it’s our responsibility to make sure it continues to flourish for years to come,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “Without federal funding, the EPA’s nitrogen-reduction strategy will stall while the Long Island Sound suffers. The EPA and USDA should prioritize the federal funds needed to implement this sound strategy and reduce overall contamination.”

Schumer today called on the EPA and USDA to provide federal funds needed to move forward with the EPA’s strategy to reduce nitrogen levels in the Long Island Sound. Specifically, Schumer pointed to three pots of funding:

  • In years past, Schumer has supported a $10 million allocation for the Long Island Sound program which has averaged $3.5 million over the last few years. This year, a $10 million dollar allocation could be significant to assist in the implementation of this comprehensive strategy. 
  • The USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership program, which aims to increase the restoration and sustainable use of water, soil, wildlife and related natural resources, contains over $200 million in federal dollars some of which the Sound could be eligible to receive. Schumer has secured $10 million from this pot in the past for the Long Island Sound.
  • EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund contains over a billion in dollars and on average NY receives around 150 million that Long Island Sound could be eligible to receive.

“The Sound is one of our most valuable natural treasures and a vital economic anchor that supports thousands of local jobs,” said Senator Gillibrand a member of both the Senate Agriculture and Environment & Public Works Committees, and sponsor of the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act. “The Nitrogen-Reduction Strategy proposed by the EPA’s Long Island Sound Study will help protect the long-term health of the Sound by further reducing nitrogen pollution in the Long Island Sound watershed. This is an investment to restore the Sound and promote environmental protection to preserve its natural habitats and resources.”

“The recent EPA plan acknowledges that something needs to be done regarding the high levels of nitrogen in our beloved Long Island Sound. This critical body of water is suffering and we need to take aggressive action to alleviate that suffering. Most of the time those of us in elected office talk about moving forward, but in this instance, this issue calls for us to move backwards, to a time when our waterways were pristine, healthy and home to an abundance of fish, shellfish and marine life. I join with Senator Schumer to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prioritize funds needed to complete the newly released “Nitrogen Reduction Strategy” for the Sound,” said North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth.

“Much progress has been made over the last two decades to repair environmental damage to our Long Island Sound.  Now we need to move into the next phase and implement many of the components identified in the new EPA strategy to continue the needed progress for nitrogen reductions. Critical funding is needed to restore water quality in embayments, increase sea grass beds and make our north shore communities more resilient to climate change. We are very appreciative of Senator Schumer’s advocacy for the restoration of Long Island Sound,” said CCE Adrienne Esposito.

“Save the Sound applauds Senator Schumer in leading a strong bi-partisan Congressional coalition to fund EPA’s nitrogen reduction strategy for Long Island Sound,” says Tracy Brown, Save the Sound’s western Sound director.   "Senator Schumer’s leadership brings momentum for a strong set of actions to breathe life back into our beloved Long Island Sound.  These actions will benefit anyone who works along or recreates in Long Island Sound. This critical and important step is a rare show of unity between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. We look forward to clean water free of nitrogen pollution, no longer harming our fish, wildlife, and economy."

Nitrogen pollution fuels harmful algal blooms, low dissolved oxygen, poor water clarity, loss of submerged aquatic vegetation and tidal wetlands, coastal acidification and more. Hypoxia, dissolved oxygen levels of less than 3 mg/l, is a common occurrence in the Long Island Sound during the summer months. The EPA’s last update of target nitrogen levels, or Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), took place in 2000. While some progress has been made since then, the levels of nitrogen in the Long Island Sound still remain high. The EPA has said that current and planned actions by states still fall short of fully implementing the 2000 TMDL and will be insufficient to address other adverse impacts to water quality in the Long Island Sound.  The Nature Conservancy recently found that septic systems and cesspools are the greatest contributors to nitrogen pollution in North Shore watersheds. In twelve of the thirteen watersheds tested, septic systems and cesspools accounted for more nitrogen pollution than fertilizer, storm water runoff or sewage-treatment plants.

In December, the EPA released its Nitrogen Reduction Strategy for the Long Island Sound. If implemented, the EPA’s Nitrogen Reduction Strategy would work in coordination with the States’ continued implementation of the 2000 TMDL. First the EPA’s strategy will help reduce the low-oxygen dead zones that are currently killing fish and other aquatic life. The strategy will also help reduce and eventually eliminate algal blooms and allow salt marshes to subsist, thereby protecting local neighborhoods by absorbing floodwaters and coastal storms. Finally, the strategy will lead to improved seagrass and shellfish health and the mitigation of localized ocean acidification.

According to the EPA, the Nitrogen Reduction Strategy for the Long Island Sound will (1) develop specific nitrogen load reductions to address local water quality problems; (2) target actions to address these local problems and increase stakeholder involvement, and (3) highlight opportunities in the open waters and western portion of the Sound where dissolved oxygen problems remain.

The Long Island Sound is one of 28 estuaries included in the National Estuary Program, and with more than 23 million people living within 50 miles of the Sound, it is a major contributor of economic development and a source of recreation for residents and visitors alike. According to the Long Island Sound Study, the annual economic value of the sound is approximately $8.9 billion. The Long Island Sound is home to more than 120 species of fish, which contribute to New York’s vibrant commercial and recreational fishing industries. 

Schumer today explained the importance of the Long Island Sound’s future, as an economic engine and tourist attraction. Schumer has long supported efforts to invest in and restore the Long Island Sound and noted the aforementioned resources to showcase the real potential that exists to improve the condition of the Sound.