Congress considers L.I. Sound program Trump wants to defund

Jan ellen Spiegel / CTMirror.org

Long Island Sound from Branford.

Washington — Even as President Donald Trump wants to strip all money from the program, a key congressional committee on Tuesday moved on a bill that would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to spend $65 million a year on cleanup of Long Island Sound.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee considered the “Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act,” a bill cosponsored by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, all Democrats.

The bill would reauthorize a number of projects in the Sound for five years including the Long Island Sound Study, the  EPA’s Connecticut-New York partnership established in 1985 to oversee restoration of Long Island Sound.

Erin Crotty, the executive director of Audubon New York, testified in support of the legislation, saying the federal money it provides leverages many times more in funding form local and state governments and private donors.

“On average, the estuaries of the National Estuaries Program, of which Long Island Sound Study is one, raises $18 for every $1 provided by the EPA,” she said.

Crotty said efforts to clean up the Sound have resulted in the restoration of more than 1,750 acres of habitat in New York and Connecticut from 1998 to 2015.

“That equates to an area nearly the size of Delaware,” she said.

Crotty also testified that the Sound is home to a number of endangered species, including the bald eagle and the osprey. Efforts to clean up the waters between New York and Connecticut also succeeded in shrinking an oxygen deprived “dead zone” in the Sound.

“Yet the health of the Sound is still threatened,” Crotty said. .”And threats today are more diffuse and challenging than they were 30 years ago.”

To help fund a boost in defense spending and border security, Trump has proposed eliminating dozens of federal programs and cuts to the budget for a number of federal agencies. The EPA was among the agencies hardest hit.

Trump’s budget called for the elimination of “specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay and other geographic programs.”

Crotty said the Long Island Sound Study is in that group of geographic programs.

But she said she’s confident Congress won’t cut the money – and will approve the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act.”

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