$1 billion plan for Long Island Sound

07/29/2010 12:00 AM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO
An oil tanker docked at Iron Pier in Northville on Long Island Sound, which is the focus of a bipartisan bill in Congress announced on Monday that would extend funding for years to come to help limit pollution and improve water quality.

Congressmen Tim Bishop and Peter King on Monday announced a $1 billion bipartisan plan they say will protect the health of Long Island Sound by reducing pollution and improving overall water quality.

Their proposed Long Island Sound Improvement Act of 2010 would renew and expand the Long Island Sound Study, which is set to expire by year’s end. Their proposal bill would renew $40 million in funding for improving the health of the Sound and secure an additional $125 million for 2011 and $250 million in each subsequent year through 2015.

The funds would be designated for wastewater infrastructure repair, construction and upgrades. The upgrades would include stormwater systems and low-impact design technology and approaches.

“We simply need it,” said Mr. Bishop (D-Southampton). “It is not a burden local governments can carry.”

Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine, whose district includes the largest chunk of Sound coastline, from Orient Point to Wading River, welcomed the legislation.

“We need to work to make the Sound, which has become a dump, pristine again,” said Mr. Romaine (R-Center Moriches). “It’s something that has become critical.”

Mr. King is a Republican congressman from Seaford.

With the funding in place, according to supporters of the proposal, a lot more stormwater and wastewater management projects could be completed along the Sound. They say that, in the future, projects similar to the Greenport sewer system upgrade — on which construction is expected to begin soon — could receive funding.

“This is a great day for Long Island Sound,” said state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which has been instrumental in lobbying to improve the health of the Sound, lauded the proposal. Maureen Dolan-Murphy, executive programs manager for the group, said that environmentalists are already seeing the positive effects of past efforts. For the first time in years, she noted, pods of dolphins have been seen swimming in the Sound.

“Seeing that was a sign,” Ms. Dolan-Murphy said. “Through all of our efforts, we are working to make it cleaner and healthier.”

In Brookhaven Town, deputy highway superintendent Lori Baldassare cited Amagansett Drive between Shore Road and Lower Rocky Point Road in Sound Beach as one place where funding could be used to make improvements. “We don’t know how much the project is going to cost in total because we just got the engineering back,” Ms. Baldassare said.

Other aspects of the proposed Long Island Sound Protection Act include increasing accountability by requiring the Long Island Sound Program to be evaluated every two years for its effectiveness and extending its footprint through the whole watershed that drains into Long Island Sound — which includes parts of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.

The legislation also would require local governments in urbanized areas within the Long Island Sound watershed that discharge stormwater through a storm sewer system to comply with stricter limits. The measure would direct the federal Environmental Protection Agency to develop new regulations for municipalities seeking permits to install stormwater drainage systems.

peggy@northshoresun.com