Peconic Estuary, Long Island Sound get funding nudge in House bill

Two local estuaries are now a step closer to securing federal funding for the next fiscal year after some uncertainty about whether they’d be included in a final federal budget given cuts in Environmental Protection Agency appropriations proposed by the White House earlier this year.

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced Monday that federal funding for the Long Island Sound Program and the National Estuary Program, which funds the Peconic Estuary Program, has been added to the Department of the Interior and related agencies appropriations bill for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year did not include the National Estuary Program, which supports 28 estuary programs nationwide. Now, Mr. Zeldin announced, the House of Representatives’ appropriations bill includes $26.7 million for the national program, plus another $8 million for Long Island Sound efforts.

“Both the Long Island Sound Program and the National Estuary Program must be protected; securing the funding needed to maintain these programs is a major win for our local waterways and I look forward to this bill’s passage in the House,” Mr. Zeldin, a founding member of the Congressional Estuary Caucus, said in a press release. “There is much we can do to improve water quality in the Long Island Sound and Peconic Estuary, and I will continue working in Congress on a bipartisan basis to ensure our waterways are preserved for generations to come.”

• Related story: Peconic Estuary Program celebrates 25 years, but funds in doubt

The Long Island Sound Program was funded $8 million for the current fiscal year, up $4 million for the year before, while the National Estuary Program received $26.7 million to be shared among the water systems it covers. Individual programs have received an average of $600,000 per year, according to Peconic Estuary Program director Alison Branco.

The Peconic Estuary was added to the national program in 1992 after a grassroots community effort — with support from several levels of government — pushed for federal recognition following the appearance of brown tide in the mid-1980s.

Ms. Branco said PEP is grateful for the work of Mr. Zeldin and other members of Congress to get the funding added to the bill, calling it an “important step” in restoring that funding to the final budget.

“This is a reflection of the fact that the work we do is critical to our region and the work of all the different estuary programs is really a nonpartisan issue that has support on both sides of the aisle,” Ms. Branco said.

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Photo credit: Kelly Zegers