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Rep. Zeldin and Local Electeds Advocate for Water Quality Funding for Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay Through the Long Island Sound and National Estuary Programs

March 13, 2017
Press Release

Mattituck, NY – Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), Co-Chair of the Long Island Sound Caucus and a founding member of the bipartisan Congressional Estuary Caucus, joined by local elected officials and environmental advocates, hosted a press conference today calling for full support of the Long Island Sound Program and National Estuary Program to ensure both are fully supported and funded in the upcoming appropriations process; and not eliminated.

Congressman Zeldin said, “One of our natural treasures, the Long Island Sound, is a precious feature of our life, culture and economy. It is also essential to our local recreation and tourism industries, as well as the livelihood of thousands of Long Islanders. As such, a key natural and economic resource, we must continue to protect this critical waterway. Over the years, water quality around Long Island has suffered from pollution, overdevelopment and other negative impacts. The Long Island Sound Program is dedicated to water quality and wetlands restoration, as well as other local conservation projects to restore local beaches and protect wildlife. Funding is prioritized to address urgent and challenging issues that threaten the ecological and economic well-being of coastal areas including nitrogen, harmful algae blooms, and flooding or wetland loss. The National Estuary Program is an important Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wetlands protection program for 28 estuaries in the United States that the EPA has recognized to be of “national significance” due to their threatened status from pollution and overdevelopment. There are two here on the East End: the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. The National Estuary Program was established by the Clean Water Act and makes important grants to state and local programs to promote water quality and wetland restoration. The National Estuary Program is the primary funding source for the Peconic Estuary Program."

"As co-chair of the Long Island Sound Caucus," Congressman Zeldin continued, "I’m calling on my colleagues to help ensure that the Long Island Sound Program and National Estuary Program are fully supported and funded in the upcoming appropriations process; and certainly not eliminated. Last Congress, working across the aisle, I helped reverse President Obama’s proposed 22% cut in funding for the Long Island Sound. Working on a bipartisan basis, I also helped lead the effort to successfully reauthorize the National Estuary Program, which authorized the $26.5 million in funding that was approved for the National Estuary Program. We must now redouble our efforts. Regardless of who is in the White House, the Constitution puts government funding strictly under the control of Congress through the appropriations process. We expect this week to see at least initial public drafts of the Administration’s budget request - and that's all it is, a request. It has no force of law or legislation. Just like the bipartisan coalition that stopped President Obama’s proposed cut to the LI Sound program, I will continue to work alongside Democrats and Republicans in our region to secure this important environmental funding."

Congressman Zeldin concluded, "Today, I am requesting full funding for two EPA programs essential for our local environment and at levels already approved last Congress with bipartisan support- $10 million approved by the House for the Long Island Sound Program and $26.5 million approved by the House and Senate for the National Estuary Program. At the moment, we appear to have two important appropriations deadlines this year - at the end of April we have to fund the government for the second half of FY 2017, and by September 30 we have to fund the government for FY 2018. Last July, the House passed an Interior & Environment appropriations bill that contained $10 million for the LI Sound Program, which was secured on a bipartisan basis. This bill unfortunately received no action in the Senate. I've pressed House leadership directly on how essential $10 million or more for the Long Island Sound program would be for our region's environment and economy. Also, as a founding member of the bipartisan Congressional Estuary Caucus, which was formed last month to advocate for funding through the National Estuary Program, I am calling on Congress to protect the $26.5 million secured for the National Estuary Program last year. Lastly, and on a related point, I am advocating for bipartisan support and passage for the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act, which would reauthorize essential water quality funding for the Long Island Sound. I introduced this bill in the last Congress with former Congressman Steve Israel, and I plan on re-introducing this bill again this Congress. The Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act would propose tens of millions of dollars in funding per year through 2020 for a water quality and shore restoration program and additional focus, oversight and coordination of federal activities related to the restoration of the Sound. So just to recap, what we are asking for is: (1) At least $10 million for the Long Island Sound Program; (2) $26.5 million for the National Estuary Program; and (3) passage of the LI Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act. 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 to ensure our waterways are preserved for generations to come.”

New York State Senator Ken LaValle said, “Protecting our land, air and water are crucial priorities for Long Island. Federal funding of the National Estuary Program and the Long Island Sound Program are critically important. I look forward to our continued partnership as we further our efforts to protect and restore our water resources for future generations.”

Southold Councilman William P. Ruland, Deputy Supervisor of Southold Town, said, “I am pleased to support Congressman Zeldin in moving forward with this endeavor. There is a great need for the Long Island Sound study as it is an important issue for the residents of the Town of Southold.”

Southold Town Councilman Bob Ghosio Jr. said, “The LI Sound and estuaries are such a vital natural resource that is not only an economic driver for tourism, food production, and recreational outlets, but is also a habitat for so much of the wildlife and natural beauty that makes our quality of life in Southold Town so special. I am pleased to know that Congressman Zeldin will be our advocate in Washington to bring much needed funding to ensure the LI Sound gets the attention it deserves to keep it biologically productive for generations to come.”

Dr. Alison Branco, Director of the Peconic Estuary Program, said, "We are extremely grateful for the consistent support of Congressman Zeldin.  National Estuary Programs, like PEP, are non-regulatory and consensus-driven, building diverse partnerships to achieve on-the-ground results. Federal investment in our estuaries of national significance supports thousands of jobs, strengthens America’s economy, and helps ensure the future of our coastal communities."

“Save the Sound applauds Congressman Zeldin for standing up to fund a clean and vibrant Long Island Sound – our nation’s great urban estuary,” commented Curt Johnson, Executive Director of Save the Sound. “This funding is essential to heal our waters, allow fish to survive and make every beach safe for our children to enjoy swimming. Congressman Zeldin’s leadership demonstrates that clean, safe and vibrant bays, harbors and estuaries is not a Republican or Democratic issue. It’s an issue for every American who has ever enjoyed a day at the beach.”

George Hoffman, Trustee of Setauket Harbor Task Force, said, “With Congressman Zeldin's strong advocacy and leadership, the Long Island Sound Study, a consortium of federal, state and environmental organizations has turned the corner on cleaning up the water in LI Sound and its harbors and bays. Continued  federal funding is critical to survival of this important and productive estuary.”