On Friday, Rep. Tim Bishop D - Southampton and the Long Island Sound Study announced the 5th Annual Long Island Sound Futures Fund. The $2.5 million fund granted money to 38 new projects centered around the Long Island Sound during a check presentation ceremony and luncheon at the .
A new federal appropriation from Congress as a part of the 2010 Clean Water Act helped quadruple the amount of money that the Long Island Sound Future Fund received from the government to just over $2 million, according to Mark Tedesco, Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency for the Long Island Sound.
"A portion of the money from the Act goes specifically for the Long Island Sound," Tedesco said.
Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York and Connecticut Environmental Agencies and many of the project recipients were also on hand.
Project categories ranged from recreation and education to land acquisition and restoration of fish passages. The projects will affect areas on both sides of the Sound all the way from the East End of Long Island to the South Bronx and Connecticut.
According to Lynn Dwyer from the Long Island Sound Study-the organization that manages the Long Island Sound Futures Fund-last year the fund gave out $900,000 in grants. Along with Federal funds, money for the grant program comes from a variety of sources including charitable bequests and trusts, corporate donations and fines levied by the Department of Justice against companies that have engaged in illegal dumping in the Sound.
"It really makes lemonade out of lemons," said Dwyer.
The Long Island Sound Study was formed in 1985 as a bi-state partnership of federal and state agencies, user groups, concerned organizations and individuals with an interest in preserving and protecting the Long Island Sound. It acts as an umbrella organization to field requests for proposals and then picks worthy projects to fund.
"To make this work it took the cooperative efforts of many people," said Tedesco. "It is through their efforts that we have the great projects we have here."
He called the grant projects a model for the nation to follow and challenged grant recipients to do great work.
Rep. Bishop also spoke about the importance of protecting the Long Island Sound as an estuary of national significance both from an environmental and economical perspective.
"Fifty million people live within the Long Island Sound watershed," he said during a speech at the event. "The economic impact of the Long Island Sound is at least $5 billion per year."
Rep. Bishop said he is the primary sponsor of two pieces of legislation that he hopes to get through Congress before the end of the current session. The Clean Estuaries Act will set aside $1.2 million per year each for the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. Both are part of a total of 29 estuaries of national significance in the bill. According to Rep. Bishop, the Long Island Sound only gets $500,000 per year currently.
The second bill asks for even more money for the Long Island Sound and is called The Long Island Sound Improvement Act.
"It will authorize funding at the level $40 million per year just for the Long Island Sound," Rep. Bishop said. "It will also authorize an additional $125 million the first year and $250 million in each year thereafter for storm water mitigation and clean water infrastructure projects that have an impact on the Long Island Sound."
He said that he hopes both bills can be packaged with other land and water bills in an omnibus bill and can be passed before the end of the current session of Congress.
Dwyer said they selected the Port Jefferson Village Center for the ceremony because of the inspiring view of the Sound that it offers.
"It was a perfect representation of the place we're concerned about and the issues we're addressing," she said. "And so many of our projects occur in mid to eastern Long Island."
"I'm supposed to talk about the importance of maintaining a federal role in supporting the Long Island Sound," said Rep. Bishop in his speech. "I think all you need to do is look through these windows and understand why that role is so important."
"The view says it all," she said.