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$10 million funds 41 community projects in the Long Island Sound watershed

Great Meadows Marsh in Stratford.
Sabrina Garone
Great Meadows Marsh in Stratford.

Over $10 million in federal grants will fund 41 projects in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont to improve the health and environment of the Long Island Sound.

It’s the second largest estuary — where a freshwater river or stream meets the ocean — on the East Coast, and home to millions of people and a diversity of wildlife living on its coast.

Funding for the grant program comes from the Environmental Protection Agency, as part of the Long Island Sound Study, in addition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Several projects overlap between states to reduce pollution from flowing downstream into the Sound, including waste management at farms within 50 miles of its waters.

For example, a dairy farm in Lebanon, Connecticut, will use over $1 million to prevent almost 30,000 pounds of nitrogen waste from flowing into local waterways that end up in Long Island Sound.

“Agriculture community who I think are enthusiastic about these efforts to again reduce nitrogen waste because of the watershed, sort of topography of states like Connecticut and Massachusetts and Vermont sort of end up in Long Island Sound,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), who co-chairs the Long Island Sound Caucus in Congress.

In total, water quality improvement projects will prevent 5.3 million gallons of polluted stormwater from flowing into Long Island Sound waters. The projects will also remove 8,000 pounds of marine debris from the sound shorelines and enhance 215 acres of habitat vital for fish and wildlife.

”The folks that made the decision to make that kind of award, I think, really have the long view which is so necessary to keep the momentum moving forward for Long Island Sound's water quality,” Courtney said.

Most grants are given to a local government, environmental nonprofit or community group.

Projects in Trumbull, Naugatuck, Connecticut, as well as Queens, and Manhasset, New York, create permeable lawns and other green space to naturally filter stormwater runoff. Money will also be given to create fish passages for wildlife to migrate to Long Island Sound along the Sawmill Brook in Middletown and Beaver Brook in Sprague, in Connecticut, as well as at Lake Arrowhead at the Baiting Hollow Scout Camp.

New York will also restore shorebird habitats and remove invasive species at Great Pond in Southold and Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park.

Funding will also go to sustainability, education and community outreach programs, especially for students from low-income communities, across Connecticut, including the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Earthplace nature preserve in Westport, Connecticut College in New London, and the Trust for Public Land in Bridgeport. New York also has similar programming through the Citizens Campaign for the Environment in Farmingdale.

Katie Petronis, the deputy commissioner of natural resources for the New York State Department of Environment Conservation, said these grants will continue to make a real difference to Long Island Sound’s future.

“One hundred fifteen more miles of river that are possible to fish. Two hundred million gallons of stormwater treated, and more than 5 million people connected, to learn about the importance of conservation in the Sound,” Petronis said. “Those are all really big numbers, and we only achieve them piece by piece and grant by grant over the past 17 years.”

The Long Island Sound Study started its futures fund in 2005. It has since invested $42 million in 570 projects across the Northeast.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.