Senator Schumer announces ‘Surge to the Sound’ in Port Washington

Senator Schumer announces ‘Surge to the Sound’ in Port Washington
Senator Charles Schumer announces "Surge to the Sound" surrounded by local government officials. (Photo by Brandon Duffy)

A $1 trillion infrastructure bill approved by the U.S. Senate last week included $106 million to protect, improve and preserve Long Island Sound by increasing resources in existing federal programs. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer stopped by Port Washington on Friday to announce the “Surge to the Sound” which he secured in the bipartisan deal. The Sound watershed area is over 16,000 square miles and reaches into New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.

“It’s one huge shot in the arm to keep Long Island Sound beautiful,” Schumer said from the Town Dock. 

The allocation of funds is intended to continue plans that range from reducing nitrogen and  improving water quality to protecting wildlife habitats. Goals also include mitigating climate change and preserving local recreation and fishing industries.

Schumer reiterated that the funds are not starting from scratch, but helping boost significant progress that has already been made.

“In 2020 the nitrogen load was 47 million pounds less than in 1990, a 60% reduction,” he said. “That didn’t happen by accident.”

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, also spoke about progress made during year six of a 20-year comprehensive conservation and management plan. 

“Oxygen levels are up,” she said. “Dead zones are down. Clam stock and shellfish stocks are up. Dead fish events are down. Wetlands are being restored. Stormwater is being filtrated and sewage treatment plants are being upgraded.”

For the over 23 million people who live within 50 miles of the Sound, the bill poses a chance for rejuvenation in sectors that have been impacted through either pollution or COVID-19. 

“This is the lifeblood of so many communities here in North Hempstead,” Wayne Wink, the Town of North Hempstead clerk, said. “Not only for recreational purposes, but business purposes, ecological purposes. What you’re providing us here today is going to ensure that this is going to continue to be a very vibrant community moving forward.” 

The Sound’s annual economic value to the local community exceeds $8 billion, according to the Long Island Sound Study, a cooperative group of researchers, regulators and others working to protect the Sound. 

Being so intertwined with the community is why Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she believes there is no time to “backslide.”

“We have to protect this beautiful island we are blessed to live on,“ she said. “Our economy will be affected in a positive way. Creating jobs, protecting our properties against storm surge, there’s so many reasons why this is important.” 

The infrastructure bill went to the House, and Schumer said he has no doubt that the bill and a separate $3.5 trillion budget resolution, also passed last week by the Senate, will get through the chamber. 

“I came up with this two-track process and we are on track on both,” said Schumer. “We need to pass both. That’s what we aim to do and that’s what I believe we will do.”

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