Other projects are underway to protect the health of the Long Island Strait and the Port of Hempstead, with recent grants from the federal government.
On Tuesday, leading local drinking water advocates joined U.S. Representative Tom Suozzi at a press conference to announce a new round of funding for Long Island Sound Futures Fund projects. Almost $ 3 million will go to municipalities and organizations in the 3rd Congressional District, including the village of Sea Cliff and Friends of the Bay.
“I’ve been working on this for 30 years,” Suozzi said. “The main problem with the Sound has been hypoxia, as well as the removal of nitrogen from the water.”
Suozzi is co-chair of the Long Island Sound Caucus. When he arrived in the House of Representatives in 2017, he said, Long Island Sound’s funding was $ 3-4 million. Now, he said, it’s over $ 30 million, a 900% increase. “It’s because we’ve pushed this and made it a priority,” he said.
A total of 39 new grants totaling $ 5.4 million were awarded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, in partnership with the Long Island Sound Study, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Long Island. Sound Funders Collaborative. Recipients include the Village of Sea Cliff, for the ongoing surveillance of Hempstead Harbor; Friends of the Bay, for expanding the oyster spawning sanctuaries at Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor; the Citizen’s Campaign Fund for the Environment, for environmental education; and the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Suffolk County, for projects that will improve water quality in Oyster Bay and Hempstead Harbor.
Sea Cliff will receive a total of $ 193,496 to continue monitoring the water quality of Hempstead Harbor, work carried out by the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor.
“You have to understand where the problems are coming from in order to improve water quality,” said Eric Swenson, executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee. “Without this funding, we wouldn’t be able to do it. “
Carol DiPaolo, program director and water monitoring coordinator for the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, said the water is monitored weekly. “We used the data from the program and the program expansion as an educational vehicle, but also to really bring people back to the water,” she said. “It has been so productive and has resulted in such a turnaround for Hempstead Harbor.
“The greatest evidence of improved water quality has been the opening of 2,500 acres of shellfish beds in Hempstead Harbor for harvesting, which had not been done for at least 45 years. years, ”added DiPaolo. “It’s the best indicator of improving water quality you could possibly have. “
Friends of the Bay, headquartered in Oyster Bay, will receive $ 152,133 for their project. “The grant can play a vital role in helping to reverse the decline in the shellfish population in the estuary,” said Heather Johnson, executive director of the organization. “Shell sanctuaries are the key to a healthy berry system. We hope that these projects will have a significant impact on the health of our waterways.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said her organization received funding for the Long Island Sound High School Summit, which offers education and hands-on activities on the environment. “It was funded last year and it was a huge success,” Esposito said. “We are developing the project this year.
Oyster Bay High School is one of eight participating schools. “The idea was to educate, engage and empower students to protect and restore Long Island Sound,” Esposito said. “Last year, the students carried out many innovative, creative and meaningful projects. We look forward to making it an annual event.
Vanessa Lockel, executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Suffolk County, described some of the projects her organization is leading. On the one hand, she said, he received $ 135,636, and the CCE will partner with Friends of the Bay, the Town of Oyster Bay, the Oyster Bay-Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee. and the Waterfront Center to clean the water while educating the public.
“We are reducing marine debris in the Long Island Strait by deploying innovative floating litter traps at Oyster Bay and Hempstead Harbor,” Lockel said. “They’re picking up the debris and the intention is to remove about 1,800 pounds of debris. It is not only a platform for collecting debris, but also an opportunity for a plastic pollution education program.
A second project in Oyster Bay is the removal of abandoned lobster gear from the Strait, for which the co-op received $ 192,936. “It is estimated that 400,000 traps are caught each year and we have found that there are around 700 abandoned traps at Oyster Bay,” Lockel said. “The intention is to remove these traps.”
Suozzi said the work done so far by these organizations has already had an impact. “If you look at the water, it’s clearer than before,” he says. “If you look at the wildlife you see more ospreys and red tailed hawks, more bunkers in the water. This effort, made by many people over a period of 30 years, is paying off. The Long Island Strait is improving and becoming more abundant, but it’s not over at all. It is a constant effort.