Trump budget guts Sound funding

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

As we celebrated Long Island Sound Day Friday, it is important to note some exciting bipartisan developments that will put us in a better position to protect and preserve the Sound.

In Connecticut, we know what an invaluable asset Long Island Sound is — not just for its scenic beauty and beaches, but also as a wildlife habitat and a job creator for our region.

But the long-term health of the Sound is threatened by pollution, rising sea levels, and declining marine life.

There’s not a lot that gets bipartisan support in Congress lately, but, surprisingly, Congress increased funding for the Sound in the last bipartisan spending bill.

I worked with the rest of our state’s delegation in Congress to secure the new funds. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which writes these spending bills, I made this one of my priorities.

Most notably, Congress doubled funding for the Long Island Sound Program. This federal program funds the implementation of a conservation plan for the Sound, including improving water quality, reducing harmful nitrogen levels, restoring coastal habitats, and spreading public awareness.

Additionally, the two programs that support shellfish farming research — much of which is conducted right here in Connecticut at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Milford — were increased by $3.5 million.

Oyster farmers and lobstermen in our state have certainly seen ups and downs, but finding ways to make their industry more sustainable and help fishermen adapt to the new realities of climate change will help protect these jobs.

Finally, we were able to secure full funding for the National Sea Grant Program at UCONN Avery Point in Groton, which works to address issues such as sustainable coastal development and seafood safety. The Sound and the people who work and live by it will benefit from these investments for years to come.

Unfortunately, despite this bipartisan support, President Trump unveiled a budget just this week to gut these programs. All too often, programs to boost conservation and combat climate change have fallen prey to a dangerous ideological agenda.

The good news, though, is that Congress doesn’t have to adopt a single line of this budget. President Trump’s budget is a blueprint — a wish list — and Congress decides what we actually fund. I’ll be working hard on the Appropriations Committee with my Republican friends to ensure these cuts that turn back the clock on the progress we’re making never become reality.

I couldn’t advocate successfully for these programs without the assistance and support of hundreds of environmental organizations, advocates, and local residents who work tirelessly to protect Long Island Sound and its shores for future generations. I hope you continue to join with me to fighting back against Trump’s harmful budget cuts.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. His letter appeared May 28 in the Register online.