Save the Sound praises new EPA plan for LI Sound

Revised Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan targets water quality, habitat, land use for a thriving Sound

Save the Sound is praising a new 20-year plan for restoring and protecting Long Island Sound, released today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and urges swift action to implement the plan. The plan, called the Long Island Sound Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), is a revision of a 21-year-old plan for the revitalization of Long Island Sound developed by the EPA, Connecticut, New York, and the Long Island Sound Study.

The CCMP sets targets that will improve the health of the Sound and the lands and communities that surround it and is organized around four themes:

  • Clean Waters and Healthy Watersheds

  • Thriving Habitats and Abundant Wildlife

  • Sustainable and Resilient Communities

  • Sound Science and Inclusive Management

Goals to be achieved by 2035 include cutting the number of beach closures by 50 percent, reducing the acreage of water with unhealthily low oxygen level by 28 percent, improving water clarity, restoring 3,000 acres of coastal habitat, conserving an additional 4,000 acres of open space in Connecticut and 3,000 acres in New York, buffering streams and rivers with natural vegetation, and reducing trash polluting the Sound’s waters and shores.

“Low oxygen zones and bacterial pollution are critical problems facing Long Island Sound, and we’re pleased to see that the new CCMP places them front and center,” said Tracy Brown, director of Western Sound programs for Save the Sound. “Nitrogen loads from sewage and stormwater runoff severely depress oxygen in the Sound’s waters. In late summer, oxygen levels in the western Sound as well as bays and harbors all around the Sound can drop to almost nothing, forcing fish, lobster, crabs, and other marine animals to flee or die. Runoff and old, leaky sewage systems present a public health risk as well—every summer, beaches are closed to swimming to prevent exposure to disease-causing fecal bacteria. The CCMP sets a goal for cutting beach closures by half over the next 20 years. That’s a good start. We believe shoreline residents and visitors to our beautiful beaches deserve safe, healthy beaches that are open 100 percent of the time, and we’ll keep working towards that vision with the help of municipal leaders and dedicated volunteers.”

“This plan recognizes that land health and water quality are inextricably linked: to restore the Sound’s vibrancy, we must protect and heal the lands that surround it,” said Leah Lopez Schmalz, program director for Connecticut Fund for the Environment, of which Save the Sound is a bi-state program. “The Long Island Sound watershed extends to Canada, and what happens on all of those lands impacts the Sound’s waters. After decades of intensive development, we now know better—we can harness the natural filtering abilities of forests and soil for a cost-effective way to clean our water before it gets to the Sound. The CCMP highlights that we can maximize that benefit by protecting our open spaces and forests and by installing green infrastructure, like rain gardens, in our cities. Coastal marshes are powerhouses for the Sound, too: they filter and slow stormwater, buffer our shoreline communities from storm surge, and serve as essential feeding grounds and nurseries for the Sound’s critical species. We look forward to the continued local and federal partnerships that will protect our watershed lands, restore coastal habitats and help fulfill the promise of this new CCMP.”

The new CCMP is based on the 2004 CCMP, extensive comments from the public and experts, and SoundVision, a 2011 collaboration between Save the Sound and the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Long Island Sound Study. The SoundVision project was designed to maximize public input and visibility. At press conferences, legislator meetings, and sail events around Long Island Sound, Save the Sound and the CAC gathered input from elected officials at every level of government, from marine tradespeople such as shellfishermen and marina operators, from scientists, and from shoreline residents. The process culminated in a report with 10-year goals, and a two-year SoundVision Action Plan featuring four goals that influenced the four themes of the final CCMP. 

Save the Sound is a bi-state program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment with an established 40-year track record of restoring and protecting the waters and shorelines of the Sound. From its offices in New Haven and Mamaroneck, Save the Sound works for a cleaner, healthier, and more vibrant Long Island Sound where humans and marine life can prosper year-round. Our success is based on scientific knowledge, legal expertise, and thousands of ordinary people teaming up achieve results that benefit our environment for current and future generations.