Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Restore Connecticut's Long Island Sound Cleanup Program

Long Island Sound advocates are in Hartford this morning to try to convince Connecticut officials that their decision to cut back on the Long Island Sound cleanup was a bad one.

Among the advocates are representatives of Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, which sent out a media advisory about the hearing (which is at the Department of Environmental Protection) late yesterday afternoon.

The crux of the issue is that state legislators took money out of the Clean Water Fund to be used for other purposes, thereby leaving little for pollution control projects, including the ongoing nitrogen removal program at sewage treatment plants that empty into the Sound. The nitrogen removal is crucial because nitrogen is the key to the dissolved oxygen crisis that hits the Sound every summer (a crisis that has gotten worse over the last three years and which turns a vast area of the Sound into a dead zone for fish). See here, here, here and here for background.

The CFE/STS media advisory says:

From 1987 to 2002, the legislature allocated an average of $47.9 million annually in critical clean water projects in the form of General Obligation Bonds. Great progress was made in clean water projects during those years.

The current proposal would reduce this investment to $20 million for 2006…

And it quotes Leah Lopez Schmalz, an attorney at Save the Sound, as saying:

“If the legislature’s inadequate $20 million annual funding allocation for cleaning up raw sewage discharges were to continue, raw sewage would continue to foul the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound for well over than a century,” Schmalz said.

“The restoration of the Sound, an Estuary of National Significance, will be delayed by more than two decades, and the Sound’s dead zone will not be restored until at least 2037, robbing an entire generation of a promise of a healthy Sound,” Schmalz said.

And this, from the media advisory:

An additional 1.5 million pounds per year of nitrogen pollution will be running into the Sound in 2006 compared to projections in the LIS restoration plan, because investments in nitrogen removal and sewage treatment plants across the state have nearly stopped.

Save the Sound and CFE call on the legislature to adequately invest in the clean water fund so that the DEP can continue to fulfill its responsibility of conserving, protecting and improving the natural resources and environment of the state, including rivers, lakes and Long Island Sound.

A couple of weeks ago I criticized CFE for not including the Sound in its outline of 2006 priorities. Needless to say, it’s good to see them pushing the issue publicly. Chris Zurcher, CFE’s pr guy, said late yesterday that they had already gotten some calls from reporters about today’s hearing, so let’s hope that this issue will finally get the attention it deserves.

Considering that the hearing is at the DEP, but that it’s the legislators who will have to decide to put money back into the fund, attention in the media may be necessary. Legislators have given little indication over the past month or so that they’re even aware that the Clean Water Fund is an issue.

CFE says others will be at the hearing as well, including the Farmington River Watershed Association, Connecticut Rivers Alliance, the Connecticut chapter of the National Audubon Society, the Connecticut River Watershed Council, and Connecticut Coalition for Funding the Environment, and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.

Lobster & Caviar ... Remember all the fuss two summers ago when Gourmet magazine sent the novelist David Foster Wallace to Maine to write about a lobster festival and he came back with a report on how much lobsters suffer when they're boiled? The essay -- which was both eye-opening and fun to read -- is now part of a book called Consider the Lobster.

I noticed in our local supermarket, between Christmas and New Year's, that beluga caviar was selling for $199 an ounce, packaged in a container the size of a small lip gloss. The guy at the fish counter told me he had ordered six and had sold two so far. I held off buying a couple of tins (we already had our New Year's meal planned). Now with this news, I guess i can forget about stocking up.


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