Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Why it's Essential to Put More Money in Connecticut's Clean Water Fund

The Connecticut Legislature is considering a bill that would reverse the funding cuts that have essentially wiped out the state's Clean Water Fund. The bill would put $70 million into the fund, up from a proposed $20 million this year. From her testimony at a public hearing yesterday in Hartford, here's why Leah Schmalz, the director of legislative and legal affairs for Save the Sound, thinks the increase is essential:

The legislation currently before you, authorizing seventy million dollars in bonding to fund the Clean Water Fund projects, is essential if we are to protect our state waterbodies, including Long Island Sound.

For most of the past two decades, Connecticut has reaped the benefits of a consistent, well planned and executed investment in clean water. Capitalizing on this investment, the DEP has successfully planned, partnered with towns and cities and achieved remarkable successes in restoring our rivers, lakes and Long Island Sound. Since beginning this investment in the mid ‘70’s, Connecticut has been able to:
• Reduce by about half of the flow of raw sewage running into major rivers and the Sound caused by overflowing combined sewer overflows during rain storms;
• Reduce by about 50% the treatment plant nitrogen pollution released into the Sound. These reductions are legally required by the Long Island Sound nitrogen TMDL plan approved by EPA to protect water quality and fisheries.
• Replace leaky sewer pipes, and re-build worn out sewage treatment plants with advanced technology.

Recent Years: Falling off the Funding Cliff and a New Beginning
However, the average annual state Clean Water Fund bonding took a nose-dive in the past four years and we enter the 2006 fiscal year with the lowest fund reserve in the Clean Water Fund’s long history. Raised Bill 5624 seeks to increase the $20 million annual rate of investment, which if continued into the future would set back Connecticut’s goals and delay legal obligations to achieve critically important water quality goals by decades, to $70 million—a great start on the road to recovery. This increase would triple the investment in our clean water future and give us a new beginning. It would help ensure that Long Island Sound’s nitrogen clean-up is not delayed by over 2 decades and that we do not have to wait over a century for sewage free water; fates to be suffered if we continue with the original $20 million dollar authorization.

The State Legislature is demonstrating with Raised Bill 5624 that it is accepting responsibility and is willing to continue its tradition of investing in clean rivers, lakes and a restored Long Island Sound. With Raised Bill 5624, the state is stepping-up to the plate and renewing its commitment to Connecticut’s citizens, communities, and future generations.


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