Shoreline Protection Bill Brings Money for Sound
SINCE 1987, when the federal government named Long Island Sound an estuary of national significance, talk about protecting its shoreline has been constant but never backed by more than a trickle of federal money.
That may be about to change. A measure signed by President Bush in October authorizes $100 million for land acquisition, habitat protection and expanded public access in selected shoreline areas, and a list of 33 sites in New York and Connecticut where the money may be spent has been compiled.
The Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, the Marshland Conservancy and Playland Amusement Park in Rye are on the list, as are the Huckleberry and Davids Islands in New Rochelle, and Pelham Bay Park and Orchard Beach in the Bronx and Alley Pond in Queens.
The locations in Connecticut range from Barn Island in Stonington south to Norwalk Harbor.
Long Island sites include the Fishers Island and Manhasset Bay coastlines, Mitchells Creek and Hempstead Harbor in North Hempstead; Oyster Bay; Lloyd Neck in Huntington; Crab Meadow in Huntington and Smithtown; the Nissequogue River corridor in Smithtown; Stony Brook, Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson Harbors in Brookhaven; Wildwood and Baiting Hollow in Riverhead; and Mattituck Creek in Southold.
While high shoreline prices on both sides of the Sound would limit how far the money would go, groups that have worked for preservation and access were not quibbling.
“It’s very exciting and it gives Long Island Sound the same status as Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay and other estuaries of national significance,” said Robert D. Yaro, the president of the Regional Plan Association, a private group in Manhattan that does planning for the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut metropolitan area. “It’s a very big deal.”
If — a troublesome if, some said — Congress votes to appropriate the money, the first $25 million could arrive next year. The balance, at $25 million a year, would be due by 2011.
After public meetings and three years of site evaluations, a coalition of planners, environmentalists and government agencies settled last year on the 33 coastal sites deemed most worthy of money from the new federal pot. Only lands above the average high tide are eligible, a requirement that eliminates parts or all of some recommended locations, including the shoreline of Manhasset Bay and Fishers Island.
Lands or shorelines in public ownership, including parks and preserves, generally anchor the recommended locations, whose boundaries are not strictly defined. Privately owned parcels within or near each site would rate high for acquisition, but purchases would be pursued only when there were willing sellers. The focus for public lands would be restoration programs, greater protection and better public access under the measure, named the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act.
The House sponsors, Representatives Steve Israel, Democrat of Huntington, and Rob Simmons, Republican of Stonington, introduced the bill in 2004, but it had languished. Mr. Israel credited the breakthrough to bipartisan support of the bill in Connecticut and New York. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut propelled the bill through the Senate.
For Mr. Simmons, the legislative victory was bittersweet. He was defeated in the midterm election.
The measure creates an advisory committee that will most likely be headed by Mark A. Tedesco, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound office in Stamford, Conn., which would make the final spending recommendations. Mr. Tedesco said that the 33 recommended sites would all get a close look. “You would want then to take a look at adjacent properties that would enhance those sites,” he said.
The Regional Plan Association, Audubon in New York and Connecticut and Save the Sound in Norwalk compiled the locations with the E.P.A., the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The Trust for Public Land and the Westchester County Parks Department also took part.
Long Island Sound has few public access points for the 20 million people living within 50 miles of it, groups said. The Regional Plan Association estimates that 20 percent of the shoreline is accessible to the public.
NEW YORK TIMES
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