Rep. Lee Zeldin at a press conference in Mattituck March 13, where he called on Congress to fully fund the L.I. Sound and National Estuary programs. Photo: Katharine Schroeder

Funding for the Long Island Sound Program has been included in a key federal appropriations bill for 2018, Rep. Lee Zeldin announced yesterday.

The Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018 includes $8 million in funding for the L.I. Sound Program and $26.7 million for the National Estuary Program, Zeldin said in a press release.

The National Estuary Program funds local grants for 28 estuaries of national significance in the United States, including the Peconic Estuary. The National Estuary Program is the primary funding source for the Peconic Estuary Program.

“Both the Long Island Sound Program and National Estuary Program must be protected,” said Zeldin, co-chair of the Long Island Sound Caucus. “Securing the funding needed to maintain these programs is a major win for our local waterways, and I look forward to this bill’s passage in the House,” Zeldin said.

The Interior Department appropriations bill was introduced in the House on Friday and referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

The deadline to fund the government for FY 2018 is September 30, 2017.

President Donald Trump’s “America First” budget blueprint, released in March, calls for cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual budget by about one-third and eliminating funding for specific regional efforts, including the Long Island Sound Program.

“The budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities,” the presidential budget blueprint document said.

Zeldin held a press conference on a Mattituck beach right after the presidential budget blueprint provisions became known, calling on Congress to continue funding for the L.I. Sound Program and the National Estuary Program

“The President’s request is just that: a request,” Zeldin’s press release said yesterday. “It has no force of law or legislation. All funding for government agencies is initiated by Congress through the appropriations process.”

Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which advocated for L.I. Sound Program funding after the presidential budget blueprint was released, hailed its inclusion in the appropriations bill. CCE and more than two dozen Long Island Sound stakeholder groups headed to Washington D.C. and met with members of Congress to deliver a critical message: Save the Long Island Sound Program, the organization said in a press release yesterday.

The sound is a significant ecological asset and has an irreplaceable economic value, contributing between $17 billion and $37 billion to the regional economy from commercial and recreational fishing, ecotourism, and other water dependent businesses, CCE said.

“Federal Long Island Sound funds are leveraged with local, county, and state resources to fund critical programs to preserve land, restore habitat, improve water quality and enhance stewardship areas around the Sound,” CCE said.

“CCE is thrilled with the collaborative, bi-partisan work by Congressman Zeldin, Congressman Suozzi and Congresswoman DeLauro,” CCE executive director Adrienne Esposito said.

Zeldin said since taking office in 2015, he has “worked across the aisle to ensure that necessary funds are provided where they are needed most in the First Congressional District.”

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.