The environmental future of Long Island Sound may be in jeopardy, a new study issued by the stewardship organization Save the Sound reports.
In the 2011 State of the Sound, available for download here, Connecticut and New York received a grade of C+ for their combined stewardship efforts over the past year.
Writing in the introduction to the report, author Tom Andersen notes:
"Long Island Sound exists now in a state of permanent crisis. Lobsters have all but vanished. Oysters, carefully restored with infusions of money from taxpayers and the private sector, succumbed to two diseases and are only now starting to revive. Winter flounder disappeared. The water on average has gotten warmer; warm-water species are replacing coldwater species. Salt marshes are dying. And hypoxia returns every summer -- sometimes bad, sometimes not so bad, sometimes critically bad."
The State of the Sound grades the welfare of the estuary according to eight significant indicators. In five of those categories -- low oxygen, raw sewage, stormwater runoff, toxic chemicals, and stewardship -- marks fell to C and below.
Not all news from the report is terrible, however. In the categories of coastal habitat, beach litter, and migratory habitat, the State of the Sound doled out grades of A, B+, and A-, respectively.
So how can we improve this endangered area? The report provides five steps for raising the grade.
- Fully fund Long Island Sound federal programs like the Long Island Sound Restoration Act and the Stewardship Initiative to provide New York and Connecticut with strong support for clean water projects and climate change efforts and to save and restore the Sound's last great coastal space.
- Control stormwater runoff through riverfront protection legislation, facilitating the creation of regional stormwater associations, promoting low impact development,green infrastructure and best management practices and providing low-interest loans for capital improvements.
- Leverage federal stewardship funding by creating a dedicated state Long Island Sound Stewardship Matching Fund that will preserve and restore the region's last great coastal spaces.
- Address expected impacts of global warming by incorporating sea level rise adaptation strategies into coastal infrastructure planning and beach protection.
- Create options that ensure a conservation sale of Plum Island to provide wildlife habitat and opportunities for enhanced public access.