Thursday, August 25, 2011

SoundVision: Lumpy Conditions on a Beautiful Sail Out of Old Saybrook

I can’t make believe I was bummed earlier today when I got the word that Saturday’s SoundVision event in Mystic was being cancelled because of the weather. The crew of the Schooner SoundWaters had already pretty much decided to bag it and head back to a safe berth in Stamford in seas that were already lumpy (more about that later), and so the only thing on Saturday’s schedule was the press conference, which would have meant a round-trip drive of about four hours and 200 miles for a half-hour event. In the rain. And let’s face it, how many reporters are there in eastern Connecticut who would have shown up at 3 p.m. on a Saturday anyway?

So I’ll stay home and for part of the time anyway I’ll probably think back to yesterday’s SoundVision event, in Old Saybrook. It was the fifth SoundVision event this month and at the first four, the two-hour sail that was to follow the press conference was called off because the radar map showed pockets of thunder storms nearby.

Yesterday the weather was fine, though breezy. And so the show went on, with the promise of a reward in the form of a two-hour sail aboard the Schooner SoundWaters.

But first the press conference. Curt Johnson of Save the Sound made the point, as always, that the SoundVision plan was a unanimous production of the Long Island Sound Study’s Citizens Advisory Committee, which includes environmentalists, planners, business people, scientists and more (for all the details, click here). SoundVision, he said, is not just environmentalism:

"This is not an environmental agenda. This is an economic agenda, a business agenda, an agenda for a cleaner and healthier Sound for the next generation."

And then, as always, he introduced the speakers: Michael Pace, Old Saybrook’s first selectman; Congressman Joe Courtney; State Representatives Marilyn Giuliano and Phil Miller; State Senator Ed Meyer; Betsey Wingfield, of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; Jacqueline Talbot and Andrea Donlon, of the Connecticut River Watershed Council; Richard Potvin, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Linda Krause, of the Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency; and Stephen Tagliatela, the owner of the Saybrook Point Inn and Marina, which is where we were.

Most said something interesting, and even those who didn’t were concise. Among the things that interested or amused me:

Senator Meyer derided a land swap that gave a developer 17 riverfront acres owned by the state in Haddam in exchange for land elsewhere in that town. The legislature and governor approved it, over the objections of Meyer and Miller, among others.

Stephen Tagliatela pointed out that marinas in Connecticut are hardly thriving and could use help from the state government to overcome a competitive advantage held by Rhode Island.

Andrea Donlon said that since 2000, riverfront communities in Massachusetts have made improvements to their sewers that prevented a billion gallons of raw sewage a year from being dumped into the river and yet there is still 741 million gallons a year to remove.

And her colleague, Jacqueline Talbot, spoke pretty much for everybody when she took the mike, the Connecticut River a rich blue behind her, and said, “This beats being in the office.”

An hour or so later the SoundWaters slipped away from the dock, passed a couple of enormous cabin cruisers, and headed for the channel between the breakwaters. The wind was brisk. The low sun made it hard to look west. We motored past the old Saybrook Light and then the new Saybrook Light, and by that time the schooner was hitting turbulence. This was of interest to me, because I’m prone to seasickness. Dianne Selditch of SoundWaters informed me: “I just heard that the word they use for this is lumpy,“ which was a new one for both of us. The sea was indeed lumpy. And rocky and rolly as well.

I tried to enjoy the wind and take in as much oxygen as my lungs could handle. I watched the crew raise two of the three sails (in that wind, three would have been excessive) and enjoyed the quiet that came when the engines were cut. Long Island Sound seemed oceanic. To take my mind off the lumpiness, I chatted with some of the others on board.

I asked the SoundWaters captain, Justin Cathcart, about the difference between a schooner and a sloop, which seemed understandable enough -- two or three masts for a schooner, one for a sloop -- until he started talking about brigs and barks and yawls and ketches, and I lost him. I talked with Andrea Donlon, who drove from Greenfield, Massachusetts, about the 400th anniversary of Adriaen Block’s “discovery” of the river (and Long Island Sound), which no one is making a big deal of. Suzy Allman, who drove from Rye to shoot footage for a video she is making, said the Sound needed a version of the Hudson’s Pete Seeger, to rally people; Justin suggested Billy Joel but then backtracked because Billy Joel apparently is selling his boats and buying motorcycles instead.

And then we hairpinned in the middle of the Sound and headed back to the mouth of the river, moving fast in the wind and on the flood tide. It was obvious I was not going to get sick, nor was anyone else. We sailed past our dock, watched an Amtrak train move noiselessly across the railroad draw bridge, and then turned and headed back. By 7, on schedule, we were at the dock. I drove home in the fading twilight, the sky big and beautiful as the sun set, like a 21st century Hudson River School painting over the industrial waterfront of New Haven.


SoundVision Coverage in the New London Day

The New London Day's Judy Benson -- easily the best environmental reporter in Connecticut and one of the best reporters of any kind in New England -- was at yesterday's SoundVision event in Old Saybrook, and I didn't recognize her (of course, I only met her once, four years ago, when she and I were part of a panel discussion about Broadwater).

Her story today is a simple and straightforward account of what people said at the press conference.


Monday, August 22, 2011

It Looks Like Clear Sailing for SoundVision and SoundWaters in Old Saybrook

Here's the National Weather Service Forecast for Old Saybrook:

Wednesday: Sunny, with a high near 79. Southwest wind between 5 and 13 mph.

Why would I care? Because the next SoundVision event is Wednesday and, as usual, it is supposed to feature a sail on the Schooner SoundWaters.

But each of the other times a SoundVision event was supposed to feature a sail on the SoundWaters -- in Mamaroneck, Port Jefferson, and Bridgeport -- the threat of thunderstorms was too great and the boat never left the dock.

This week looks like it might be different. The event will start with a press conference at 3 p.m., at Saybrook Point Marina, followed by a chance to go on board the SoundWaters and learn about the ecology of Long Island Sound from its educators. The sail starts at 5, although reservations are required.

Details are on the page or the SoundVision Facebook page.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Save the Sound for Babies

If you’re involved in Long Island Sound issues, you shouldn’t take it for granted that people know what’s going on. The New Haven Register’s TV and radio reporter, Joe Amarante, wrote a rambling, amusing column today about his vacation. It included these three paragraphs (the first sentence is a reference to the SoundVision report):

During that week on the shore came news of the continuing effort to restore Long Island Sound. Thousands of people, rich and poor, enjoy the water, sandy beaches, recreation and business of the Sound. You’d think it would be a high priority in our state, so kids can enjoy its waves and beauty years from now (or just marvel at the posh estates on the water).

I don’t understand the logistics of improving the Sound, really, except they say it involves cutting down on nitrogen.

Having grown up in Morris Cove in the 1960s, I say, “Oo-fa, nitrogen? That’s what Costco puts in my car’s tires!” What we’re really talking about is raw sewage and fertilizer spilling into this key body of water, no? It’s 2011, and we can’t keep sewage from finding its way to the Sound after a rain?

Joe (if I may call you that), the nitrogen issue is this: when nitrogen from sewage treatment plants and other sources reaches the Sound, it acts as a fertilizer and spurs the growth of algae in unnaturally large amounts. When the algae die, the process of decay removes dissolved oxygen from the water. A healthy estuary contains about 8 parts per million of dissolved oxygen. In July and August (and sometimes September), dissolved oxygen concentrations in the western half of the Sound sink below 3 ppm and sometimes fall as low as near zero. This creates a huge area of the Sound where marine life can no longer live and where sometimes fish and shellfish essentially suffocate to death. An analogy would be if somehow we removed the air from a huge forest, making it unlivable for birds and other creatures.

Nitrogen removal from sewage treatment plants is a huge, ongoing project that will ultimately cost about $8 billion, but there has been progress. The Long Island Sound Study’s biennial report, released earlier this month, said this about nitrogen removal:

Since the early 1990s, when baseline discharges were calculated at 59,147 pounds per day, a total of 25,444 equalized pounds per day have been reduced. The ultimate goal is to reduce point source nitrogen inputs to Long Island Sound by another 11,000 pounds.

Fertilizer and stormwater runoff in general are a smaller but still important part of the problem.

About raw sewage you are right to be amazed (and presumably a little outraged) when you ask: It’s 2011, and we can’t keep sewage from finding its way to the Sound after a rain?

Some cities -- Bridgeport and New Haven, for example -- send raw sewage into the Sound after a rain on purpose, using an antiquated system called combined sewer overflows. They are designed to carry sewage to treatment plants during dry weather but to bypass the treatment plants and empty directly into local waterways when it rains.

Replacing them with sewers that are not combined -- that separate stormwater from wastewater -- is enormously expensive. This is from another Long Island Sound Study report:

Full separation of [Bridgeport’s] stormwater and wastewater systems is projected to cost $560 million and take decades. The city has been making progress, though, and has already completed seven projects to achieve this goal with a total expenditure of $50 million. The next project scheduled will achieve separation in the Downtown, eastern portion of the South End, and northern portion of Black Rock. This project will cost $25 million, is projected to be completed in 2017, and will solve most flooding and CSO problems with a solution that (after construction) will be below ground and quite intensive.

Re-read that first sentence: it’s going to take decades! What that means, Joe, is that the work probably will be finished when your grandson is a grandfather. But in the meantime, we need to keep making progress, year by year. Let’s hope we do, for now and for your grandson’s grandchildren.


Horseshoe Crabs, Dead and Alive

On my visits to the north and west sides of the Great Salt Pond on Block Island a couple of weeks ago, I was amazed by the scores of small, dead horseshoe crabs littering the tide wrack. Most of them were no bigger than a saucer, light brown, almost translucent.

I turned up a bunch of small, live horseshoe crabs while digging for clams, and watched them all swim away and bury themselves. But it made me wonder if the mortality I saw is part of the nature of things for horseshoe crabs or a result of clammers who don’t know what they are doing, or something else.

I was reminded of it today when I saw this story, in the Connecticut Post, about Project Limulus and Professor Jennifer Mattei.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Whales of New York

Matthews Wills, who I follow on Twitter (@backyardbeyond) went out on a whale-watching boat from Far Rockaway not long ago and encountered a humpback whale near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. He wrote about it beautifully on his blog, Backyard and Beyond.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dolphins and More

Lots of interesting stuff this morning on Twitter via @Soundbounder:

Dolphins have been in Long Island Sound again, as far west as Cold Spring Harbor. So says the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. About 200 dolphins were here in June of 2009, too, which makes me think they enter the Sound on porpoise.

(Five minutes after I hit "publish post," Matt (@soundbender) sent me this link to a photo taken by Pete Sattler of dolphins near Throgs Neck and a youtube video taken near Rocky Point by someone else. Thanks, Matt!)

Suffolk County has bought and preserved two nice-sounding tracts. As far as I know, nobody in Westchester is preserving land these days, including New York City and Westchester Land Trust. Sept 29 update: I say this because WLT has protected one parcel this year, an 8-acre lot in Pound Ridge, a project which started years ago and finally came to fruition when the owner's representative called me last fall and asked how we could get it finished. There were no other projects close to being completed when I left in June and as I understand it no new projects have come in lately but they're still looking. So to be factually correct, NYC has gotten out of the land preservation business in Westchester and WLT is still in it.

Coyotes might be eating cats on Fishers Island.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Progress on the Sound

The huge effort to remove nitrogen from treated sewage before it enters Long Island Sound will be judged a success only if it results in a major improvement to water quality in the western half of the Sound.

That hasn’t quite happened. My reading of the data collected by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is that there has been some improvement but it’s not dramatic. Yet.

But if you believe that the people overseeing the cleanup are right that removing nitrogen from treated sewage will eventually lead to better water quality, then you have to also believe that things are going well, because the progress in nitrogen removal, in my opinion, has been good.

I’m basing this judgment on numbers I saw in the most recent biennial report of the Long Island Sound Study, which was released last week.

Remember that the original goal, set, if I remember correctly, in 1998, was to remove 58.5 percent of all the nitrogen that enters the Sound from sewage plants, by 2014 (that deadline has been changed to 2017 because of engineering problems in New York City and Westchester that have to do, as I understand it, with the size of the plants [NYC] and the fact that there is little room to expand the plants [Westchester]).

The biennial report says that we are 70 percent of the way to the 58.5 percent goal, an improvement of 18 percentage points since 2009. Here’s a quote from the report:

Since the early 1990s, when baseline discharges were calculated at 59,147 pounds per day, a total of 25,444 equalized pounds per day have been reduced. The ultimate goal is to reduce point source nitrogen inputs to Long Island Sound by another 11,000 pounds. In 2010, the states reached 70% of the final reduction target compared to 52% in 2009.

And this:

Ten plants, 8 in CT and 2 in NY, completed final or phased upgrades in 2009 and 2010 at a cost of $339.83 million. … About 60% of the reduction was the result of an interim project completed at the Hunts Point plant in the Bronx.

And this...

In 2010, The Wards Island Plant plant in New York City reduced 3,006 equalized pounds per day from baseline years as part of a demonstration project that involved the use of methanol. The innovative method, available for large plants, is called the SHARON (Single Reactor System for High Ammonia Removal Over Nitrate) process.

The progress at Wards Island and Hunts Point is encouraging because those treatment plants and two others in the Bronx and Queens -- Tallmans Island and Bowery Bay -- are huge: they are responsible for about 700 million of the 1 billion gallons of treated sewage discharged into the Sound every day.

If New York City is succeeding in removing nitrogen, that is likely to be very good news for Long Island Sound.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SoundVision Photos

Save the Sound has loaded plenty of good photos of yesterday's SoundVision event in Bridgeport onto Flickr.


Captain's Cove Seaport

Captain’s Cove Seaport in Bridgeport, the site of yesterday's SoundVision event, is easy enough to find but to get there you travel through a landscape of vast vacant lots and industrial facilities -- a concrete plant, a power plant, a sewage treatment plant -- and one newish housing project. I didn't ask, but it might be the area they call the Steel Pier.

Captain’s Cove itself sits alone on the water. It’s well-kept, prosperous-looking, filled with boats, docks, boardwalks, a restaurant with all-weather tables, and an odd area of shops housed in colorful, buildings built on a tiny scale (none of which were open on a gray August Monday afternoon).

Captain's Cove - Bridgeport, CT
The Schooner SoundWaters docks there for two or three weeks in October, to do educational work for Bridgeport schools, and the crew says that being there next to the tiny buildings overnight in the off-season is a truly weird experience, as if a community of small-scale people were waiting til it gets dark to come out and conduct their business. (The photo of Captain's Cove is from Aimee Alvarez's Flickr page.)

SoundVision in Bridgeport

I heard two things over and over at yesterday’s SoundVision event in Bridgeport:

1. Long Island Sound is important to the region’s economy, which means either a) that Long Island Sound is important to the region’s economy or b) that the economy is perceived as being such an important issue to politicians that they can’t talk about the environment without putting it in the context of the economy. Either is fine, of course, as long as whenever the economy improves they keep talking about the environment.

2. When it rains, as it did in buckets over the weekend and for a good part of yesterday, it is bad for the Sound. Really bad.

Not surprisingly, the two are connected (as is everything, really). One of the speakers at yesterday’s event, which was at Captain’s Cove Seaport, mentioned that if the sewage infrastructure of the communities along the Sound was upgraded, repaired, replaced, etc., it would create 6,000 new jobs.

Some of those 6,000 jobs would be for fixing (or, rather, eliminating) combined sewer overflows, or CSO’s -- old sewers that are designed to carry sewage to treatment plants during dry weather but to bypass the treatment plants and empty directly into local waterways when it rains, so as not to flood the plants.

CSO’s are one of the reasons that heavy rain is really bad for the Sound. There was a heavyweight list of knowledgeable pols at the event -- Senator Richard Blumenthal (that's him greeting Soundkeeper Terry Backer, in the photo), Attorney General George Jepsen, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, State Representative Andres Ayala -- but none of them mentioned that Bridgeport’s sewer system is a CSO system. When it rains, Bridgeport’s sewage empties directly, untreated, into local waterways. And certainly nobody who stepped to the microphone mentioned that one of the overflow pipes happened to be discharging raw sewage into the harbor just then, within sight of Captain’s Cove.

Bridgeport of course is not the only Connecticut city with combined sewers, and combined sewers are not the only source of seriously polluted water into the Sound (regular stormwater washing off the streets is bad too). But CSO’s are one of the main reasons why beaches and shellfish beds on the Sound are shut down after a rainstorm.

David Carey, the director of the bureau of aquaculture in Connecticut’s Department of Agriculture, pointed out yesterday that 45 oyster companies in Connecticut operate 110 oyster boats and harvest an estimated 300,000 bushels of oysters a year. Because of the rain and the contaminated water it carries into the Sound, I’d guess that none of them were working yesterday (read this, for example).

And more than one speaker said that Long Island Sound’s economic contribution to the region is $8 billion a year. A good part of that is money spent by people going to the beach. It’s safe to say that it will be days before the water is safe enough for the beaches to reopen.

SoundVision was put together by the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Long Island Sound Study and is being directed by Save the Sound (for whom I have been covering the events as a blogger and on Twitter). One of the goals of SoundVision is to re-energize the people of Connecticut and New York -- including government officials -- so that the Sound cleanup stays on track.

You can see the importance of that if you look at the effort merely to solve the CSO problem in Bridgeport -- which is just one part of a much bigger, much more comprehensive effort. Here’s an excerpt from the Long Island Sound Study’s Sound Update newsletter of fall 2010:

Full separation of [Bridgeport’s] stormwater and wastewater systems is projected to cost $560 million and take decades. The city has been making progress, though, and has already completed seven projects to achieve this goal with a total expenditure of $50 million. The next project scheduled will achieve separation in the Downtown, eastern portion of the South End, and northern portion of Black Rock. This project will cost $25 million, is projected to be completed in 2017, and will solve most flooding and CSO problems with a solution that (after construction) will be below ground and quite intensive.

Here’s what that means: one task (separating Bridgeport’s CSO’s) will cost $560 million. The work has started and after six more years, $485 million worth of work, or 87 percent of the task, will remain undone.

To me, that’s daunting. Let’s hope SoundVision can keep people focused for that long.


Thursday, August 04, 2011

SoundVision: August 8 and 9

Save the Sound has scheduled an additional press announcement for its SoundVision Action Plan, at 11 a.m. Tuesday, August 9, at the Sound School in New Haven.

You can get directions are here.

You can also keep up with SoundVision news on Facebook, here. And if you're a Twitter person, follow the #LISoundVision hashtag.

The Monday, August 8 event, is still set for 3 p.m. in Port Jefferson, with a sail on the Schooner SoundWaters set for 5 p.m. Reservations are required for the sail. Click here.


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Piping Plovers in Stratford

Piping plover nest sites are so rare in Connecticut -- only 46 nesting pairs, as of June -- it's good to see that Stratford seems to be taking their protection seriously as it figures out what to do with Long Beach West.

Fred Musante, who was covering Long Island issues for the Bridgeport Post when I was reporting in the late 1980s, wrote about it for Stratford Patch here.


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Long Island Sound E-Book

A great way to learn about Long Island Sound is to read This Fine Piece of Water: An Environmental History of Long Island Sound in the e-book version. It's here.

SoundVision in Mamaroneck

I spent much of the 45-minute drive to Mamaroneck yesterday afternoon trying to recall when I last visited Harbor Island Park. For a while it had been my professional turf. I started as a reporter in 1983 at a bureau on Library Lane, across the Post Road from the park, and it was a year later that health officials began to close the park’s beach each time it rained a half-inch or more in 24 hours, because of the contaminants in the stormwater that got swept into the harbor.

It was at Harbor Island in July of 1987 that Mamaroneck’s harbor master, Jim Mancusi, alerted me to one of the worst fish kills on Long Island Sound that summer: we’re scooping them up with shovels, he said, and throwing them into garbage bags.

But I think my most recent visit to Harbor Island was in the summer of 2000, to write about an oil spill from a local boatyard that was spreading over the harbor’s East Basin -- light number 2 oil, if I remember, relatively easily cleaned up and hardly a disaster but an unnecessary insult on an otherwise pleasant park.

Yesterday’s visit was for something more positive -- the first public unveiling of the new SoundVision Action Plan, put together by Save the Sound and the Citizens Advisory committee of the Long Island Sound Study. The Schooner SoundWaters was there, docked about as far up into the East Basin as a boat can go, in an area boomed off 11 years ago to keep the oil out. A few feet away, on a lawn that ran to the seawall above the schooner, 10 or so elected officials and representatives of Save the Sound, the CAC, SoundWaters and the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium stood under a canopy to talk about the SoundVision plan and why it’s important.

I was trying to put stuff out on Twitter and take notes at the same time, with limited success, and so the most succinct way to summarize what they were saying is to excerpt the webpage:

There has been significant progress in the last two decades. We've restored and protected over one thousand acres of open space and habitat, re-opened miles and miles of rivers, substantially reduced nitrogen pollution, and engaged thousands of children and residents with education programs and volunteer opportunities. But our heritage—which is centered on appreciating beautiful views of the coast, enjoying our beaches, sailing and kayaking, clamming and fishing—remains threatened. Litter still fouls our coastline. Raw sewage continues to close beaches and shellfish beds. And great areas of open beach, marsh and forest along our coast are jeopardized by over-development.

We need to protect our landscape, not only for the birds, fish and other animals that depend on special habitats, but also to re-build the economically vibrant legacy of shoreline industries and neighborhoods for our children and their children.

Today the CAC, advised by the best Long Island Sound scientists and experts, has developed this practical and attainable Action Agenda to heal and restore the Sound. It's time to bring together all who care about the Sound to make a real difference.

That’s the background. As for the Action Agenda itself, Curt Johnson of Save the Sound summarized it yesterday. Its goals are to protect clean water to achieve a healthy Sound; create safe and thriving places for all Sound creatures; build Long Island Sound communities that work; and invest in an economically vibrant Long Island Sound.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Curt said yesterday, “but we have a long way to go.”

He pointed south, to the part of the Sound between Westchester and Nassau counties, and noted that extremely low levels of dissolved oxygen are still common there, to the extent that the area is virtually a dead zone in summer, devoid of marine life. (The Connecticut DEEP has a terrific set of maps showing the extent of the problem, known as hypoxia, over the years, here.)

Curt introduced Nancy Seligson, a Mamaroneck Town Council member who used to be president of Save the Sound. She in turn introduced the politicians: County Executive Rob Astorino, State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, County Legislator Judy Meyers, Mamaroneck Village Trustee Toni Pergola Ryan.

I listened as carefully as I could but by this time those of us who were not under the canopy -- I counted 35, including reporters -- were sweltering and distracted: thunder was rumbling all around and dark clouds had started to pass above the sewage treatment plant, whose tower -- designed to evoke a campanile on a Florentine piazza -- rose above us. The formal presentation broke up and people started to amble down the ramp to the schooner.

The captain, Justin Cathcart, was on the boat watching the radar, and before the press conference was over he had decided he wasn’t going to take the boat out -- too many quickly-developing cells of thunder and lightning. Hilary Starks of SoundWaters was sitting in the stern calling people who had signed up to tell them the news.

But folks showed up anyway and, despite their disappointment, had a good time. Kids fished horseshoe crabs and channelled whelks out of the touch tank overseen by SoundWaters’ Josh Mayo. (Josh said that when he was a kid, in 1977, the town where he lived in Massachusetts paid a bounty of a nickel apiece of horseshoe crabs, which were sent to the local prison, ground up, and used for fertilizer in the prison’s garden -- a tale that amazed me for its benighted attitude toward wildlife). Veterans of the past decades’ environmental battles greeted each other warmly. Politicians needled each other good-naturedly.

And everyone asked Justin Cathcart why we couldn’t go for just a quick little sail -- and then, when he explained why, pleaded with him.

To no avail. Which was probably the right decision. The clouds beyond the entrance to the harbor were blue-gray and thick. The thunder was never right over us but frequently nearby. And as I drove home at 6, passing the county airport on I 684, hail ticked off the windshield and the rain fell so heavily it was hard to see the car ahead of me. I would not have wanted to be on a schooner on the Sound in such a downpour.


SoundVision News Links

Terrific news coverage of yesterday's SoundVision event in Mamaroneck. Here are the links:

The Journal News.

WCBS radio.

Larchmont-Mamaroneck Patch.

Norwalk Patch.


The Daily Mamaroneck.

If one of the goals is to refocus attention on Long Island Sound, that's a good start.


Monday, August 01, 2011

SoundVision Online

Save the Sound has a new webpage for the SoundVision Action Plan:


SoundVision: Engaging the Public

The Connecticut Mirror has the first comprehensive story about the SoundVision Action Plan, which is being released today in Mamaroneck (the first of a series of seven announcements around Long Island Sound over the next five weeks).

Here are some excerpts, in italics.

A key to the plan is to get the public engaged again in the Sound:

"We constantly tell [people] that Long Island Sound is not doing as great as it should be," said Leah Lopez Schmalz of Save the Sound, a program of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. "But what are they supposed to do about that?"

... It includes a two-year Citizen Action Agenda, two dozen generalized points distilled from many dozens of short, intermediate and long-range goals in the larger report--a 10-year blueprint, though with no specific policy or legislative recommendations yet.

The points are grouped in four categories roughly corresponding to cleaning the water, creating and preserving wildlife habitat, re-inventing shoreline communities and businesses related to the Sound, and securing funding for projects.

Underlying all of it is citizen engagement. The three dozen members of the committee--environmental advocacy, business, scientific and other interested organizations from Connecticut and New York -- discovered through focus groups that people's relationships with the Sound has eroded due to a literal inability to get to it and a failure to integrate programs related to it across broad spectrums of business, community and government.

...Joe McGee, vice president for public policies for the Business Council of Fairfield County, one of the organizations represented on the Sound Vision committee, said his group pushed for action after noticing that Long Island Sound had dropped off the list of priorities for businesses in his area.

He believes the reason is that same lack of public engagement and lays some of the blame on the very organizations that advocate for the Sound, citing competition among them for status related to their fundraising needs. But he, like others, said in the end, the groups came together in a unified, message that dovetails their goals which he thought would help bring businesses and the people to work in them to the state.

"Long Island Sound is such a treasure; it's a major piece of what makes Connecticut, Connecticut," he said. "To attract young people, the environmental stewardship component is very important. We have to show that this place isn't a junkyard.

"Part of the branding of the state of Connecticut has got to have the issue of environment and Long Island Sound."

Click here for the Connecticut Mirror story.
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