Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Soundness of the Long Island Sound

October 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Technically, the Long Island Sound is not a sound. In geography, a sound is a sizeable sea or ocean inlet or a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land. In actuality, the Long Island Sound is an estuary, and a vast one at that. It has 600 miles of coastline embracing New York City, Long Island, and Connecticut. Averaging 63 feet deep and encompassing 1,320 square miles, the Sound contains 18 trillion gallons of water — salt water from the Atlantic Ocean and freshwater primarily from the Thames, the Housatonic, and the Connecticut Rivers.

The Sound is home to many creatures and the spawning grounds for many more. Beyond the normal chaos of the Darwinian survival of the fittest competitions conducted by the largest fish to the tiniest minnow, the Sound’s inhabitants face dangers, both physical and chemical, that threatens their lives and the outward beauty of the waters appreciated by both boaters and coastline residents.

It’s the humans living, working, and pursuing activities along these waters that have made a big mess of it (about 23 million people live within 50 miles of the Sound). Though there are plenty of people and problems, the opposite is true for regulations. The lack of viable regulations for dumping waste into the waters created perils such as nitrogen, which makes the water inhospitable and unbreathable for many species that thrived in the waters for centuries.

One group determined to save this important estuary is the Long Island Sound Study. Founded in 1985, coalition members include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Marine Fisheries Service, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, N.Y.S. Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources, and New York Sea Grant. In 1994, the Sound Study developed the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound. Approved by the EPA, Connecticut, and New York, the plan identified specific actions to “improve water quality, protect habitat and living resources, educate and involve the public, improve the long-term understanding of how to manage the Sound, monitor progress, and redirect management efforts.”

Tom SuozziU.S. Representative Thomas Suozzi is currently working with the Sound Study’s committees. This engaged lawmaker has had the opportunity to observe what’s been done and what still needs to be addressed. “The Long Island Sound Study has been an instrumental force in trying to protect our ‘national park,’” he says. “It’s great to see that progress is being made. Thousands of acres of habitat have been restored as well as over 300 miles of river migratory corridors to help with fish passage. This is about ensuring that the beauty and biodiversity of the Sound remain in place for many decades to come, and the effort that these people are putting in will go a long way to achieving that goal.”

In addition to the other obstacles facing the Sound, there’s difficulty in getting people to look past seeing cleaner waters and shortsightedly thinking the danger to its inhabitants has passed. “We always need to make sure the public is aware of how important protecting the Sound really is. It’s incumbent on all of us to preserve and support the wildlife inhabiting these waters,” Suozzi cautions.

Another challenge is enlisting those who live by and benefit from the Sound to pitch in with preservation efforts. Suozzi urges area residents to get involved. “Volunteer with the Long Island Sound Study and voice concerns to local, state, and federal offices. The more people who speak up in support of the Sound, the more attention this issue will get.”

When it comes to boaters, Suozzi’s suggestion is specific. “Be mindful of the fact that we have a beautiful body of water that needs protecting. I encourage boaters to sail on the waters, but do it in a way that keeps the Sound looking as gorgeous as ever while also protecting the wildlife that call the Sound home.”

LI Sound Sudt don't trash sound aThe Sound Study wants to enlist social media-savvy water lovers, including boaters, to spread the hashtag #DontTrashLISound. To live the advice, boaters should be conscious of not tossing waster overboard, as it not only affects water quality but also presents a choking or tangling threat to marine creatures.

Stewardship of the Sound depends upon the people who are in charge on a local, state, and federal level adhering to the objectives of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. Pragmatic leadership requires balancing clean, thriving waters with industrialization and population growth, but ignoring the need for a thriving Long Island Sound will serve no benefit in the long run.

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By Michael Griffin


is a native New Yorker who has many fond memories of going deep-sea fishing in his youth. He lives near Long Island with his wife, son, and cat (who is sitting in his lap as he types this).

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