STRATFORD, Conn. — Top federal and state environment officials on Thursday announced 22 grants totaling more than $1.3 million to improve the health and viability of Long Island Sound in Connecticut and New York.
Funded through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, the money will support everything from coastal restoration in Stratford to a fish passage in Darien’s Noroton River to schoolyard habitats and conservation education in Stamford and New Haven.
“We are in a battle to preserve our essential natural resources and our planet,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., noting the Sound is vital to Connecticut both economically and recreationally.
Although the state has taken many major steps to clean up the Sound, the new funding will cover “transformational” community-based projects, said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
“We shouldn’t be shy about talking about our moral obligation to clean up the Sound," he said.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, said she was excited to see a range of water quality projects as well as a move to restore 180 acres of coastal habitats and outdoor “classrooms” to instill a respect for the estuary in the next generation.
“This is engaging young people and providing training to our teachers,” she said.
Audubon Connecticut and the National Audubon Society received nearly $35,000 in LISFF grant funding, plus another $47,000 in matching funds, for their schoolyard habitats program in New Haven and Stamford. The funds will cover habitats for migratory songbirds in urban areas and train teachers to use outdoor living classrooms to engage students in hands-on conservations and help them understand Sound habitats, said Stewart Hudson, vice president and executive director of Audubon Connecticut.
Fairfield’s Sacred Heart University received about $148,750 from LISFF and another $80,000 in matching funds to continue work restoring the coastline at Stratford Point, where officials announced the grants Thursday. With help from DuPont and Audubon Connecticut, Sacred Heart has created a protective artificial reef along the shore with salt marsh grasses, said Jennifer Mattei, a biology professor.
“It’s tripled in size in six months,” she said.
There is little vegetation and food on the point jutting into the Sound and SHU biologists plan to add trees and shrubs to protect migratory birds during storms and attract Monarch butterflies and other pollinators.
“The goal is to bring back a coastal habitat,” Mattei said.
Those gathered agreed the funding will have a major impact on communities all along the state’s coast, which can only boost Connecticut’s environmental and tourism efforts.
“It’s just smart business to take this jewel and make it available to more people,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4.
Connecticut grant recipients are:
- New Haven Urban Resources Initiative: “City-wide Green Infrastructure Siting, Installation and Training”
- Earthplace — the Nature Discovery Center Inc. in Westport: “Tracking Down Pollution Sources Impacting Water Quality in 4 Connecticut Rivers and Long Island Sound”
- The Nature Conservancy: “Developing a Plan to Access and Reduce Nitrogen in Naugatuck River Watershed Communities”
- Sacred Heart University: “Stratford Point Living Shoreline: Restoring Coastal Habitats to Maintain Resiliency and Function”
- Connecticut Fund for the Environment: “Restoring Fish Passage on the Noroton River” in Darien
- Thames Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited: “Fishway Rehabilitation at the Versailles Pond Dam” in eastern Connecticut
- National Audubon Society, Audubon Connecticut in Fairfield, “Creating a Network of Schoolyard Habitats to Engage Students in Conservation of Long Island Sound”
- Sea Research Foundation Inc., “Sound Actions: Celebrate Long Island Sound through Community Stewardship” in Mystic
- Stamford-based SoundWaters Inc., “A Student Urban Field-Study of Water Quality and Species Diversity Along Long Island Sound Coast”
Other grants were awarded in New York. Read about all of the grants here .