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Watchdog On Water: Soundkeeper To Keep Up Legacy Of Stratford Lawmaker

State Rep. Terry Backer of Stratford, the original Soundkeeper
State Rep. Terry Backer of Stratford, the original Soundkeeper Photo Credit: Connecticut House Democrats

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Environmental groups are joining forces to to support a full-time Soundkeeper advocate dedicated to protecting and restoring Long Island Sound, continuing the legacy of the late Terry Backer of Stratford.

Representatives of Soundkeeper Inc. and Connecticut Fund for the Environment and its bi-state program Save the Sound made the announcement Tuesday.

Relaunching this critical on-the-water watchdog is the major goal of the planned future merger of Soundkeeper Inc. into CFE/Save the Sound.

Soundkeeper Inc. has its origins in the Connecticut Coastal Fishermen’s Association, founded in 1987 in response to devastating summer algae blooms that sucked oxygen from the Sound’s waters and resulted in massive fish kills. It is a part of the worldwide Waterkeeper network.

Founder Terry Backer, who went on to serve as Connecticut state representative for Stratford, died in 2015.

“As the original Soundkeeper, Terry Backer was the guardian of Long Island Sound for nearly three decades,” said Curt Johnson, executive director of CFE/Save the Sound. “With massive cuts to environmental protection and enforcement looming in D.C., our Long Island Sound needs a strong Soundkeeper now more than ever.

"She or he will patrol, monitor, track down, and work to fix pollution problems. The on-the-water Soundkeeper will be backed up by CFE/Save the Sound’s environmental attorneys to ensure that clean water rules are enforced. The Soundkeeper will be citizens’ eyes and ears on the Sound’s many bays and harbors, and the Sound’s voice in the halls of government.”

Longtime Soundkeeper board member Jim Murkette praised the move.

“I can’t imagine a better legacy for Terry than relaunching a Soundkeeper this summer who will continue on as a powerful Long Island Sound advocate,” said Murkette.

The Soundkeeper will make patrol circuits around the Sound, working out of home ports in lower Fairfield County and the mid-Connecticut coast.

These patrols will include documenting signs of pollution, responding to citizen reports, and bringing media attention to conditions on the Sound — from sewer overflows to whale sightings.

Most of the Soundkeeper’s time will be devoted to direct advocacy and coalition building to further strategic Long Island Sound restoration and protection goals.

These include rallying community support to stop bacterial and nitrogen pollution, and partnering with other organizations to advocate for restoration funding and strengthen fisheries regulations.

CFE/Save the Sound and Soundkeeper, Inc. encourage passionate advocates for Long Island Sound to apply for the Soundkeeper position and are seeking a donated boat to facilitate on-the-water patrols.

A detailed job description and boat specifications are available on CFE/Save the Sound’s website .

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