Funds for LI Sound cleanup restored in federal budget proposal

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Grant funds to help clean and protect the Long Island Sound that had originally been slashed in President Donald Trump's budget proposal have now been restored in the proposed 2018 federal budget.

The House voted to put $8 million in funding back into the budget after heavy lobbying from environmentalists and local congressmen, including Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi and Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin.

"The funds are used for water quality and wetlands restoration, habitat protection," says environmentalist Adrienne Esposito. "We need to bring back our winter flounder and our lobster and make sure our beaches are swimmable."

Advocates say the Sound is not just an environmental treasure but an economic engine that generates between $15 billion and $37 billion each year in fishing and tourism revenue.

It's unclear exactly how much money it will take to clean up the Long Island Sound. The EPA estimates it would cost billions to deal with the problem of aging septic systems, which contaminate the Sound with excess nitrogen.

Still, environmentalists say the grant money is an important step forward.

"We have come a long way in the last two decades," says Esposito. "The water quality is improving and we can't afford to stop now."

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the budget this fall.

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