Edward Fielding via Shutterstock
Long Island Sound along the Connecticut shore (Edward Fielding via Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed legislation that sets aside $65 million a year for public-private efforts to safeguard Long Island Sound over the next five years.

The funding authorization for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Program is part of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 that authorizes more than $6 billion in spending for water projects nationwide.

During a White House signing ceremony, Trump said he was “taking another major step” toward his campaign pledge to fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

The House approved the bill by voice vote on September 13. The Senate approved a final version on October 10 by a vote of 99-1, sending the bill to the White House for Trump’s signature. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was the lone dissenter.

Representative Rosa DeLauro, who co-chairs the Long Island Sound Caucus, praised the bill after the House passage in September.

“By prioritizing the long-term health of one of our greatest natural treasures, this legislation protects our environment and serves communities throughout the region,” she said. “In addition to that important stewardship, it contains critical investments for our regional economy, as the Long Island Sound contributes tens of billions of dollars to the regional economy through commercial and recreational fishing, ecotourism, and other water dependent businesses.”

Mark Tedesco, director of EPA’s Long Island Sound Office wrote in September that since 2000 more than $1 billion has been invested in wastewater treatment upgrades leading to a 59-percent reduction in nitrogen discharged into the Sound from human sewage.

Over the past five years, the average peak area of waters with unhealthy levels of dissolved oxygen in Long Island Sound was 95 square miles, less than half the pre-2000 average of 205 square miles, he wrote.

The legislation authorizes up to $65 million in funding annually but does not guarantee the full amount will be appropriated.

Senator Richard Blumenthal held a press conference last week with West Haven Mayor Nancy R. Rossi to tout the benefits the legislation would have for the city’s shoreline that was severely eroded by Superstorm Sandy.

The city is expected to receive “$3 million to $7 million” in federal funding to build berms, or dunes, along the shoreline pending a determination from the Army Corps of Engineers on the scope of the federal project, Blumenthal said.