2019 Year in Review: The Difference We’re Making Together

There’s one great truth about our environment: it’s all connected. Streams flow from forested hills to rivers to our drinking water reservoirs or our beaches. Winds blow clean air or smog through our neighborhoods. Fish swim from the Atlantic, through Long Island Sound, and upstream to local ponds to start their life cycles anew.

And there’s one great truth about the work we do to protect these resources: it takes all of us.

Read on to learn what we achieved for our shared environment this year.

 

FROM THE SKIES AND HILLS…

Renewables Blow Smog Out of the Water

Thanks to advocates like you speaking up this spring, we helped protect net metering to save Connecticut jobs and keep rooftop solar practical for residents. And earlier this month, our expert input paid off as the state modified its Shared Solar program to make it fairer to both businesses and consumers, helping bring clean power within reach for everyone.

Also this past spring, Connecticut lawmakers passed legislation that allows for 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind and CT DEEP recently selected Vineyard Wind to build the largest renewable energy project in state history—with a plan to limit any impact to birds, fish, and whales.

New York is planning its own offshore wind generation—two projects which together will be the largest installation in the country! It’s part of massive momentum: the state legislature this year set the most ambition climate and clean energy goals in the nation. New York has committed to a carbon-free electricity system by 2040 and an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Fighting for Efficiency, the Energy You Don’t Use

We sued the State of Connecticut after legislators swiped $145 million in ratepayer dollars from programs intended to save families money and reduce pollution. Just last week, attorneys participated in oral arguments in our legal appeal, and we continue to work with Governor Lamont and legislators to make sure a swipe like this doesn’t happen again.

Going Once, Going Twice… Selling Your Watershed Lands?!

When California-based San Jose Water purchased CT Water Company, CFE/Save the Sound intervened to ensure conservation of the watershed land. This agreement will be the basis of ongoing work with municipalities and land trusts. Our attorneys and advocates are now working with local and state officials to discuss the protection of watershed lands in northwest Connecticut and coastal Fairfield County—not just for water supply, but for the unbroken forests that provide homes to wildlife and hiking opportunities for people.

Finding Inspiration in Oswegatchie Hills

Nearly 460 acres of pristine forest are already protected in the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve. We continue to work hard alongside local partners to protect the remaining 236 acres, including the last mile of Niantic River coastal shoreline. Check out how art meets nature in the Hills here!

 

…TO THE STREETS OF OUR COMMUNITIES,

Green Infrastructure Flourishes in New Haven

In 2019, CFE/Save the Sound worked with almost 200 volunteers to install 13 rain gardens in the West River watershed, and teamed up with the New Haven Land Trust to build the city’s first two edible rain gardens. Altogether, they will capture and filter more than 292,000 gallons of stormwater each year. All this on top of the 75 bioswales that were installed with oversight from our team, to keep even more runoff pollution out of our rivers and Sound! Read our 2019 Rain Garden recap.

Unifying Our Sound-Wide Study Participants

Our Unified Water Study: Long Island Sound Embayment Research (UWS) is all about bringing together community partners from all around the Sound to build a roadmap to tackle low dissolved oxygen and algal blooms and conserve the Sound’s resources. Since 2017, it’s grown to a network of 22 water quality monitoring partner groups sampling the bays, harbors, and coves of Long Island Sound.

In November, we gathered all study partners together for our first ever Unified Water Study Summit, hosted by Earthplace. See the presentations and photos.

Mapping the Way to Clean Transportation

With nearly 40% of Connecticut’s pollution coming from transportation, electric vehicles are necessary to tackle climate change, improve public health and air quality, and create economic development opportunities. This fall, Governor Lamont proclaimed September 2019 Drive Electric Month and unveiled the draft Electric Vehicle Roadmap, a long-range plan that identifies policies, programs, and strategies Connecticut should pursue to expand EVs and infrastructure, and focuses on equity for low- and middle-income residents and environmental justice communities.

 

FROM OUR SHORES AND STREAMS…

First Long Island Sound Beach Report Grades Beach Water Quality

This year marked our first comprehensive report on the 200+ beaches around Long Island Sound. Using beach monitoring data from 2016-2018, the report provides annual grades that reflect the conditions at each beach over time giving residents a window into how their local beaches are doing while also supplying valuable tips on how to improve those conditions. Click here to find out how your favorite beach ranked, and find even more data at SoundHealthExplorer.

Sunken Meadow Rising

Our largest restoration project to date wrapped up in November at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island. Over more than seven years, we worked side-by-side with project partners and hundreds of volunteers to help the 135-acre salt marsh recover. Together we aided in its reconnection to the Sound, replaced invasive plants with native ones, and retrofitted 16.6 acres of parking lot with green infrastructure to treat stormwater. Learn more about the full project in this webinar.

Plastics—Trending?

Anyone who knows CFE/Save the Sound knows our commitment to keeping plastics out of Long Island Sound. This year’s International Coastal Cleanup set records, drawing more than 2,500 volunteers to 73 cleanups across the state of Connecticut. Not only did those volunteers find less trash as they combed beaches and riverbanks, most categories of plastics are showing significant decreases over the past three years. The exceptions? Small pieces of plastic and fishing net, which are trending upwards.

Students celebrate World Water Day with Connecticut legislators at the Capitol in March 2019.

State of Our Water

It seems like every day the federal government is rolling back water protections, putting one of our most important natural resources at risk. But in Connecticut, lawmakers took a positive step by passing the State Water Plan. It protects water for your family and balances the needs of public water supply, economic development, recreation, and ecological health. Every living thing that swims, fishes, kayaks, or brushes their teeth should be excited about Connecticut’s first Water Plan!

Bringing Down Barriers

Barriers to fish passage continue to come down. In May we removed an abandoned 30” water pipe crossing the Quinnipiac River, and the team kicked off a fishway installation at Pages Millpond on the Farm River this December. Two more dam removal projects slated for 2020 also received critical funding.

This dedication to free-flowing rivers is paying off—four years after our removal of the Pond Lily dam, monitoring upstream recorded the first Gizzard Shad and Sea Lamprey returning to those waters.

 

…TO THE SOUND’S WAVES AND ISLANDS,

Record Support for the Sound!

In the last days of 2019, a federal appropriations bill reached a terrific milestone: $21 million in funding for Long Island Sound protection and restoration, the highest level in a quarter-century. We’re proud to join with the Sound’s congressional champions in celebrating this victory for clean water and healthy habitats.

Soundkeeper Bill, on watch and on the water.

New Boat Keeps Soundkeeper Patrolling

Soundkeeper Bill Lucey is making good use of the newly acquired Parker 2530, the Terry Backer II, venturing out over 50 times this season to pollution hot spots in New Haven, Bridgeport, and Stamford. He also made forays to the Westchester and Long Island coasts, working closely with our water quality scientists and attorneys to identify and resolve problems. This year, Bill plans to keep patrolling throughout the winter as weather permits. Send us pollution reports at any location or time of the year and we’ll do our best to investigate.

Looking Out for At-Risk Fisheries

Our local fisheries have been endangered by Omega Protein Corp.  overfishing menhaden (aka bunker)—the primary prey for many species of the bass that migrate through the Sound—in Chesapeake Bay. Your comments helped convince the U.S. Department of Commerce to establish a moratorium on Omega Protein Corp. We also got policy wins closer to home, like letting Connecticut fisherman consolidate fluke quota in federal waters which reduces costs and increases safety during winter fishing by allowing them to make fewer trips. And supported by over 200 comments from advocates like you, there’s now a trawl buffer zone from Maine to Long Island to protect river herring.

Plum Island on Film and in Congress

Flourishing wildlife and vibrant habitats fascinated a team of divers during a September marine biodiversity survey of underwater habitats around Plum Island—a dive we were proud to make possible with the support of anonymous donor. Check out the underwater footage here.

Plum Island also stars in a new video series aiming to inspire Governor Cuomo to become a preservation champion. Tell Cuomo to help save the island, and stay tuned for the next video release!

And grassroots pressure seems to be working. Last week saw TWO victories: On Monday Cuomo signed state legislation creating a Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Protection Area in NYS-owned waters around Plum, Great Gull, and Little Gull Islands. And the federal FY2020 appropriations budget bill includes language defunding any Government Services Administration (GSA) activities involving the sale of Plum Island for the next year, granting a one-year reprieve while we continue to work towards permanent protection. This is the first time that a bill aimed at protecting Plum Island has passed both the House and Senate and made its way to the President—a terrific victory to end the year on!

 

YOU’RE MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR OUR SHARED ENVIRONMENT!

None of this would be possible without you, the members, activists, and volunteers who lend their own time and resources to the fight for thriving waters, a healthy climate, and wild lands.

Members are the core of CFE/Save the Sound, supporting the work we do to protect these precious resources. Today our member base is 4,280 strong, including loyal supporters and 1,839 new members who joined the fight this year.

This year you joined us at 72 events, from film screenings to a comedy night. Our two largest annual events broke records with their attendance and fundraising: annual catch-and-release fishing tournament Bass-a-Palooza XII brought together 150 anglers—including 50 new contestants—and raised a record $50,000; then Paddle Across the Sound brought together 100 environmental enthusiasts to paddle 9.5 nautical miles across Long Island Sound, raising $14,000. Finally, new member-sponsored event the Bottom Feeder Festival brought together 250 people to enjoy the wares of 20 breweries and raise $4,000.

Volunteers were no slouches either. 235 people helped put native shrubs, grasses, and flowering plants in the ground at Long Island’s Sunken Meadow State Park and in urban rain gardens. All around the Sound, dozens of trained volunteers and staff were up at the crack of dawn to monitor local water quality conditions. New Haven’s Mill River Trail was beautified thanks to the efforts of 48 students, teachers, and artists. And a record 2,554 of you came out to your favorite beaches and riverbanks for International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Impactful action can happen right from your kitchen table, too. In 2019, 2,315 of you followed up on a CFE/Save the Sound action alert, sending a whopping total of 21,890 messages to key decision-makers. We’re particularly impressed by the 278 super-activists who each took action at least 20 times—that’s commitment! Your voices helped get Plum Island legislation over the finish line in D.C., empowered offshore wind and solar in Connecticut, and won strong funding for clean water in New York.

Thanks for all you did in 2019. We can’t wait to partner with you again in 2020!


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