Our 50th year has been a momentous one at Save the Sound! We marked not only that anniversary, but also the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the 35th of the Soundkeeper program, and the 20th of our CT Cleanups. In October, longtime Board member Barbara David retired from our Board and Curt Johnson retired as president, and I stepped up to lead this organization I’ve loved being a part of for two decades. Last winter our Westchester office moved from Mamaroneck to Larchmont, gaining a beautiful new lab in the process, and our New Haven office is now preparing for a move (just across the street)—stay tuned for news on that. We kicked off a five-year strategic plan that will grow our impact across the region, and a campaign to gather the support that will turn that vision into reality.
And most importantly, we made real change across the region. Keep reading for just a sampling of what we achieved together in 2022—and thank you, as always, for making all of this possible.
–Leah Lopez Schmalz, president
(PS – Make sure to read to the end for a special video New Year’s wish from our staff!)
Turning Data into Action
A brand new lab in Larchmont
The water quality team enjoyed some unusual home cooking this year—firing up a fleet of incubators to test for E. coli and enterococci, and a fluorometer for chlorophyll a, in the state-of-the-art John and Daria Barry Foundation Water Quality Lab, which opened in our new Larchmont, NY, location in April. The lab lets our staff scientists conduct in-house analysis of samples collected in the Unified Water Study and our pathogen indicator bacteria monitoring program and enables planned expansion into new water quality parameters soon. We report findings in the biennial Long Island Sound Report Card (get your copy of the latest here) and Beach Report, so officials and residents regionwide can make good decisions about where to invest in infrastructure, where to swim, and where to fish.
Culvert assessments in southeast CT brings new knowledge and partnerships
We partnered with the Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Connecticut Technical High School in Groton to introduce their bioscience and environmental technology program students and instructors to culvert assessments. Together, we examined approximately 50 culverts across two stream systems in Groton and Ledyard to see how they affect migratory fish, and what might be needed to restore the streams to their best function. This first culvert assessment project successfully paired our restoration work and community engagement, paving the way for more assessments on the Naugatuck River and in Westchester in 2023!
Enforcing and Strengthening Laws
Taking on polluters—and winning
In this 50th anniversary year of the Clean Water Act, our legal team reached Clean Water Act settlements with the Town/Village of Harrison, NY; the CT towns of Redding and Ridgefield; and Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority. In addition to addressing wastewater and stormwater problems, the settlements call for a combined $400,000 for environmental benefit projects that will help local rivers. Lawsuits against seven other municipalities and Westchester County continue. Read about these cases and more in our Legal Docket.
Demanding cleaner NYC waters
Thanks to a lawsuit brought by Save the Sound and others, New York State is working on more protective water quality standards for New York City that will minimize sewage overflows and achieve the highest water quality to make these waters safe for humans and the environment. As part of that effort, we submitted comments urging stronger water quality standards and—with your help—documented more than 280,000 distinct uses of NYC’s coastal waters, including kayaking, shell-fishing, and swimming.
Connecticut policy progress for a healthy climate future
2022 saw significant action on climate in Connecticut. The General Assembly passed legislation requiring the electrification of all state fleet vehicles by 2030 and all school buses by 2040; increased funding for incentives for the purchase of zero-emission cars and trucks; raised caps on shared solar programs and allowed rollover year-to-year; and codified a 100% zero carbon electricity standard by 2040. (See our 2022 CT legislative wrap-up.) The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority ended incentives that were prolonging reliance on natural gas heating, established a proceeding to align compensation for utility companies with their performance (including progress towards meeting our climate goals), and approved a two-tier discount rate to reduce energy costs for lower income ratepayers.
“These decisions are critical to phasing out the use of fossil fuels and ensuring we meet our required greenhouse gas reduction goals in the Global Warming Solutions Act,” said Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney. “In 2023, we will continue to push for climate accountability in legislation and through regulatory decisions to ensure a healthy, climate resilient future for residents across the region.”
A living shoreline for Queens’ coastal neighborhood
Our living shoreline project in Douglas Manor was awarded nearly $2.4 million from the National Coastal Resiliency Fund. “This grant will help replace invasive grasses with native plants and installation of oyster castles to mitigate erosion, restore habitat, and help the coastline adapt to rising sea levels,” explained Katie Friedman, NY ecological restoration program manager. Construction will start in 2023. Project partners include the Douglas Manor Association, the Douglas Manor Environmental Association, Udalls Cove Preservation Committee, New York City Audubon, and Billion Oyster Project.
Soundkeeper keeps the Sound thriving
In addition to the Soundkeeper’s pollution patrols, two ongoing boat-based Soundkeeper projects launched in 2022. The Eelgrass Restoration Project involves harvesting eelgrass seeds, gluing them to the shells of clams, and deploying them into Smithtown Bay. The Long Island Sound Lobster Trap Removal and Assessment Partnership (LTRAP), consisting of four organizations and a handful of lobster captains, aims to remove 3,000 long-abandoned traps in the next year. We snagged 155 pots in the first three trips, releasing several tautog, sea bass, and lobsters in the process.
Protecting Precious Places
Taking it to the top for Plum
Our decade-plus drive toward permanent preservation of Plum Island—an 822-acre island off the tip of Long Island’s North Fork—turned to the White House this year. Our goal? Make it a National Monument for ecological conservation, historical interpretation, and the discovery and celebration of our shared cultural heritage. We have the support of all four senators from NY and CT, key players in the state legislatures, the entire Suffolk County legislature, and every local public official on LI’s East End. Thousands of you have signed on, too! Not yet one of them? Write now!
A winning deal for Deer Lake
We joined with other conservation organizations and elected officials to help save 253-acre Deer Lake in Killingworth, CT from almost certain development. Nonprofit Pathfinders, which has run a summer camp there for generations, undertook a powerful grassroots campaign to beat out a developer and purchase the property from the CT Yankee Council of Boy Scouts of America. Conserving Deer Lake will preserve some of CT’s last remaining contiguous forest.
Protecting water company lands across Connecticut
Small water company parcels outside the drinking water watershed are often vulnerable to private sale and development. Agreements were executed this year to transfer six CT Water Company parcels to four CT municipalities and land trusts for permanent preservation as open space, a direct result of our 2019 memorandum of agreement with CT Water Company as a condition to their merger. We’re also watching property owned by Metropolitan District Commission at Colebrook Reservoir on the CT/MA border.
On environmental justice
This year Save the Sound expanded our environmental justice focus. “We care about partnering with communities to achieve a safe and healthy future. We’re building relationships with leaders who want to guide their communities towards environmental justice by uplifting their stories and acting alongside them,” said Alex Rodriguez, our first Environmental Justice Specialist. We partnered with Health Equity Solutions on community benefit agreement legislation, supported the first ever Seaside Sounds for Environmental Justice to increase awareness about environmental racism in Bridgeport, CT, honored emerging youth leaders in climate and justice, even traveled to D.C. to lobby Congress for the Environmental Justice for All Act alongside national group GreenLatinos.
NY teens learn to identify tiny critters
Clean water advocate Sam Marquand led a group from the Boys and Girls Club of Mount Vernon in macroinvertebrate sampling in the Hutchinson River as part of New York State’s WAVE program (Water Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators). They sent their findings to the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Mill River Trail park transformation at Haven and Exchange
Our green infrastructure park at the intersection of Haven and Exchange Streets in New Haven is complete! Students from John S. Martinez and Cold Spring elementary schools were involved every step of the way. We installed bioretention areas to capture stormwater and filter out pollutants before they reach the Mill River. A mid-year celebration event brought the community together to learn about the space, native plants were planted, and multilingual signs were installed—all that’s left is for you to visit!
How you came together
In 2022, you worked alongside your neighbors and our staff to spot and report water pollution, plant native shrubs and flowers, and clean up beaches and parks. You spoke up at town council meetings, called your state senators, and wrote to the president. You joined us for countless webinars, participated in environmental festivals and local forums throughout New York and Connecticut, helped raise money and enjoyed our waters in the annual Paddle for the Sound, interned alongside our staff, and more.
Looking Forward Together
Thank you for your commitment to protecting and restoring your regional environment. We look forward to a future in which people from all walks of life can unite in transforming struggling habitats, polluted waters, and a threatened planet into healthy, resilient, and inspiring places that sustain us. And we are so glad to have you, our members, volunteers, and activists, alongside us—learning, getting your hands dirty, advocating for change, and inspiring others to do the same.
We wish all of you a very happy New Year! Click here for a special message from some of our staff about what we’re excited to partner with you on in 2023.