Press Release: Long Island Sound Futures Fund Supports Save the Sound Habitat Restoration Projects Across Connecticut and New York

Three awards totaling nearly $660,000 were announced today for habitat restoration projects in Connecticut and New York in which Save the Sound is involved to varying degrees. Funding for the Long Island Sound Futures Fund 2023 grants comes from the EPA as part of the Long Island Sound Study, with additional support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and The Zoetis Foundation.

Save the Sound was awarded $260,289.50 for stakeholder engagement and initial studies to assess the impact of Rainbow Reservoir Dam on the Farmington River in Windsor, CT. While the Farmington River is one of the nation’s “Wild and Scenic” rivers, the Rainbow Reservoir Dam blocks its connectivity approximately 8.5 miles upstream from its confluence with the Connecticut River. The dam also blocks off 96 percent of the Farmington River watershed to the migration and movement of aquatic species including American shad, river herring, American eel, and sea lamprey. Save the Sound, in partnership with the Farmington River Watershed Association and the Pequabuck River Watershed Association, will lead stakeholder engagement and studies to assess the social, economic, and environmental impact of the Rainbow Reservoir Dam.

“The Farmington River is one of the most critical and valuable rivers in our region, both ecologically and recreationally,” said Laura Wildman, vice president of ecological restoration at Save the Sound. “The Rainbow Reservoir Dam is the first barrier on this vital waterway, blocking migratory fish passage to the watershed upstream and impacting flows and water quality downstream. Now, thanks to this grant from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, we will be able to work with our local partners to better understand the full impact of this dam on the river and the surrounding community.”

An award of $385,966.93 went to the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Suffolk County and will be shared with the other members of the Lobster Trap Retrieval and Assessment Partnership (LTRAP). LTRAP is a collaboration between Save the Sound, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Project Oceanology, Remote Ecologist, Cornell Cooperative’s Marine Program, and members of the commercial fishing industry. Tens of thousands of abandoned lobster traps have littered the floor of Long Island Sound for decades. They continue to catch lobsters, crabs, and fish in a form of “ghost fishing,” which applies an additional stressor on populations already facing the challenge of warming waters due to climate change. The traps also create entanglements for both recreational and commercial fishing.

LTRAP is the first program launched to retrieve traps in Connecticut waters, complementing the work led by CCE in New York. In its first year, the Connecticut LTRAP partners recovered more than 1,000 traps.

“We began this initiative for Connecticut in 2019, and it is great to see the program completing its first year,” said Save the Sound’s Long Island Soundkeeper Bill Lucey. “Working with the Connecticut fishing industry’s captains and crewmembers has been an invaluable learning experience. Each fishery is unique, and their advice on how to accomplish this cleanup has greatly enhanced our efficiency. When fisheries managers, harvesters, and ecologists work together, the entire Sound benefits.”

Save the Sound also partnered on an awarded project led by Billion Oyster Project, which will perform initial feasibility studies and concept designs for three oyster habitat restoration projects in the South Bronx and northern Queens. Save the Sound’s role will be to provide technical assistance through site assessments and design phases of eventual oyster reef habitat restoration.

“We are excited to continue working with our dedicated partners at Billion Oyster Project on oyster restoration and coastal resilience,” said Paul Woodworth, ecological restoration senior project manager at Save the Sound. “This project, which aims to assess and design oyster reef habitat at Powell’s Cove in Queens, Pugsley Creek in the Bronx, and Turtle Cove in the Bronx, is a terrific opportunity for us to take what we have learned together on our Big Rock living shoreline project in Queens across western Long Island Sound.”

Click here to learn more about the $12 million grants announced Monday to organizations and local governments working to improve the environment of Long Island Sound.

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