2023 Year in Review

As we bid farewell to another impactful year, we extend our deepest gratitude to every one of you—our invaluable members, supporters, advocates, and volunteers. Your commitment to the well-being of our environment has been the driving force behind our successes. Whether it was picking up beach litter, signing petitions for land restoration or climate action, volunteering your time to glue eelgrass seeds to clams, or generously donating to our mission, your collective efforts have been pivotal to safeguarding the beauty and health of the Long Island Sound region, our cherished home. 

Here are just a few of the things you and Save the Sound have accomplished over the last year, from January to December.

All year we’ve tracked our Soundkeeper team through two habitat restoration efforts: pulling 600 abandoned traps from the floor of Long Island Sound in the Lobster Trap Retrieval and Assessment Partnership, and the second season of eelgrass restoration, spent harvesting eelgrass seeds, gluing them to clamshells, and planting them in the Sound. See the eelgrass project in action in our documentary!

Faced with increasing opposition to strong climate legislation at the Connecticut General Assembly, we organized the Connecticut Coalition for Climate Action. This coalition brings together a growing number of environmental organizations, medical professionals, and environmental justice advocates to advance state and local solutions to the climate crisis around common shared priority agendas. 

We testified at two standing-room-only public hearings this spring and prepared 42 pages of comments on the draft environmental impact statement for “Strong’s Yacht Center Proposed Boat Storage,” which would destroy an entire hill, cut down over 630 mature trees, harm an adjoining preserve harboring endangered species, and adversely affect water quality in Suffolk County.   

Alongside The Nature Conservancy and Groundwork Bridgeport, in April Save the Sound’s Ecological Restoration team wrapped up a project focusing on bioswales in Bridgeport. Several high school students helped us as Siting Crew Leaders to determine ideal locations for these roadside green infrastructure installations in West End neighborhoods.   

Our political organizing efforts from January to June led to the signing of Public Act 23-202; this law updates Connecticut’s environmental justice statute to let CT DEEP and the Siting Council deny permits for new polluting facilities based on cumulative environmental and public health impacts. Your calls and emails helped this happen. When we organize, we win!   

The 2023 Long Island Sound Beach Report offered good news for swimmers, as 78% of the region’s 207 public and private beaches received an ‘A’ or ‘B’ grade for the 2022 swimming season. More concerning: Beaches failed in wet weather conditions nearly three times more often than in dry weather (13.5% to 5.2%). 

On the first day of summer, the Living Shorelines Act passed the New York legislature. On the last day of summer, it was signed into law by Governor Hochul. We worked closely with State Senator Mayer and Assemblyman Otis to ensure our top legislative priority in NY would protect our coastlines with nature-based solutions, and your voices helped get this multi-year priority over the finish line. 

Our climate team successfully advocated this summer for changes to CT DEEP’s latest Offshore Wind solicitation. Among the improvements, the revised RFP requires bidders to commit at least $15,000 per megawatt of energy for monitoring and mitigating impacts to wildlife, ecological resources, and fishing. It also prioritizes projects that use quiet foundation types, like suction buckets or concrete gravity bases. That’s good news for wildlife and clean energy alike! 

Our water quality monitoring programs were bigger than ever in 2023! In its seventh season, the Unified Water Study featured 26 groups (including Save the Sound) monitoring 44 bays and harbors, while 28 volunteers collected 777 samples during the 10th season of our Pathogen Indicator Bacteria Monitoring Program in western Long Island Sound.

Bringing together athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, and activists, Paddle for the Sound participants raised funds and awareness for environmental protection in the Long Island Sound region this past July. In our 8th annual event, participants collectively paddled 300 miles and raised over $5,000 in support of Save the Sound’s mission to protect and preserve this region. https://www.savethesound.org/paddle/ 

Pursuant to Clean Water Act lawsuits filed by Save the Sound, this year our legal team reached settlements yielding federal court consent orders with Rye, Scarsdale, and Harrison, NY and Middletown, Burlington, Redding, and Ridgefield, CT. These will require permit compliance, and environmental benefit projects they fund will result in cleaner water and will promote fish habitats, wildlife, and recreation in over a dozen bodies of water.

There has been a surge in support for the Six Lakes Park Coalition, which seeks to turn a 102-acre parcel of wooded wetlands in Hamden, CT into a public park. The property owner, Olin Corporation, has conducted updated testing—a pivotal step toward eventual remediation of contamination on the property.  

In an innovative and groundbreaking win for open space protection in Northwest Connecticut, we reached an agreement with the Metropolitan District (MDC) to permanently conserve approximately 5,500 acres of pristine core forest land surrounding the Colebrook Reservoir/West Branch Reservoir system that is not currently being used for water supply. 

We held community conversations in Fair Haven and Mount Vernon this fall to bring residents together to address pollution and barriers to recreation in the Long Island Sound region. These conversations informed the Long Island Sound Study’s EJ Needs Assessment of where governmental entities should prioritize resources to support resilient communities. 

This year we worked with the Town of Hamden, CT DEEP, and community members and partners to construct a large rain garden in Town Center Park in Hamden, with a planting event in October. Rain gardens are an amazing green infrastructure solution used to filter stormwater runoff that gathers contaminants as it flows across impervious areas. 

Save the Sound teamed up with the Northport Yacht Club for the 3rd Annual Sustainability Regatta and a lively Masquerade Soirée this October. Club members and Long Island’s North Shore community helped raise vital funds for our work throughout the Sound. We’re proud to collaborate with this sustainability-committed yacht club, and excited for the future!   

A free-flowing stretch of Norwalk River now runs where Dana Dam (Strong Pond Dam) stood since the 1940s. We were thrilled to witness this long-term ecological restoration project come to completion in 2023. The removal of Dana Dam, breached in November after years of planning and months of site preparation, contributes to a greater goal of restoring the health of our waterways. 

We prepared four reports for the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), documenting reasons for Plum Island preservation, management goals, community engagement, and widespread support. We’ll meet with CEQ by early January. In Washington, DC, we discussed H.R. 1584, the Plum Island National Monument Act, with members of Congress. You send hundreds of messages calling for permanent protection of this special place!  

Save the Sound has now wrapped up phase one of the Hutchinson River Watershed Plan, which focused on addressing community identified issues in the Westchester County watershed. We hosted stream walks with community members like you, observing pollution and riverbank erosion. The second phase of the plan will take place in 2024 and we can’t wait to see you out there!

Thank you! 

Your passion fuels our mission, and we are profoundly thankful for your dedication. As we approach the close of the year, we urgently call on your continued support. Save the Sound is currently fighting for clean rivers and bays, a healthier Long Island Sound, protected wildlands, living shorelines, and cleaner air. The threats facing the Long Island Sound region due to climate change and rapid development are greater than ever before, jeopardizing decades of environmental progress. Help us secure the resources needed to champion these critical causes in the year ahead. Your most generous year-end gift today ensures that we can stand strong against these challenges. Donate now.

Together, we will continue to make waves of positive change and ensure a thriving environment for generations to come. Thank you for being the heartbeat of Save the Sound. 

P.S. In the coming year, we invite you to delve deeper into our work through our quarterly webinars, exclusive to members, with our next one scheduled for January 31. These sessions offer a unique opportunity to connect with our expert engineers, biologists, lawyers, and scientists. Explore the intricacies of our projects, ask questions, and be a part of the ongoing dialogue that shapes the future of Long Island Sound! 

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Friday, July 12, through Sunday, July 21
Join our 9th annual Paddle for the Sound! Paddle with a kayak, canoe, or SUP (your own or a rental), track your distance, raise funds, and win gear prizes! This event supports the health and protection of Long Island Sound.

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