Sen. Mur­phy hosts dis­cus­sion on L.I. Sound pro­tec­tion

The Norwalk Hour - - FRONT PAGE - By Pam McLough­lin

NEW HAVEN — U.S. Sen. Chris Mur­phy, D-Conn., vis­ited Sound School Fri­day for a round­table dis­cus­sion with en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates, busi­ness lead­ers, sci­en­tists and mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials about ef­forts to pro­tect Long Is­land Sound, in the wake of Congress pass­ing the Long Is­land Sound Restora­tion and Stew­ard­ship Act ear­lier this week.

Mur­phy be­gan by em­pha­siz­ing the im­por­tance of Long Is­land Sound to tourism and the state econ­omy, but warned that part of tourism means bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture to get peo­ple here, which may con­flict in some cases with en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­forts.

On that note, he learned from a Bridge­port of­fi­cial that that city is soon go­ing out to bid for a ter­mi­nal for a high-speed ferry, although there is no plan yet for the fer­ries them­selves.

“Our en­tire econ­omy in this state and en­tirety of the state bud­get re­lies on a healthy Long Is­land Sound,” Mur­phy told a cou­ple of dozen gath­ered, with stu­dents lis­ten­ing in.

He said Long Is­land Sound brings peo­ple to Con­necti­cut and stew­ard­ship of the Sound is the right ap­proach. With pro­tec­tions, the Sound has no­tice­ably im­proved in terms of “flora and fauna,” the re­turn of shell­fish and fewer clo­sures due to high bac­te­ria lev­els, he said.

Mil­ford Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Direc­tor Julie Nash was among those at the ta­ble, as the city’s 17.5 miles of shore­line are con­sid­ered among its great­est as­sets when it comes to mar­ket­ing and tourism. The city also has a thriv­ing shell­fish in­dus­try.

“I thought it was a re­ally fruit­ful con­ver­sa­tion in re­gard to our shore­line vi­brancy along with the in­ter­sec­tion of all the re­lated dis­ci­plines like tourism, en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion, tran­sit and ma­rine re­lated busi­ness as well as the in­ter­de­pen­dence of each,” Nash said, fol­low­ing the round­table talk. “The shell­fish in­dus­try, ma­rine re­lated busi­ness and tourism are ex­tremely im­por­tant to Mil­ford’s eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity, so it’s en­cour­ag­ing to see so many peo­ple work­ing so hard with such pas­sion to make Con­necti­cut bet­ter than it al­ready is.”

Mur­phy said af­ter sev­eral Repub­li­cans blocked the Long Is­land Sound Stew­ard­ship Act, Congress passed it ear­lier this week as part of a larger bi­par­ti­san bill. He also in­tro­duced the Liv­ing Shore­lines Act, which funds na­ture-based coastal re­siliency projects.

A spokesper­son for his of­fice said as a mem­ber of the Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, Mur­phy’s work led to a tripling of the fed­eral in­vest­ment in the Long Is­land Sound Ge­o­graphic Pro­gram.

He said the state once re­ceived $4 mil­lion in fed­eral funds for Long Is­land Sound per year and now gets $12 mil­lion. He said the other good news in the fed­eral act is the abil­ity for shell fish­er­men to ac­cess the farm bill.

But Mur­phy warned, “You can’t have a tourism econ­omy if you can’t get peo­ple to your state.”

He said it takes longer to get to Con­necti­cut from New York and Bos­ton than it did 10 years ago and that means in­fra­struc­ture such as high­ways need to im­prove. The goal is to ad­dress that mat­ter in 2019, he said.

“It in­volves con­struc­tion,” he said, not­ing that ac­tiv­ity can con­flict with en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­forts, as struc­tures will no doubt will be near shore and wet­lands.

Mur­phy found out about the be­gin­nings of the high­speed ferry plan in Bridge­port from a Bridge­port of­fi­cial af­ter an­other per­son at the round­table asked about that mode of trans­porta­tion for get­ting peo­ple to Con­necti­cut. The of­fi­cial said Bridge­port is hop­ing to find an op­er­a­tor for the ter­mi­nal.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

U.S. Sen. Chris Mur­phy, left, speaks at the Sound School in New Haven on Fri­day about the Long Is­land Sound Restora­tion and Stew­ard­ship Act that just passed in Congress.

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