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New Plan Makes Climate Change Essential Factor in Long Island Sound Conservation

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Long Island Sound.

Twenty years ago, public perceptions of Long Island Sound weren't good. Mark Tedesco is director of the EPA's LIS office, and during a recent public hearing, he recapped some editorial cartoons from that time.

"Up here we have, for those of us who remember the Honeymooners -- 'What does Ed Norton and Long Island Sound fisherman have in common?' They both work in a sewer. This one over here says, 'If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of toilets flushing.' You can see the theme," Tedesco said.

In the 1980s, Connecticut joined with New York and the EP, to develop a plan to take on the Sound's many problems. Tedesco said the 1994 Long Island Sound Study's conservation plan focused on reducing pollution, improving water quality, and protecting habitats.

The plan has done some good, Tedesco said, restoring over 1,500 acres of habitat, and reopening 300 miles of rivers to fish. The plan didn't include anything, though, about the risks of a changing climate when it came to how conservationists manage the Sound. 

Tedesco said the Long Island Sound Study released an update this month as a remedy. "What we're trying to do," he said, "is see how climate change can affect really everything we do -- to try to integrate into our thinking and planning, whether it's controlling nutrient runoff that could change with more intense storms," or protecting coastal wetlands, a critical buffer between ocean and homes during storms.

Other specifics in the updated plan: a new goal to increase the area of tidal wetlands by 532 acres over the next 20 years, and a push to reopen 200 miles of river to fish. Public comment on the updated the plan lasts until November 8.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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