Grants help realize visions for Long Island Sound

Dr. Jennifer H. Mattei had a vision, and she shared her view of the future on a windy day at Stratford Point.

“We want to put in pockets of shrubs and trees for migrating birds and we’re putting in two acres over here of pollinator habitat. … This is going to be a site for monarch butterfly and many other pollinator insects that come through,” Mattei said as she gestured toward the mainland.

“We’re getting a native seed mix of New England for the pollinator meadow, which will have flowering plants from early spring to fall,” Mattei said as the Sacred Heart University professor spoke before the awarding of 22 grants totaling more than $1.3 million to groups in Connecticut and New York to improve the health and ecosystem of Long Island Sound.

Mattei said habitat on Stratford Point will feature shrubs that are drought-tolerant but produce berries.

The site had been overtaken by invasive species, until a controlled burn a few springs ago reclaimed it for the flora that originally called it home.

“The ultimate goal is to bring back coastal habitat and manage it for wildlife,” she said. Thanks to a conservation easement, it will never be built on.

Rather, she said, the site at the confluence of the Housatonic River, separating Stratford and Milford, and Long Island Sound will become a demonstration plot, where techniques that can be used at other sites around Connecticut will be tested and showcased.

The public-private grant program pools funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Projects, which are funded through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, will open up seven miles of river for passage of native fish and restore 180 acres of coastal habitat, including lakes, ponds and grasslands.

Previous grants paid for the installation of an artificial reef off Stratford Point, made of concrete orb pockmarked with holes, called reef balls.

“They’re working beautifully, actually,” Mattei said. “We had the coldest winter on record and four inches of ice covered them, and it survived quite well.”

The reef balls never sank or moved, she said, and there was no erosion. Shellfish and algae took up residence on the balls before baking off in the spring sun, but rockweed and other species then colonized the barriers.

“The plan is to expand it if possible,” Mattei said of the artificial reef.

Expansion is also being made possible in projects that open nature to urban students.

“The grants that are awarded today, particularly for Audubon Connecticut, allow us to expand our work in schools, in New Haven particularly,” Stewart Hudson, vice president and executive director of Audubon Connecticut, said of the money for the Schoolyard Habitats program.

“The grants we have received in the past allow us to expand our shorebird conservation up and down the Connecticut coastline,” Hudson added.

“We must take steps to ensure the health of Long Island Sound for future generations, especially because of the increasing environmental stresses caused by climate change.  Vibrant, sustainable and resilient communities with clean water and healthy habitats are goals we must strive towards to make sure our children and grandchildren can enjoy Long Island Sound as we do today. The grants announced today represent active efforts to protect and restore the Sound, and therefore the community and economy. In addition, the grants solidify the continued involvement of all the community groups and local governments that are so crucial to the state and federal governments’ efforts here,” stated EPA New England Regional Administrator H. Curtis Spalding.

“Long Island Sound is an amazing natural resource, which provides recreation and economic opportunities for millions of people,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Region 2 administrator. “These projects are smart investments that will improve water quality and build resiliency in shoreline communities.”

The Long Island Sound Futures Fund grants will reach more than 130,000 citizens through environmental and conservation programs, allow nearly 1.7 million gallons of water to be treated through water quality improvement projects, and leverage $2.1 million from the grantees themselves, resulting in $3.4 million in funding for on-the-ground, hands-on conservation projects in both states.

“The Long Island Sound and its waterways are among the state and nation’s most precious natural resources. Since 2005, the Futures Fund has provided millions of dollars for hundreds of projects to protect and preserve this critical ecosystem, restoring valuable habitats, treating and cleaning polluted waters, and engaging and educating new generations of advocates and caretakers. These projects will help ensure that we can continue to enjoy the Sound’s unparalleled beauty and benefit from the vital role it plays in supporting our state and region’s economy for centuries to come,” said Connecticut’s senior U.S. senator, Richard Blumenthal.

“As a kid, I spent my summers on the beaches of Long Island Sound, so I know that Connecticut is defined by the economic and ecological power of the Sound. Today’s $1.3-million Long Island Futures Fund grant, funding that I’m proud to have fought for in the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, will support community projects along the coast that will make a real difference in continuing our progress towards cleaning up the Sound. The public-private partnerships funded by today’s grant show our commitment to the health of the Sound and to ensuring that our children and grandchildren can enjoy it for generations to come,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said.

“The new Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan will help us build a more resilient and healthy Sound for future generations. As co-chair of the Congressional Long Island Sound Caucus, I will continue to fight for the funding needed to carry out the plan, and continue the restoration and protection of this ecosystem so Americans can continue to enjoy it for years to come,” U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd) said.

“The Sound has always been of special importance to the people and communities of Connecticut and Long Island. It’s where we live, work and play and touches almost every aspect of our lives. Restoring the health of ecosystems, removing pollution, and increasing wildlife habitat are issues we’re not going to be able to achieve in a year, or even five years; it’s going to take dedicated, long-term effort. That’s why I am supportive of the NFWF Sound Futures Fund. We need the education and resources it provides to drive community involvement and ensure that the Sound is here for future generations to enjoy and protect. I believe we should all see ourselves as protectors of our wild, natural spaces,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th).

“One of the greatest environmental challenges facing our nation and its communities is the restoration and protection of highly productive estuaries,” stated the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s vice president for conservation programs, Eric Schwaab. “The funding awarded today represents the foundation’s and U.S. EPA’s continuing commitment, as well as the commitment of other federal and state partners, to restoration efforts that will improve the health and living resources of Long Island Sound.”

The Long Island Sound Study initiated the Long Island Sound Futures Fund in 2005 through the EPA’s Long Island Sound Office and NFWF. To date, the program has invested $14 million in 324 projects in communities surrounding the Sound. With a grantee match of $28 million, the Long Island Sound Futures Fund has generated a total of $42 million for locally based conservation in both states. The projects have opened up 157 river miles for fish passage, restored 1,024 acres of critical fish and wildlife habitat and open space, treated 100 million gallons of pollution from ground and surface sources, and educated and engaged 1.8 million people from communities surrounding the Sound.

“We are pleased to support our conservation partners through this collaborative effort,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber. “These are diverse projects — from introducing youth to wildlife and the outdoors in their schoolyards and neighborhoods, to restoring the health of our rivers, coastal marshes, forest, and grasslands. But collectively, these projects demonstrate the connection between healthy ecological communities and healthy human communities. These types of local efforts will go a long way to create a more resilient coast.”

“Connecticut DEEP is committed to its partnership with the Long Island Sound Study, and to working with our neighbors in New York as well as the EPA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to continue to preserve Long Island Sound, one of our most valuable natural resources.  This year $600,433 will support Connecticut projects to improve water quality, restore rivers, grasslands and coastal habitat for native fish and birds, and educate and engage current and future generations of citizens to create resilient communities that use, appreciate and help protect Long Island Sound,” stated Mike Sullivan, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection deputy commissioner.

“Long Island Sound is a vitally important ecosystem that continues to be on the road to recovery, thanks to funding provided through successful programs like the Long Island Sound Futures Fund,” said Basil Seggos, acting commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “DEC applauds all the awardees for their innovative projects to improve the health of this environmental and economic treasure by addressing pressing issues such as storm water runoff, fish passage and wetland loss. We look forward to working with our local, state and federal partners to keep protecting and restoring Long Island Sound.”

Long Island Sound is an estuary that provides economic and recreational benefits to millions of people while also providing habitat for more than 1,200 invertebrates, 170 species of fish, and dozens of species of migratory birds. The Long Island Sound Study, developed under the EPA’s National Estuary Program, is a cooperative effort between the EPA and the states of Connecticut and New York to protect and restore the Sound and its ecosystem. To learn more about the LISS, visit For full descriptions of the Long Island Sound Futures Fund grants, visit

Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants, and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 4,000 organizations and committed more than $2.9 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at

Dr. Jennifer H. Mattei of Sacred Heart University explains how Long Island Sound grants are transforming Stratford Point and creating a model for other habitat reclamation. — John Kovach photo

Dr. Jennifer H. Mattei of Sacred Heart University explains how Long Island Sound grants are transforming Stratford Point and creating a model for other habitat reclamation. — John Kovach photo

Reef balls like this have created an artificial barrier to erosion and habitat for aquatic life off Stratford Point — John Kovach photo

Reef balls like this have created an artificial barrier to erosion and habitat for aquatic life off Stratford Point — John Kovach photo

EPA New England Regional Administrator H. Curtis Spalding discusses 22 grants totaling more than $1.3 million awarded Thursday, Nov. 12, through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund.

EPA New England Regional Administrator H. Curtis Spalding discusses 22 grants totaling more than $1.3 million awarded Thursday, Nov. 12, through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund.


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