Northeast
People watch from a jetty at Ocean Beach Park in New London as a Cross Sound ferry passes Feb. 19, 2017, on its way to Long Island, N.Y. the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, unveiled the Long Island Sound Blue Plan, which maps out wildlife habitats and human activity in order to protect the environment, and commercial and recreational uses, while fostering harmonious development on the Sound. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Officials unveil draft ‘Blue Plan’ to protect Long Island Sound

Madison, CT — The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on Wednesday unveiled the Long Island Sound Blue Plan, which maps out wildlife habitats and human activity in order to protect the environment, and commercial and recreational uses, while fostering harmonious development on the Sound.

Huddled in a Hammonasset Beach State Park pavilion with the Sound as a backdrop, state officials, environmentalists and industry stakeholders said the draft plan balances conservation with economic benefits, protecting an area that serves as a vital habitat for marine life while contributing more than $9 billion to the regional economy annually.

The plan, which establishes use guidelines but no new regulations, is meant to be revised every five years, with annual public hearings, according to DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes and Connecticut Sea Grant Director Sylvain De Guise.

Nathan Frohling, director of coastal and marine initiatives for the Nature Conservancy, described the Sound as a vast “underwater wonderland” brimming with wildlife, ripe with commercial activity and owned by a public that wants to protect the Sound as a way of life along the coasts of Connecticut and New York. He noted that he's enjoyed many joyful days sailing with family and friends — memories he hopes to replicate for as long as he lives.

“If you’re a fisherman, or any user of Long Island Sound, you have the same hopes that Long Island Sound will be there in a way that you’ve known for your whole life,” Frohling said. “That’s what the Blue Plan is all about.”

Over the last few years, Connecticut Sea Grant has led efforts to inventory spaces in the Sound used by humans — commercial and recreational boating and fishing, ferry routes, pipeline locations — as well as ecologically important spaces — shellfish beds, cold-water corals, seal resting spots — by gathering science-based data from a range of sources and feedback from industries and environmental groups. The inventories then were compiled into dozens of interactive maps that can help scientists, developers, municipal planners, coastal residents and tourists.

A 15-member advisory committee spanning a range of sectors then helped create policy guidelines, including encouraging open communication among stakeholders, to reduce conflicts. Planners also called for maintaining unobstructed views from shore to shore; enhanced siting standards for wildlife, recreation or commercial areas; restricting or minimizing offshore industrial, commercial or residential structures; and ensuring development, preservation and use of the Sound is consistent with its natural resources.

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