STATEMENT OF SENATOR LIEBERMAN

Thank you very much Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing. Two of the bills you are considering --- your legislation S. 1222, the Estuary Habitat Restoration Partnership Act, and S. 1321, the National Estuary Conservation Act --- are especially important to the state of Connecticut. I'm pleased to be a cosponsor of both of these bills, and I congratulate and thank you for your leadership.

I know, Mr. Chairman, we share the view that our estuaries are truly national treasures. Without a healthy and productive Long Island Sound and Narragansett Bay, the quality of life in our states would be greatly diminished. As John Atkin, the Executive Director of Save the Sound, has said: "Not only is Long Island Sound an invaluable economic and recreational resource, it is also a provider of immeasurable pleasure and happiness for tens of thousands of residents and visitors alike." John is with us today to show his strong support for your bill,

which will complement existing local partnership efforts

The water surface of Long Island Sound measures 1320 square miles. It is located in one of the most densely populated areas of our country-- fifteen million people live within 50 miles of its shores.

Despite years of heavy industrial use, Long Island Sound is known for its distinctive habitat types, including tidal wetlands, tidal flats, beaches, dunes, bluffs, rocky tidal areas, eelgrass, kelp beds, and natural and artificial reefs. Its shellfish and finfish production is extraordinary The shellfish industry alone is a $70 million industry, and the Sound is the leading producer of oysters along the east coast.

Long Island Sound supports more than $5 billion a year in water-quality dependent uses. This figure includes beach swimming and boating, but it does not include the more difficult to quantify assessments of the importance of good water quality to natural habitats and near shore residential property values. .

Unfortunately, pollution has an immediate impact on the quality of life and economic benefit of Long Island Sound -- it has been described as an "urban sea under siege."

The state of Connecticut has been aggressive in its efforts to restore the Sound which has helped and the Long Island Sound program is one of the most successful efforts under the National Estuary program. After years of study and public participation, it has produced a comprehensive plan for action, and implementation is underway. Real progress is being made -- the l997 water quality monitoring results were among the best conditions ever observed. But this is only a start. In February, the program adopted two critical elements of the cleanup and restoration effort: a Phase III nitrogen reduction plan which calls for a 60 percent cut in nitrogen loadings over the next 15 years, and a habitat restoration plan. This effort is expected to cost New York and Connecticut $650 million. Connecticut already has pledged $100 million of its Clean Water state funds to implement this Phase III program.

Your bill, Mr. Chairman, will go a long way towards helping Connecticut to meet the second goal of its Phase III program: habitat restoration. By making federal funding available in partnership with local government and private sector contributions for habitat restoration, this bill can help meet the Long Island Sound Study Committee's goal of restoring more than 2000 acres of tidal wetlands and l00 miles of streams in Connecticut and New York. Long Island Sound has lost almost 70 percent of its original wetlands with far- reaching impacts on the biological diversity of the region and the water quality of the estuary. I'm very pleased that a major habitat restoration project is already underway in the Sound with grant money from the Long Island Sound program office which this Committee established in l990. Funding from this bill would greatly enhance those efforts.

S. 1222, based on the sensible concept of community-based restoration efforts, would leverage up to $10 of on-the-ground restoration work for every $1 in federal funding and would create market based incentives for the private sector to work with community based organizations and local governments on restoration efforts.

The second bill we are considering today -- the National Estuary Conservation Act-- is also critical to our efforts to cleanup Long Island Sound. The cost of implementing the Sound's comprehensive management plan is high, and it is important that federal grants be available for implementation. S. 1321 would ensure that the funding is available.

These are two very important bills for my state and our country, Mr. Chairman, and I hope we can move them forward this Congress. Thank you again for your leadership.