September 27, 2010

Groundbreaking for restoration project at Long Beach West

For immediate release: September 27, 2010
Contact: Sharon Marino; 401-364-9124 ext. 41; Sharon_Marino@fws.gov

Stratford, Conn. – A ceremony was held today to break ground for a project to restore Long Beach West, one of Connecticut’s longest stretches of barrier beach. The project, supported by nearly $1 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding, involves demolishing the dilapidated remnants of a former summer community, removing debris and contaminants, and ultimately re-establishing 35-acres of beach to its natural state for people and wildlife.

U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro joined officials from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and numerous project partners for a groundbreaking ceremony this morning at the project site in Stratford, Connecticut. “I am very pleased to see the progress being made in improving Long Beach West, cleaning up or demolishing the cottages and restoring the local habitat. These long-needed repairs will enable Stratford to both protect and preserve Long Beach West and surrounding areas, which is why I worked to secure funding to make this project possible,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “I am so pleased to see these efforts and the addition funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are helping to improve our shoreline and our local economy. I applaud the efforts that have been made so far, and look forward to seeing the project’s completion.”

In addition to supporting jobs and the local economy, the project will have significant environmental benefit. The restored beach, which is designated as an internationally significant area by the National Audubon Society, will provide an important environment for migratory birds including protected species such as the piping plover and least tern; rare plants; and other wildlife. Passive public access to the beach will be also restored.

Sharon Marino, Project Leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southern New England- New York Bight Coastal Program said , “The on the ground restoration of this site represents over two years of work with a large variety of partners to bring this project to fruition. This project will enhance the site for people and wildlife and is an excellent example of what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding was meant to be used for, providing jobs and investing in the improvement of local communities.”

Connecticut-based LVI Environmental Services will, by the end of the year, demolish and remove 37 abandoned cottages that were last occupied in the late 1990s, as well as debris and contaminants such as asbestos, from the property. “LVI Environmental Services is honored to be working with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Long Beach West project. We share a common concern for the environment and are committed to working together to preserve and protect the fish, wildlife and plants in the area,” said Business Development Manager Craig Lyons. “LVI’s experience with large, complex projects for the government and private industry-combined with our dedication to safety, trained work force and state-of-the art equipment make us uniquely qualified for this assignment.”

The Service received $909,000 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to fund the Long Beach West restoration project. Additional funding totaling $233,000 was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency Long Island Sound Futures Fund, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Dissolved Oxygen Environmental Benefit Fund, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Long Island Sound Fund, and the Fairfield County Community Foundation Grant.

This ambitious and complex project represents a unique collaboration of nonprofit conservation organizations, for-profit firms, and local, state and federal agencies. Partners include The Trust for Public Land, the Town of Stratford, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Audubon Connecticut, Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Connecticut Audubon Society, Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, Connecticut Ornithological Association, Environmental Protection Agency Long Island Sound Study, Fairfield County Community Foundation, Land-Tech Consultants, Inc., SoundKeeper, The Nature Conservancy, Protect Your Environment, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“The Town of Stratford is very excited to work with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and all project partners to restore this fragile coastal beach habitat and remove a dangerous blight condition from our shoreline. The restored barrier beach will help provide an economic benefit to the Town of Stratford while also preserving this valuable coastal resource”, said Mayor John Harkins, Town of Stratford, Connecticut.

Amey Marrella, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection said, “This important project will restore Long Beach to a more natural condition – rebuilding unique natural coastal habitat areas and creating new opportunities for public access and enjoyment. This is exactly the kind of work we should be doing to protect the long-term health of Connecticut’s coastline and I am pleased to join with our many partners today in getting this project underway.”

Whitney Hatch, Southern New England Director of The Trust for Public Land, said, “The Trust for Public Land is delighted to see the on-the ground work begin at Long Beach West after much planning and preparation. This project clearly demonstrates what can be accomplished when talented individuals from both the public and private sectors work towards a shared goal. With this, we will be restoring one of the true coastal gems in the state and ensuring that this unique landscape continues to benefit both people and wildlife.”

Tom Baptist, Executive Director of Audubon Connecticut, the state organization of the National Audubon Society said, “Today we celebrate a major success in restoring our coastline for people and for wildlife. We are honored to have partnered with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Town of Stratford to restore Long Beach West, and we are especially grateful to the broad coalition of stakeholders who have worked in support of this conservation effort. Long Beach West is a critical component of the Stratford Great Meadows Important Bird Area (IBA), one of only 27 sites so recognized in Connecticut,” Baptist continued. “The federal stimulus dollars employed here are not only benefitting the threatened and endangered wildlife that rely on this site – Connecticut’s largest remaining stretch of undeveloped barrier beach habitat – they are also providing jobs and restoring safe public access to one of our state’s natural treasures.”

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