Editorial / Westport should get behind a Sound proposal
Published 5:46 pm, Thursday, May 31, 2012
Of 169 cities and town in Connecticut, Westport in an exclusive club with a mere two-dozen members.
It doesn't matter if you're a sailor or landlubber, a beachcomber or woodland hiker, a clam digger or garden-variety vegan. If you live in one of those 24 municipalities, it's indisputable -- Long Island Sound is your community's greatest natural asset.
People in the state's other 145 cities and towns can only dream about instant access to beaches, boat slips and coastal vistas that Westport enjoys.
Like your house, your savings and your 401(k), the Sound is an asset to be protected.
So Westporters should be happy to learn that U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal has proposed that "a very expansive part of the Sound" be designated as a marine sanctuary and undersea preserve.
Under Blumenthal's plan, any new undersea lines -- whether communications cables, power cables or fuel pipelines -- would have to go in areas where similar lines already exist. And nothing could be dumped in the Sound, including silt and muck from dredging operations that now are dumped there.
Outlining his proposal during an event at Sherwood Island State Park a couple of weeks ago, the freshman senator called the Sound "a national treasure."
One need only think back two years to the disastrous BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast to realize how fragile an asset the ocean and its ecosystem are.
Designating sections of the Sound as a preserve would be a remarkably simple process that would not require an act of Congress -- literally or figuratively. In fact, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce has authority to simply declare it.
Blumenthal already has proposed the preserve in a letter to Commerce Secretary John Bryson. It would be administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the states of Connecticut and New York.
The National Marine Sanctuary program -- described as a national park system for undersea environments -- already has more than a dozen preserves.
Existing ones include Stellwagen Bank off Massachusetts and preserves in Virginia, Georgia, Florida, the Gulf Coast, California, Washington State, Hawaii -- even in Lake Huron off Michigan's northern peninsula.
Blumenthal has long been an advocate of protecting the Sound. As Connecticut Attorney General, he consistently took aggressive stands in guarding it against development and environmental threat.
As the state's top lawyer and consumer advocate, Blumenthal opposed the Cross Sound Cable between New Haven and Shoreham, Long Island, arguing that it was not buried deep enough below the sea floor and that it siphoned power from Connecticut only to benefit Long island.
He fought against the Islander East natural gas pipeline between Branford and Wading River, Long Island, arguing it would damage shellfish beds and harm water quality.
More recently, Blumenthal opposed Broadwater Energy's proposed floating natural-gas platform 10 miles off Connecticut's shore. The behemoth platform -- as long as four football fields -- would have accepted liquefied natural gas from tanker ships, converted it to gaseous state, then shipped it ashore through a new pipeline.
Cynics referred to that plan, not so tongue in cheek, as "a floating bomb waiting to detonate."
Protecting the Sound is a no-brainer for anybody who owns property in a community that borders it. The Sound's proximity -- and unrestricted access to it -- increases Westport property values, whether homeowners regularly splash in the Sound or have never stuck a toe in it.
Blumenthal has asked Connecticut residents to write letters in support of the sanctuary to him; to U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4; to Gov. Dannel Malloy; and to New York Sens. Kristin Gillebrand and Charles Schumer.
So, Westport, what are we waiting for?
As a coastal community, we enjoy the legends of long-ago shipwrecks resting on the Sound floor. But we don't want any other accidents down there.