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Long Island Sound Stewardship Fund Grants 2019

The Long Island Sound Stewardship Fund (LISSF) was established in 2108 to support projects that address pressing challenges and provide for a healthy, productive, and resilient Sound now and into the future. The fund promotes a sustainable Sound by providing opportunities for funders who care about this natural resource to work together around a common mission to make a positive impact on its ecological health; support programs and projects that align with the federal Long Island Sound Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan 2015; help nonprofits working to restore the health and living resources of the Sound achieve conservation outcomes in a more effective and collaborative way; and support capacity building efforts that strengthen nonprofits working to protect the Sound. Upon comprehensive review members of the Long Island Sound Funders Collaborative recommended supporting ten grants totaling $316,000. The LISSF program priorities and associated project grants are:

Piloting Tools & Strategies
The LISSF provides grants for projects that will add more value in terms of environmental and natural resource impact, and to foster the “next best step” for applicability or scalability across Long Island Sound.

Three integrated projects to enhance comprehensive and compelling communication about management of Long Island Sound waterways. Long Island Sound is a valuable natural resource that provides numerous ecosystem services on which we all depend. Recognizing its importance, dozens of local stakeholder groups work diligently toward the Sound’s protection. All put tremendous effort into understanding the status and natural systems of the Sound. These efforts generate of an enormous amount of data.

The Unified Water Study launched in 2017 with funding from the Long Island Sound Funders Collaborative currently works with 36 bays, harbors, and coves of Long Island Sound to support unified water quality monitoring inform management of local waterways. The UWS is currently generating large amounts of consistent and comparable data from 36 embayments that are being shared with community-based organizations and the agencies responsible for managing these waterways.

This growing wealth of data for Long Island Sound presents opportunities and challenges. As the volume of data grows, we can better understand and effectively manage this natural resource. However, because of the large number of local groups involved, these data are being collected in disparate ways and shared inconsistently among potential end-users. Furthermore, local non-profits often face challenges building, scaling, and funding their disparate tools. Finally, it is difficult for local monitoring groups, their constituents, elected officials, news media, etc. to understand, interpret, and take actions on the vast amount of raw, technical data being presented. Three integrated projects aim to develop strategy and protocols to make existing data more shareable, searchable and compelling to all constituents. The grants are:

Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound
Grant Award: $60,000

Purpose: To advance the use of database and data visualization tools and strategies for presenting Unified Water Study data and other data to inform management of and education about the Sound.

Founded in 1978, Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound’s mission is to protect and improve the land, air, and water of Connecticut and Long Island Sound. It uses legal and scientific expertise to bring people together to achieve results that benefit the environment for current and future generations by protecting people and wildlife, now and for decades to come. The organization is responsible for ongoing development and management of the Unified Water Study. It will work in collaboration with Chesapeake Commons, and Earthplace/Harbor Watch to:
• Establish a technical advisory committee to develop a standardized scoring methodology for Unified Water Study Data and incorporate feedback from stakeholder groups;
• Design a draft Unified Water Study data visualization that meets the needs of local community-based organizations; and
• Co-host a summit to present the draft and get final feedback on the proposed data visualization tool prior to moving forward with development.

Chesapeake Commons
Grant Award: $60,000

Purpose: To advance database and data visualization tools and strategies addressing pollution in the Long Island Sound.

Chesapeake Commons partners with individuals and organizations to access, organize, and share data that inspires action to restores our environment in the Chesapeake and Delaware River watersheds. Through outcome-oriented digital infrastructure – high quality digital services and open tool kits – it empowers stakeholders with access to understandable data that can inform community action toward improving the environment. It will work in collaboration with Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound and, and Earthplace/Harbor Watch, to:
• Establish a technical user group to conduct a user needs assessment and produce a product development roadmap to support the creation of one or more data visualization tools; and
• Assess community data needs and deploy existing solutions, such as their Water Reporter tool, where appropriate.

Earthplace/Harbor Watch
Grant Award: $40,000

Purpose: To advance database and data visualization tools and strategies addressing pollution in the Long Island Sound.

The mission of Earthplace is to build a passion in our community for nature and the environment through education, experience, and action. Its Harbor Watch program is dedicated to improving water quality and ecosystem health in Connecticut. The organization addresses pollution threats to Long Island Sound and educates the next generation of scientists through hands-on research and experiential learning. It will work in collaboration with This year in collaboration with Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, and Chesapeake Commons to:
• Assess community data needs, review existing tools, and advance recommendations around possible solutions that will serve the greatest number of users around the Sound; and
• Develop a Community of Practice around the sharing and use of data around the Sound.

Small Projects with Big Impacts
The LISSF provides grants for projects that will clean waters, restore habitat, sustain wildlife, and engage the public in restoration and protection of the health and living resources of Long Island Sound. By big impact we mean activities with the promise to accelerate local water quality improvements, natural resource restoration, and community outreach and engagement. The projects are:

Sound Waters
Grant Award: $10,000

Purpose: To install and operate a trash skimmer in Stamford Harbor.

Soundwaters was founded in 1989, the organizations mission is to educate children and adults about the wonders and beauties of Long Island Sound and its watershed. It provides people with an understanding and awareness of the changes they can make in their lives and communities to restore, protect and preserve Long Island Sound and the environment. Maintaining the Sound as a healthy ecosystem, while balancing human uses, presents significant challenges. Debris and other sources of man-made pollution continue to degrade the Sound and compromise its vitality. Trash and litter mar the Sounds waters and can pose a hazard to living resources and to navigation. Soundwaters will:
• Partner with Clean Ocean Access to install and operate a marine trash skimmer at the west branch of Stamford Harbor near the Ponus Yacht Club; and
• Engage 200 fifth grade students and 300 additional community volunteers through marine debris education, hands trash sorting, data collection, and provide an understanding of ways to prevent litter from entering the Sound;

The Sound School
Grant Award: $9,000

Purpose: To create a living shoreline utilizing cultured oysters and reef balls in New Haven Harbor.

The Sound School was founded in 1981 and is one of 19 Agricultural Science & Technology Centers partially funded by the Connecticut State Department of Education and is part of the New Haven Public Schools district. Its comprehensive academic program prepares students for a post-secondary life which may include, college, technical school, the military, or entering employment upon graduation. Their curriculum includes activities and coursework such as nautical drafting, marine research, aquaculture production, and vessel handling and safety at sea.

The ecosystems in New Haven Harbor continues to experience substantial degradation due to industrialization that brings increased nutrient loads and pollution. Oyster reefs are a critical part of the ecosystem as they provide water filtration and shoreline stabilization. The Sound School will support the restoration of oyster reefs in Long Warf. It will:
• Construct 12 reef ball modules, of which 6 will be seeded with spat oysters;
• Reef ball modules will then be placed in nearshore waters to support a living shoreline;
• Students will monitor and collect data on oyster growth, mortality, presence of new spat, and overall water quality; and
• Students also will prepare and present Capstone projects to students, faculty, and community members.

Group for the East End
Grant Award: $10,000

Purpose: To enhance habitat planning for the protection and preservation of native plants at Hallock State Park.

Since 1972, Group for the East End has led the way in protecting and restoring the environment of eastern Long Island through education, conservation, and advocacy. It also has led several habitat restoration and invasive plant control projects on Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. Opened in 2017, Hallock State Park Preserve in Jamesport, NY spans 225 acres and is recognized as one of 33 Long Island Sound Stewardship sites. Natural plant succession at the site has been interrupted by an onslaught of invasive species that inhibit development of native vegetation and provide little cover or food for native fauna and migratory birds, thus reducing the biodiversity of the Long Island Sound ecosystem. In 2018 a habitat restoration and management plan were created for five prominent areas. Additional fieldwork and mapping are needed to determine ongoing maintenance and potential habitat restoration of maritime forest wetlands and vernal pools that are part of the mosaic of important coastal habitats of the Sound. The group will:
• Expand the current Habitat Restoration Management Plan to include the forest wetlands and vernal pools of the preserve;
• Initiate a weekly water monitoring of the health of the coastal ponds and pools and publicly share the information;
• Create and publish a comprehensive plant list for Hallock State Park; and
• Conduct educational programs and outreach to share information about the natural resources of this new public open space on the Sound.

Capacity Building
The LISSF provides grants for projects that will increase the effectiveness of organizations that focus on restoration and protection of the health and living resources of Long Island Sound. The projects are:

Guardians of Flushing Bay
Grant Award: $25,000

Purpose: To provide capacity building for a newly organization to better serve and protect a critical urban waterbody of Long Island Sound that is extremely impaired.

Incorporated in 2018 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Guardians of Flushing Bay is a coalition of dragon boaters, local residents, and environmental enthusiasts with a shared vision of a clean, healthy Flushing Bay that is open and accessible to the public. The Guardians work to make the Bay, Flushing Creek, the Flushing Bay Promenade, and the World's Fair Marina more accessible and inviting by linking recreational opportunities with educational programs that promote sustainability. Located adjacent to densely populated neighborhoods, Flushing Bay and Flushing Creek are under resourced and significantly burdened by stormwater and wastewater pollution. The organizations goals include: expanding their citizen science programs; advocating for robust and accountable stormwater infrastructure; increasing green infrastructure; and uniting the growing community of environmental stewards throughout the watershed. In an effort to carry out these objectives, Guardians needs to strengthen their organizational capacity and develop operating systems. It will:
• Hire a program coordinator to manage community engagement, the local vision plan, and advocacy agenda, as outlined in the strategic plan;
• Provide professional development for board members; and
• Purchase and implement Salesforce software to support both volunteer and financial management.

University of Connecticut (UConn)
Grant Award: $47,000

Purpose: To develop a green stormwater infrastructure installation and maintenance certification program.

UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research was established in 2002 and provides engagement-oriented programs center around: stormwater management; land use planning and climate adaptation; geospatial technology; and STEM education as it relates to conservation. Its principal target audience is local land use decision makers and municipal staff. While decades of research identify the effectiveness of green stormwater infrastructure in achieving water quality improvements, widespread implementation by local government stakeholders in Connecticut has been challenging. However, recently approved regulations require 121 communities covered by the MS4 permit to modify their land use regulations to remove barriers and require green stormwater infrastructure use where possible. As such, municipalities are concerned that that there are insufficient numbers of contractors and public works employees who are adequately experienced in green stormwater infrastructure installation and maintenance. It will:
• Assess the needs of target audiences to determine relevant components for a Green Infrastructure (GI) training and certification program (i.e. subjects, format, length, etc.);
• Partner with The Nature Conservancy, evaluate existing GI certification programs in other states to determine if they meet identified needs;
• Develop the certification program framework and process (i.e. certification, recertification requirements, administration, tracking, etc.) tailored to CT and potentially other states in the Long Island Sound watershed; and
• Develop curriculum and training materials that will be shared regionally.

Network Building
The LISSF provides grants for projects that will expand the diversity of organizations working together to improve the health and living resources of Long Island Sound. Network-building is defined as a group of partner organizations in a local area, watershed or region working towards the same goals and focused on specific outcomes. The projects are:

Henry Ferguson Museum
Grant Award: $15,000
To develop and implement a community-driven, community-based seagrass restoration plan for the coastal waters surrounding Fishers Island.

Founded in 1960, the Henry Ferguson Museum houses a permanent collection of artifacts documenting the island’s cultural and natural history, conducts related educational programming, and is responsible for preservation of much of its undeveloped land through a Land Trust. The Museum’s educational program focuses on a variety of issues surrounding the island’s ecology and management, including seagrass habitats. Seagrass meadows provide essential habitat for fisheries, generate oxygen, improve water quality, help reduce shoreline erosion, and can store twice as much carbon as forests on land. Seagrasses are under intense pressure from human and environmental stressors, which has resulted in the disappearance of 90 percent of the historic eelgrass in the Long Island Sound. Despite large scale deterioration throughout the estuary, eelgrass has persisted in the waters surrounding Fishers Island, which is home to 96 percent of eelgrass in New York Waters of Long Island Sound. This year the Museum will:
• Develop the capacity of the community-based Fishers Island Seagrass Management Coalition to engage in co-management of seagrass habitat and Seagrass Management Area designation; and
• Enhance the capacity of the Fishers Island Seagrass Management Coalition to provide education and community outreach for residents regarding seagrass management and protection.

The Trust for Public Land
Grant Award: $40,000
To build a community-based, community-driven outreach and participatory design program for waterfront resiliency and public access as part of Bridgeport’s waterfront master plan.

Since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has preserved more than 3.5 million acres, created or transformed nearly 2,000 parks, playgrounds, and gardens, and developed more than 2,000 miles of trails across the United States. In Connecticut it has created parks, playgrounds and fitness zones in some of the state’s most underserved areas and conserved 7,500 acres of open space. With 24 miles of shoreline, Bridgeport has the most waterfront of any municipality in Connecticut. It also has the largest population of which 77 percent are people of color; 28 percent are foreign born; and 48 percent of households are low-income. Like many coastal cities, Bridgeport’s large population is vulnerable to the growing threats of sea level rise and storm surge. The Trust for Public Land will:
• Develop a public-private fundraising campaign to sustain a multi-year effort implement goals related to coastal resilience and public access as identified in Bridgeport’s Waterfront Master Plan;
• Develop a public marketing and communications strategy and materials for the campaign; and
• Lead a participatory design process in the community for the proposed waterfront pathway and a vulnerable opportunity site such as Silver by the River, Yellow Mill, or Johnson’s Creek.

To download this report in pdf, click here

Long Island Community Foundation | A Division of The New York Community Trust
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