A group of 11 bipartisan representatives from Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey today introduced legislation to improve restoration and conservation efforts in the Delaware River Basin. With competitive grants to incentivize public-private partnerships and improved coordination among stakeholders, the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act will improve habitat, water quality and flood control for fish, wildlife and people.
Despite its estimated $26 billion economic impact on the region annually, Delaware River restoration efforts receive very limited federal resources compared to similar watersheds across the country. The legislation creates the Delaware River Restoration Program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and authorizes a competitive grant program and technical assistance to leverage federal resources available to the basin.
Grant applications that demonstrate collaboration between organizations, universities, and governments will be more likely to receive funding. The federal share of the cost of a project can be no more than 50 percent, incentivizing applicants to seek out significant private investment to match the federal commitment.
The legislation will not add to the current budget deficit, as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will use its existing budget to implement the provisions of the legislation.
The following members of Congress signed onto the bill as original co-sponsors:
* Representative John Carney (D-DE)
* Representative Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
* Representative Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
* Representative Rob Andrews (D-NJ)
* Representative Chris Gibson (R-NY)
* Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ)
* Representative Pat Meehan (R-PA)
* Representative Jon Runyan (R-NJ)
* Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA)
* Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA)
* Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA)
"Since our state sits at the mouth of the Delaware River, we are highly invested in the overall health of the basin, which provides our region with an abundance of resources, from drinking water to wildlife," said Congressman John Carney (D-DE). "Doing what we can to conserve and restore the basin is not just the right thing to do environmentally -- but also economically. This legislation will help government, nonprofit groups, and private industry work cohesively to preserve the vibrancy of the Delaware River Basin for future generations."
"Although organizations like the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary and the Delaware River Basin Commission are successful in their respective efforts, existing programs have limited resources to fully address the habitat, recreation, and water-related challenges in the entire Basin in a fully coordinated manner," said Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA). "This legislation will enable the Delaware River Basin to compete for federal support on the same level as the other major watersheds around the country and get all the relevant agencies and organizations working together to keep the river clean."
"The Delaware River Basin has a positive economic, environmental and public health impact in South Jersey and communities across the Northeast. Our actions today seek to protect this natural resource and ensure a coordinated strategy for its long-term prosperity. I look forward to working with my colleagues on this critical legislation," said Congressman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ).
"The Delaware River Basin is a vital resource for jobs and economic growth in our region and it must be protected," said Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ). "By boosting state, federal and local efforts to enhance our river basin, there will be more demand for recreational use of our waterway, which will attract new economic development and demand for jobs in our region. This is truly a win-win that I am proud to sponsor."
"A coordinated strategy for protecting and restoring the Delaware River Basin will bring real and lasting benefits to the Basin's aquatic, bird, and wildlife populations, as well as the more than 15 million people who rely on the watershed for drinking water," said Kim Beidler, Project Coordinator for the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed. "The members of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed would like to thank the legislators who are sponsoring this vital piece of legislation that will help secure the future of the Delaware River Basin, from its headwaters in pristine Catskills forests to its mouth at the Delaware Bay, and all of the habitats and landscapes in between."
"The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act will protect and restore waterfowl habitat, improve water quality, and enhance recreational opportunities for people who love the outdoors," said Bernie Marczyk, Director of Conservation Programs for Ducks Unlimited. "Ducks Unlimited looks forward to implementing this legislation by building on our wetland restoration successes that have resulted in the conservation of more than 98,000 acres of waterfowl habitat in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. We will work with our federal, state, local, and non-profit partners to ensure future generations enjoy the valuable natural resources of the Delaware River Basin."
"A healthy Delaware River and Bay gives us clean drinking water, as well as fish, oysters and horseshoe crabs that provide tremendous economic value to our region," says Jennifer Adkins, Executive Director of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, A National Estuary Program. "To keep it healthy, we need smart investments in forests, wetlands, and communities, from headwaters to ocean -- that's what the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act seeks to provide."
"Having 210 years of history in Wilmington, Delaware, DuPont is heavily invested in the health of the Delaware Estuary. We are already actively engaged through our 'Clear into the Future' community-based program in the estuary," said Michael Parr, Senior Government Affairs Manager from DuPont. "The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act will be a big step forward by coordinating existing programs and resources, which will benefit the overall watershed and the Delaware Estuary. DuPont welcomes the opportunity to work with other partners to advance the health of the watershed and the estuary in a coordinated fashion."
"Philadelphia Water has been a participant of coordinated source water protection efforts in the Schuylkill River; establishing a similar program for the Delaware watershed would be great for protecting water supply and citizens' health," said Kelly Anderson, Manager of Philadelphia Waters Source Water Protection Program.