New act increases federal funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, with 10% match for small rural communities

On March 7, 2022, Senator Tom Carper (Dem – Delaware) joined restoration and conservation partners at Thousand Acre Marsh in New Castle County, Delaware to announce the introduction of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act.

The Act would enhance the current legislation by changing the 1:1 match requirement to a 90% federal investment with 10% match for small, rural, or disadvantaged communities that are submitting environmental restoration projects for consideration, an important step to creating better access to critical conservation and restoration funding.

The restoration projects fueled by the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act are rejuvenating America’s first waterway. This progress shows that when we work together, we can recover imperiled fish and wildlife populations, improve water quality, expand equitable recreational access, and create good jobs. Reauthorizing the DRBCA to ensure we can continue its success just makes sense,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

We are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Senator Carper and his colleagues as they work hard every day in Washington to bring home much needed funds for key projects across the Delaware Basin — from restoring shad runs by removing dilapidated dams on the Brandywine and White Clay to partnering with congregation and faith communities to replant critical wildlife habitat at houses of worship — and the best is yet to come,” she added.

Signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2016, the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (DRBCA) created the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP).

Since its establishment in 2016, the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program has helped advance shared goals for conserving and connecting lands and waters that fish, wildlife, and people here depend upon,” said Wendi Weber, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North Atlantic-Appalachian Regional Director.

Partner-driven investments from the program’s Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund will produce positive ripple effects in this landscape for generations to come,” she continued.

Administered by the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), DRBRP develops a coordinated approach to identify, prioritize, and implement restoration, protection, and public outdoor recreation access and activities across the Basin.

Reauthorization of this program will ensure projects that restore and protect habitat throughout the watershed continue now and into the future,” said Eric Stiles, President and CEO of NJ Audubon. “The federal funding enabled through the Reauthorization leverages additional private and state funding to enhance and expand our ability to protect and restore critical habitats that will have a major impact on water quality and special protection species in our region, including the red knot and Atlantic sturgeon.”

The DRBRP provides a competitive grant and technical assistance program known as the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund (DWCF) to support on-the-ground restoration and conservation projects, which is facilitated by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

Once again, Senator Carper is a champion of DRBCA. We applaud his and other sponsor’s commitments towards federal investments in restoration of the watershed. By reducing match and barriers of entry into the program, our collective impact can only grow,” said Kelly Knutson, Director of Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed.

We look forward to working alongside Congress and our 175 members to push this keystone legislation for the Basin ahead. The Coalition will continue its leadership on advocating for increased DRBRP funding and ensuring the program is successfully implemented,” she added.

This program is a critical piece in protecting one of our nation’s most important river systems, the Delaware River Basin, which provides clean drinking water to over 13 million people. The river and its tributaries flow through nearly a dozen National Parks and historic sites, providing world-class recreational opportunities from wild trout fishing in the Upper Delaware to watching the remarkable bird migrations across Delaware Bay.

The Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act takes an existing, highly successful program and makes it even better,” said Sarah Fleming, Ducks Unlimited Director of Conservation Programs.

By changing the match requirement, this legislation removes barriers to entry that would allow needed flexibility for rural communities to access critical conservation funding. DU greatly appreciates Senator Carper’s leadership in protecting and restoring the Delaware River Basin, and we look forward to our continued work alongside Congress and the Coalition to improve important habitat in the watershed,” she concluded.

The Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act and funding source will bolster the substantial work already taking place in the watershed to combat critical issues like habitat degradation, invasive species, and climate change.

Photo of Delaware Water Gap via Pixabay.

See Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed website.

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