On February 15, 2019, the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP) announced that it received $6 million in funding as part of the fiscal year 2019 Interior Appropriations bill approved by Congress, a $1 million increase from last year.
The DRBRP will provide much-needed technical assistance and grant funds to address the Delaware River Basin’s environmental challenges.
This funding will support local governments, state governments, and nonprofits in the watershed’s four states that are implementing on-the-ground restoration and conservation projects that combat critical issues like habitat degradation, invasive species, and climate change.
“The Delaware River Basin Restoration Program represents a critical investment in the future of our region. The Program provides funding required to restore habitat for fish and wildlife species, keep our watershed clean and healthy, expand recreational access, and provide job opportunities,” said Sandra Meola, Director at New Jersey Audubon and the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed.
“We are immensely grateful to Congressional champions for securing six million dollars in Delaware Basin funding for fiscal year 2019. The Program is off to a strong beginning and we look forward to seeing the second round of on-the-ground projects move forward,” she added.
The Delaware River Basin faces threats such as over-development, stormwater runoff, flooding, stream erosion, and loss of wildlife habitat.
With increased federal funding, more conservation and restoration projects can begin to address these and other concerns within the basin.
The Delaware River Basin must also be protected as it provides habitat to over 400 types of birds, over 90 fish species, and many other animals.
Several threatened or endangered species rely on the Delaware River Basin, such as the Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, American kestrel, and the Pine Barrens tree frog.
“We’re thrilled that the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program was funded at six million dollars for fiscal year 2019, as local communities will be now able to tackle projects that improve water quality, protect wildlife habitat, and increase recreational opportunities,” said Brenna Goggin, Director of Advocacy at the Delaware Nature Society. “With the Delaware River Basin taking up fifty percent of Delaware’s land area and including seventy-four percent of the state’s population, funding for the Delaware River Basin is essential for our state’s people and wildlife.”
The Delaware River Basin is significant because it encompasses portions of four states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, and supplies over 15 million people with drinking water (5% of the U.S. population.)
Additionally, the basin is the only water source to provide drinking water for two major U.S. cities, Philadelphia and New York. The Delaware River Basin is also a major economic driver for the region, bringing in $25 billion annually in economic activity and supporting about 600,000 jobs.
“We are pleased Congress is taking action to protect clean water coming from the Delaware River, which twenty-two percent of New Jersey’s families and businesses use for drinking water. From the Delaware Water Gap down to the Delaware Bay, we rely on this critical resource for drinking water, jobs, and recreation. By increasing funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program from five million in fiscal year 2018 to six million dollars in fiscal year 2019, Congress is stepping up to address issues threatening the future of the basin,” added Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.
“From the Delaware Water Gap down to the Delaware Bay, we rely on this critical resource for drinking water, jobs, and recreation. By increasing funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program from five million in fiscal year 2018 to six million dollars in fiscal year 2019, Congress is stepping up to address issues threatening the future of the basin,” added Potosnak.
The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed worked with Congressional allies on the 2016 passage of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act, which created the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program.
The Program was first funded in fiscal year 2018 in the amount of $5 million and the first Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund was launched in August 2018 as a result.
“The Upper Delaware River’s clean water and prime outdoor recreational opportunities support a growing and increasingly important river-based regional economy in New York State. The Delaware River Basin Restoration Program will invest funds into improving the Upper Delaware, which will safeguard the area’s jobs, boost tourism, and ensure this essential resource stays healthy,” said Jeff Skelding, Executive Director, Friends of the Upper Delaware River.
The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed also worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a framework for the DRBRP to ensure it focused on supporting projects that: conserve and restore fish and wildlife habitat, improve and maintain water quality, sustain and enhance water management and reduce flood damage, and improve recreational opportunities and public access in the Delaware River Basin.
“From the Poconos down to Philadelphia – nonprofits, state, and local governments will be able to apply for fiscal year 2019 Delaware River Basin Restoration Program funding for site-specific projects that result in cleaner water, more green space, and restored wildlife habitat,” stated Jacquelyn Bonomo, President and CEO, PennFuture. “Restoring and conserving the basin is crucial for the Keystone state, as the Delaware River and its tributaries, such as the Schuylkill and Lehigh Rivers, encompass forty-three percent of the state’s population.”
The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed is a network of 138 non-governmental organizations dedicated to protecting and restoring the natural resources of the Delaware River Basin.
“The Delaware River Restoration Program, established by Congress last year, will help better protect this water system on which over 15 million Americans rely. Fully implementing this program will improve coordination among federal, state and local partners who work to restore and protect the basin and ensure that partners on the ground can work together to preserve the health of this vital resource for generations to come,” says Delaware Senator Tom Carper.
Featured photo courtesy of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed.