TRENTON – The Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP) has received $5 million in funding as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus spending bill approved by Congress. The bill will now go to the President’s desk for his signature.
The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed worked with Congress on the authorization of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act which was first introduced in 2010. The Conservation Act was authorized in December 2016 and created the DRBRP. Once the President signs the bill, money will finally begin flowing to local conservation projects throughout the region.
"The funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program is a victory for working collaboratively across the watershed with partner organizations. In New Jersey, we're excited for this program to support habitat restoration for fish, birds, and other wildlife," said Eric Stiles, President and CEO of New Jersey Audubon.
New Jersey Audubon established the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed in partnership with National Wildlife Federation in 2012 to raise awareness of the importance of the Delaware Watershed. The Coalition now has 125 member organizations working throughout New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
“The Delaware River is America’s founding water, for years it’s been neglected, and the fish and wildlife of the region have suffered. This authorization means that the Delaware will no longer be America’s forgotten waterbody,” said Collin O’Mara, National Wildlife Federation President and CEO. “The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act provides the tools to reverse declines in fish and wildlife, keep our water healthy, expand recreational access, and provide more opportunities for jobs, but just as importantly it shows that we can work together across the aisle to create a better future for wildlife and people.”
The Delaware River Basin is significant because it encompasses portions of Delaware, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and supplies over 15 million people with clean, reliable drinking water, which is 5% of the U.S. population. The Delaware River 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.
“The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed would like to thank our champions in Congress for recognizing the importance of protecting the natural resources of the Delaware River Basin. The Delaware River Basin is a nationally significant region and deserving of the federal recognition this funding imparts,” stated Kelly Mooij, Vice President of Government Relations for New Jersey Audubon and Co-Chair of Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed. “Realizing funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program has been a top priority for the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed since its founding in 2012. We look forward to seeing great on-the-ground projects move forward throughout the region as a result of this small but mighty funding program!”
The DRBRP is a non-regulatory program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and includes efforts to implement conservation, stewardship, and enhancement 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.
“Water quality, outdoor recreation, and tourism are the life-blood of the Upper Delaware Region in New York, and we rely on programs like the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program to protect our natural resources and help enhance economic conditions. More and more people, communities, and businesses in northeast Pennsylvania and the western Catskills of New York State are relying on the River for their livelihood,” said Jeff Skelding, Executive Director, Friends of the Upper Delaware River.
Through the grants and technical assistance portion of the program it will further support local governments and nonprofits doing on-the-ground conservation projects and bolster the substantial work already taking place in the watershed to combat critical issues like habitat degradation, invasive species, and climate change. Since the DRBRP’s establishment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a program framework in partnership with the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed and other stakeholders from the region. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also launched a website for the DRBRP, which can be viewed at www.fws.gov/northeast/delawareriver.
“By including the full $5 million for this program, Congress acknowledges the environmental and economic importance of the Delaware River Basin. This funding will directly impact Pennsylvania’s local communities for the better - leading to more restoration projects, more green space, and cleaner water,” said Jacquelyn Bonomo, President and CEO for PennFuture.
"We applaud Congress for passing the initial Delaware River Basin Conservation Act and those who have now funded the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program. We believe investing in this program is the critical first step to raising the profile of a watershed that supplies drinking water to 15 million people. The on-the-ground projects happening in Delaware and throughout the watershed states will ensure clean water for all," said Brenna Goggin, Director of Advocacy at the Delaware Nature Society.