Delaware River Restoration and Conservation awarded $6 million for 2019 2019 appropriations budget increases by $1 million for NY, NJ, PA, and DE
The Delaware River (File photo by Nick Troiano)
MILFORD — The Delaware River Basin Restoration Program received $6 million as part of an appropriations bill approved by Congress and signed by the President, and reflecting a $1 million increase from last year. The program will provide technical assistance and grant money to address the Delaware River Basin’s environmental challenges. It will support local and state governments and nonprofits in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware that are implementing on-the-ground restoration and conservation projects that combat critical issues like habitat degradation, invasive species, and climate change. "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," said Jeff Skelding, executive director of the Friends of the Upper Delaware River. "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." Fund launched last AugustSandra Meola, director at New Jersey Audubon and the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, said the program represents a critical investment in the region's future. "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," she said. 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. It 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 2018 for $5 million, and the first Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund was launched in August as a result. The Coalition also worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure the program 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 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,” said Jacquelyn Bonomo, president and CEO of 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.” Threats to the basinThe Delaware River Basin faces threats such as overdevelopment, stormwater runoff, flooding, stream erosion, and loss of wildlife habitat. The basin provides habitat to more than 400 types of birds, over 90 fish species, and many other animals. Several threatened or endangered species rely on the 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 50 percent of Delaware's land area and including 74 percent of the state's population, funding for the Delaware River Basin is essential for our state's people and wildlife." Drinking water for 15 millionThe Delaware River Basin is significant because it encompasses portions of four states and supplies more 15 million people — 5 percent of the U.S. population — with drinking water. The basin is the only water source of drinking water for two major U.S. cities, Philadelphia and New York. It is 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," said 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." For more information, visit DelRiverWatershed.org.