The Delaware River Basin Restoration Program received $6 million in funding as part of the fiscal 2019 Interior Appropriations bill approved Feb. 15 by Congress and signed by the president, a $1 million increase from last year.
The DRBRP will provide 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 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 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.”
The Delaware River Basin faces overdevelopment, 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 more than 400 types of birds, more than 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 $6 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 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 and supplies more than 15 million people with drinking water — 5 percent of the U.S. population. Additionally, the basin is the only water source to provide drinking water for Philadelphia and New York. The Delaware River Basin is also an economic driver for the region, bringing in $25 billion annually in economic activity and supporting about 600,000 jobs.
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 2018 in the amount of $5 million and the first Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund was launched in August 2018 as a result.
The coalition 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.
For more, visit delriverwatershed.org.