Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons (both D-Del.) and five of their Senate colleagues yesterday introduced legislation that would improve and preserve the overall wellness of the Delaware River watershed.
The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2014, co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez (both D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-N.Y.), and Robert Casey (D-Penn.), strengthens the environmental health of the watershed while also spurring the Delaware River watershed region’s economy.
The Delaware River is not just a key resource for important habitat and recreational activity, but a vital generator of economic activity for the region. The Delaware River is directly responsible for an estimated $4.3 billion in annual wages, with $149 billion in annual wages contained within the watershed. According to a 2011 comprehensive study of the region, more than 200,000 jobs are estimated to be directly tied to the Delaware River, with nearly 3 million jobs contained within the watershed. The Delaware River also houses the nation’s largest fresh water port, the Delaware River Port Complex. The complex is estimated to generate more than $19 billion in economic activity annually.
Despite the impact on so many people, the Delaware River lacks a federal program dedicated to its conservation unlike what other nationally-significant watersheds, including the Chesapeake Bay and the Long Island Sound, have.
The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2014 would establish the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The program would implement a coordinated approach, requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director to adopt a basin-wide plan that sustains and enhances the Delaware River basin restoration and protection efforts. The program would support projects from federal, state, and local governments and stakeholders, ensuring that existing successful restoration plans are leveraged.
In addition to the creation of the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, the bill would establish $5 million in annual competitive grant funding that assists voluntary, non-regulatory, on-the-ground restoration projects across the four-state region, with a maximum federal share of 50 percent.
“By investing in our watershed, we are investing in a resource that not only powers our environment and our local communities, but also fuels our economy,” Sen. Carper said. “The Delaware River watershed supports jobs at ports and in marine transportation, jobs in agriculture, hunting and fishing, jobs in recreation and parks and tourism, and jobs for folks who work every day to safeguard our water quality and water supply. This partnership supports our local economy by keeping our air, water and land clean, and protecting the overall health of this vital resource.”
“The Delaware River Basin is a precious asset that provides critical resources to Delawareans as well as habitat for a diverse array of wildlife,” Sen. Coons said. “The Basin is an incredible economic engine for the region, supporting jobs in the tourism, fishing, and maritime industries, which bolster revenue in the broader regional economy. This legislation will ensure that we take a comprehensive, long-term approach to managing the Basin. It is our responsibility to preserve the Delaware River Basin’s vibrant ecosystem for future generations.”
Press Release, May 9, 2014