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Nearly $35 million is being invested in restoration efforts along the Delaware River Basin

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

The Delaware River Watershed encompasses parts of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, and represents one of the most densely populated urban areas in the nation.

About $35 million in public and private dollars will fund 36 conservation projects across those 4 states.

Five of the 36 projects funded are in Delaware - and will receive nearly $2 million ($1,926,700) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private partners through the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund.

National Wildlife Federation President and CEO Collin O'Mara says the local projects center on equity and environmental justice.

“They’re connecting people. And connecting all people. Not just white folks who are driving with their kayak on their car, but folks that live next to these resources. These historical communities that have been forgotten for so long,” said O’Mara. “We have millions of folks across this watershed that do not trust the water quality- and for good reason. We have issues on the Christina River with legacy pollution from heavy metals and particulate matter and all kinds of other pollution that we have to clean up.”

All five projects address habitat restoration in different parts of New Castle County.

They also seek to improve water quality in Delaware’s portion of the watershed and create natural climate resilience and disaster resistance measures, while supporting educational outreach and addressing food insecurity.

One of those projects is Green Building United’s urban flood resistance program.

In response to flooding from Hurricane Ida, which destroyed areas of Northeast Wilmington in 2021, this project aims to use rewilding as a natural flood mitigation technique.

Native plants will be planted along the river and in the community to reduce soil erosion, restore natural ecological functions, and create physical barriers.

Green Building United’s Karen Igo says the community will be involved throughout the entire process - including the choice of plants used.

“It just gives a sense of empowerment- that people themselves in their own yards, and their own communities, can do some real effective work without waiting for government action,” Igo explained. “It also creates habitat, which is so necessary for our agriculture system.”

Delaware Nature Society was also a recipient of the award. They will be installing 27 community garden and pollinator habitat projects, along with providing education programming, to help develop the next generation of urban gardeners in Wilmington.

The project aims to improve pollinator habitats in urban settings, address food insecurity in Wilmington, and create more climate resiliency through bolstering the city’s food network and expanding green spaces.

Both the flood resistance program and the community garden project will also help to combat the urban heat island effect in Wilmington by increasing shade, deflecting sun radiation, and releasing moisture.

Other projects include REd Clay Consolidated School District’s “Habitat Restoration and Outdoor Education” program, New Castle County’s “Habitat Enhancement and Water Quality Improvement in

Banning Regional Park” project, and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary’s “Implementation of Kalmar Nyckel Living Shoreline and Riparian Habitat Restoration” project.

This year’s grant slate is the second to include funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was enacted in 2021 and will invest $26 million in the watershed over five years.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.