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Lawmakers make new attempt for federal protection of the Delaware River Basin watershed

Tom Sulcer/Wikimedia Commons

Delaware’s lone Congressman John Carney reintroduced the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act in Congress on April 14. The bipartisan bill was first introduced in 2010 by former Delaware Congressman Mike Castle and again by Carney in 2013, but failed to pass both times.

Lawmakers in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York are backing the bill, which, if passed, would put the watershed, which stretches over 300 miles from the Catskill Mountains in New York to the mouth of the Delaware Bay, under federal protection.


Congressman John Carney (D-Delaware), says that since 2010, federal protection of the Delaware River watershed has become more imperative due to climate change and sea level rise. This is considering the 16 million people who depend on the basin for drinking water and bayside communities that suffer from floods.

"A lot of those communities have been hit hard by storms," said Carney, "and we’ve had a lot of federal funding issues with respect to restoring dunes, protective barriers along those communities."

The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a restoration and protection plan for the watershed. It will also create a competitive grants program, consisting of $5 million dollars, to help fund projects.

Delaware Nature Society’s advocacy manager Brenna Goggin, says having federal protection for the watershed helps encourage private entities to provide more funding and resources towards conserving the river basin.

“When private funders are looking at places, or watersheds, that they might want to focus on, if there is a known focus in a particular location already from the local, state and federal government, then private enterprises are more likely to look there as well," said Goggin.

Goggin, along with members from the Nature Conservancy and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, also joined Delaware lawmakers in Washington to support the bill. Congressman Carney hopes that the third time will be the charm.

Delaware Senators Tom Carper (D-Delaware) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware) have joined five others in sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate.

"“Most Delawareans rely on the Delaware River Basin for clean drinking water, but the Basin also drives our regional economy, supports jobs in the tourism, fishing, and maritime industries, and serves as critical habitat for the region’s most iconic species," said Senator Coons. 

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