Preservation of Delaware River Basin in the works
First State lawmakers have a new tool in working with local environmental groups to preserve the Delaware River Basin.
The recently passed Delaware River Basin Conservation Act creates a program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allows the feds, state agencies and local groups to work together to develop a basin management plan.
The Delaware River Basin is a source of drinking water for over 16 million people.
The goal is to conserve the habitat, resources and ecology throughout the basin, which stretches over 13,000 square miles from New York to the mouth of the Delaware Bay. About 1,000 miles are in the First State.
Delaware Nature Society’s executive director Brian Winslow says preservation of the basin is about clean drinking water and more.
“If you look at the trout fishing and the clean waters at the headwater, the amazing scenery, if you come down and look at things in the bays, it’s some of the richest migration of waterfowl as well as the whole horseshoe crab story,” Winslow said. “It is unrivaled in a lot of ways.”
Winsow adds there's a lot of recreational opportunities in the basin. The Delaware Nature Society sees the importance of the basin as a recreational and economic driver and Winslow says the over-2,000 members advocated as a voice for the basin, talking to Delaware legislators for the last few years about the Delaware River Basin's importance.
"I think at the end of the day, resources are needed," Winslow said. "We know a lot of the projects, we know a lot of the creeks that need clean-up. We know where there's opportunities, and we're really hoping at the end of the day there's also a funding source to start to move these projects forward."
The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act also creates a method for funding restoration efforts. No funding has been allocated yet, but U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partnership Coordinator Mike Slattery says he believes funds will come.
“We’re hopeful that there would be an opportunity to appropriate funds to carry it out,” Slattery said. “But first what we need to do is develop a really cohesive and iron-clad plan for all of the agencies and organizations to work together with some very specific deliverables and outcomes associated with it.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) says passage of the DRBCA was a notable bipartisan effort. Now, all parties involved need to focus on improving the health of the river.
“The Delaware River is important for commerce as well as our environment, and this act will help us do a better of job of making sure that we all are good stewards of this river,” said Coons in a statement.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife will spend the next six months working with legislators, state agencies and local groups create a blueprint for that program.