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Water quality, habitat and recreation projects announced in Delaware River watershed

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
The Brandywine Creek in Wilmington

Sen. Chris Coons and advocates are celebrating millions to support water quality and wildlife habitat in the Delaware River watershed. 

The watershed provides drinking water for around 15 million people. Now $11.5 million will be invested in its health and usage.

The money comes from the William Penn foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with matching funds from grantees. It will be distributed as grants from the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund and Delaware River Restoration Fund, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Delaware River Program. 

A total of 41 projectsin Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania are receiving money. Local projects include dam removal in the White Clay Creek and installation of native pollinator gardens in Wilmington. The Delaware River Basin Commission is also receiving funding to study water quality, contaminants of emerging concern and future water availability in the river basin. 

Jim Shanahan is cofounder of Brandywine Shad 2020, which is removing barriers in the Brandywine Creek so shad can swim up it again to spawn. He said at a press event along the Brandywine River in Wilmington Monday that one dam is already gone, and the new funding means more progress. 

“This money will be essential to not only taking out two of the dams upriver from here, but just as important is doing the engineering studies and the consulting studies and the historical studies and the archeological studies that will allow us to get past this dam,” Shanahan said.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation staff say many of the grant awards went to environmental justice-focused projects. 

Sen. Chris Coons, who advocated for the funding, says some projects will help build resilience against climate change. He hopes more money for that is coming. 

“In the bipartisan infrastructure bill that has passed the Senate by a very strong margin, there’s tens of billions of dollars of investment in climate resiliency,” he said in Wilmington Monday. “Exactly the sorts of projects I expect that will invest in will benefit the lowest-lying state in America, which is Delaware.”

The Delaware River watershed projects will happen over the next few years.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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