Senators Celebrate Key Committee Passage of Bill to Protect and Enhance the Delaware River Watershed

Bill Strengthens Environmental and Economic Health of Vital Water Source

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and six of his Senate colleagues celebrated the Environment and Public Works Committee’s approval of their legislation that would protect and enhance the Delaware River watershed. The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2011 would strengthen not only the environmental health of the watershed, but also the economic impact the Delaware River watershed has on the area. It is estimated that over 200,000 jobs are directly tied to the watershed, and the Delaware River is home to the largest fresh water port in the U.S., the Delaware River Port Complex, which generates over $19 billion in annual economic activity. Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (both D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-N.Y.), and Robert Casey (D-Pa.) are cosponsors of the measure.

The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2011 would establish the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The program would be charged with instituting a partnership to identify, prioritize and implement restoration and protection efforts in the Delaware River basin. In particular, the bill requires the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create and adopt a single, basin-wide plan that will guide restoration efforts and the implementation of the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program. During the plan’s development, U.S. Fish and Wildlife will work with other federal agencies as well as industry and community stakeholders in the basin to ensure that restoration plans and efforts that have been successful in the past are built upon and leveraged.

“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,” said Sen. Carper. “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,” said Sen. Coons. “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.”

“The Delaware River Basin is a major source of drinking water, recreation, jobs and business opportunities for New Jerseyans,” said Sen. Lautenberg. “We need to protect our water from contamination and preserve the natural habitat along the river. The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act would create a common sense conservation effort to ensure valuable natural resources are protected for generations to come.”

“This bill will help protect the water quality and jobs for thousands of families throughout the region,” said Sen. Menendez. “With an estimated $19 billion economic impact as a result of related port activity, the Delaware River watershed is a great example of how environmental sustainability and economic growth are essential partners, not competing interests.”

“The Delaware River is an important part of the heritage and economy of Upstate, as well as a source of clean drinking water for millions,” said Sen. Schumer. “Creating a partnership to coordinate conservation efforts will allow New York and other states to build on their successes and enhance water quality and the environment throughout the Delaware River watershed.”

“Delaware River Basin is a natural treasure – it helps make the Southern Tier and Catskills ideal communities to live, work, vacation, and raise a family,” said Sen. Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “With 17 million people relying on water from its watershed, the Delaware River Basin is not only critical to the local environment and economy, but the entire regions. During these tough economic times, the Delaware River Basin provides an opportunity to promote economic growth. I am committed to taking the steps needed to restore the Delaware River Basin and promote environmental protection and economic development for generations.”

“The Delaware River Basin provides 15 million people in Pennsylvania and surrounding states with water for drinking, agricultural and recreational use,” said Sen. Casey. “This legislation would provide assistance for habitat improvement, water quality enhancement and flood control to protect the watershed and the Pennsylvanians who rely on it.”

The Delaware River is not only a key resource for important habitat and recreational activity, but it is also a vital generator of economic activity for the region. It is estimated that the Delaware River watershed contributes over $10 billion in annual economic activity to the tri-state region of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Delaware River is directly responsible for over 200,000 jobs and $4.3 billion in annual wages and indirectly responsible for an additional 230,000 jobs and $3.4 billion in annual wages. Overall, there are 2,900,000 jobs contained within the watershed and $149 billion in annual wages.

In addition to the creation of the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, the bill also authorizes $5 million a year in competitive grant funding that will support local, on-the-ground, voluntary restoration projects led by nonprofits, universities, state and local governments, and others, with a maximum federal share of 75 percent.

About the Delaware River Watershed

The Delaware River watershed stretches more than 300 miles from the Catskill Mountains in New York to the mouth of the Delaware Bay in Delaware. The land area of the watershed is 13,600 square miles, including nearly 1,000 miles in Delaware, and is home to more than eight million people. More than 15 million people depend on the Delaware River as a source of drinking water, including the populations of the first and fifth most populous cities in the U.S., New York and Philadelphia. The Delaware River watershed comprises 50 percent of the land area and 72 percent of the population of Delaware (and 26 percent of the land area and 20 percent of the population in New Jersey, and 7 percent of the land area and 30 percent of the population in Pennsylvania), and includes the tributaries of the Brandywine and Christina rivers, the C&D Canal, and the Delaware Bay.

Despite being such a critical resource for so many people, there is no federal program dedicated to the Delaware River like there are for other nationally-significant watersheds like the Chesapeake Bay and the Long Island Sound. The Delaware River Basin Conservation Program creates a voluntary restoration program led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to address this federal void and leverage and coordinate restoration efforts in the watershed.