Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and six of his Senate colleagues introduced the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2015 to restore and preserve the Delaware River watershed. The legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons (both D-DE), Cory Booker and Robert Menendez (both D-NJ), and Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-NY) would strengthen the watershed’s environmental health as well as the region’s economy.
The Delaware River is a nationally significant resource – home to fish, wildlife, recreation and an active economy. The Delaware River is directly responsible for an estimated $25 billion in annual economic activity, and supports approximately 600,000 jobs with $10 billion in annual wages. It contributes $21 billion in ecosystem goods and services, and supports multiple commercial fisheries that draw tourism and generate more than $56 million in revenue each year.
Unlike the Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound, the Delaware River does not currently have a federal program dedicated to its conservation and livelihood.
“The Delaware River Basin is a critical part of our region’s environment and adds to Pennsylvania’s quality of life. The Delaware River provides 15 million people in Pennsylvania and surrounding states with water for drinking, agricultural and recreational use," Sen. Casey said. “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 watershed is crucial to Delaware and the region, and is a major source of ecological and economic vitality,” Sen. Carper said. “A vibrant ecosystem, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and 16 million Americans’ clean drinking water depend on it. This bill rightfully invests in the watershed and encourages innovative preservation strategies that would help to make those investments go further.”
“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” Senator Coons said. “This legislation will help protect our drinking water and ensure that we take a coordinated, long-term approach to manage the Basin’s environmental, economic, and cultural resources.”
“Investing in the Delaware River Basin is a win-win for our region’s ecosystems and our economy,” Sen. Menendez said. “The watershed provides clean drinking water for our towns and cities, supports our tourism and fishing industries, and provides a habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife. This legislation takes a comprehensive, regional approach to making sound decisions and investments to support this important resource.”
“The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act is vital to the environmental and economic health of our region,” Sen. Booker said. “From providing drinking water to millions of families to supporting recreational activities, the Basin plays a critical role in New Jersey’s economy and ecology. This bill will help provide for continued restoration and mitigation projects in the region, as well as facilitate local, state, regional, and federal partnerships to protect this watershed, and its many benefits, for generations to come.”
“The Delaware River and its watershed are not only special to the heritage of Upstate, it is also vital to the regional economy,” Sen. Schumer said. “The Delaware River watershed pours both good-paying jobs and clean drinking water into Upstate New York, which is why it is so important that we coordinate conservation efforts by creating a federal program dedicated to improving its quality and protection. This legislation is a sound investment in both our economy and our environment, as it will ensure that New Yorkers and residents in nearby states can reap the benefits of the Delaware River watershed for years to come.”
“Whether it’s clean drinking water, flooding mitigation, or tourism and recreation; the Delaware River Basin is a vital economic anchor for New York that must be protected,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “This legislation will foster coordination and partnerships that will help conserve the watershed and enhance the economy and jobs that depend on it.”
The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2015 would establish a Delaware River Basin Restoration Program in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The program would coordinate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director to identify and implement restoration and protection efforts across the river basin. The legislation requires consultation with federal and state agencies, regional partnerships, local governments, and other organizations that would ensure the program’s strategy is science-based, cost-effective and that it facilitates measurable outcomes.
Additionally, the bill would create a competitive and voluntary $5 million annual grant program to fund on-the-ground watershed restoration projects, with a maximum federal share of 50 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 about 6,400 square miles in Pennsylvania (half of the basin’s total land area), and is home to more than eight million people. More than 16 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 7 percent of the land area and 30 percent of the population in Pennsylvania (and 26 percent of the land area and 20 percent of the population in New Jersey, and 50 percent of the land area and 72 percent of the population of Delaware), and includes the tributaries of the Lackawaxen, Lehigh, and Schuylkill Rivers.