The measure was first introduced by then-Delaware Congressman Mike Castle in 2010. Five years later, it finally got a committee hearing in Washington.
Not only was the hearing a long time in coming, attention for the Delaware River basin is overdue as well. That’s according to Delaware Congressman John Carney who is one of the primary sponsors of the measure.
At Thursday morning’s hearing, Carney told House Natural Resources Committee members that while other watersheds around the country receive dedicated funding every year for conservation efforts, the Delaware River basin does not. “One of the nation’s most important watersheds has no dedicated funding source and only receives a small fraction of national conservation and restoration funding.”
The conservation act would address that lack of funding and provide $5 million per year to fund grant programs to protect the Delaware River basin. Those grants would “support work done by state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and universities,” Carney said.
Carney was joined at the hearing by National Wildlife Federation president and CEO and former head of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Collin O’Mara. O’Mara said this measure is an example of what is right in federal policy. “It’s encouraging collaboration among key partners, it’s sparking innovation,” O’Mara said.
Improving the basin now could make it more resilient to future storms and sea level rise. “If we can drive investments in this region through non-regulatory means that improve water quality, that improve storm resilience, that improve habitat, when there are storms and other impacts…the Delaware would be less in need of federal assistance,” O’Mara said.
The measure has bipartisan support with nine Republicans and eight Democrats listed as co-sponsors. Most of those sponsors represent districts that are in the basin which includes parts of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.
The basin provides drinking water to more than 8 million residents inside the basin, including those living in two of the nation’s largest cities: New York and Philadelphia. It also provides drinking water for another 8 million people who live outside the basin. “This program is crucial to ensuring the Delaware River basin can continue to serve the communities that depend on it,” Carney said.