The following presentations were delivered at the 4th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum as part of a series of breakout sessions.
Breakout Session 1: Regions of the Delaware River Watershed
The Delaware River Watershed is a diverse region that is home to every variety of landscape, from major urban and suburban zones to rural agricultural and forested areas. The watershed is generally broken up into four regions: the Upper Delaware, the Central Delaware, the Lower Delaware, and the Delaware Bay and Estuary. This set of breakout sessions focused on the individual regions and the challenges and opportunities that are unique to each one. Participants heard about the lessons learned so far from the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI) and the work taking place in and outside the clusters within the regions, as well as engaged in a conversation about how these takeaways can be expanded beyond the DRWI.
Upper Delaware Region:
- Peter Howell, Executive Vice President for Conservation Capital & Research Program, Open Space Institute
Central Delaware Region
- Bill Rawlyk, Mid-Atlantic Field Coordinator, Open Space Institute
Lower Delaware Region
- Carol Collier, P.P., AICP, Senior Advisor-Watershed Management & Policy, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
- Patrick Starr, Executive Vice President, Pennsylvania Environmental Council (Upstream Suburban Philadelphia Cluster)
- Kim Murphy, President, Berks Nature (Middle Schuylkill Cluster)
- Peter Williamson, Vice President of Conservation Services, Natural Lands Trust (Schuylkill Highlands Cluster)
- Seung Ah Byun, Ph.D., Senior Planner for Water Resources, Brandywine Conservancy (Brandywine & Christina Cluster)
Delaware Bay & Estuary Region
- Roland Wall, Senior Director of Environmental Initiatives, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel Univeristy
Breakout Session Two: Planning in the Watershed
This set of breakout sessions focused on different planning efforts taking place in the watershed, as well as innovative projects and initiatives being implemented by organizations working in the Delaware River Basin. Following the presentations, participants helped envision what’s needed for a fishable, swimmable, drinkable Delaware.
Building Blocks for a Watershed-Wide Plan
The Delaware River Watershed is a large region that requires comprehensive planning to protect the vital water resources it supports. Participants heard presentations on different wide-scale planning efforts taking place in the watershed, as well as learned about tools that can support these planning processes. Presenters and participants engaged in a facilitated discussion about how these efforts can lay the foundation for a watershed-wide plan, and what gaps still exist in these types of regional planning efforts.
- Steven Tambini, P.E., Executive Director, Delaware River Basin Commission
Forest Stewardship Planning to Protect Water Quality
Forests make up a significant portion of the Delaware River Watershed and are a major factor in the health of its water resources. Participants learned about forest stewardship management planning efforts taking shape in different areas of the Watershed, and engaged in a facilitated discussion about how such planning efforts play a key role in protecting and restoring water quality in the Delaware River Basin.
- Andrew Loza, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Land Trust Association
Connecting to the Public Through Environmental Centers and Trails
Connecting the public with the water resources of our region through recreation and education is essential to promoting a healthy Delaware River Watershed. Participants learned about the William Penn Foundation’s support of the Circuit Trails and an initiative to create a network of environmental centers, and engaged in a facilitated discussion around best practices and the benefits of connecting people with the Delaware River and its many tributaries in an effort to build a constituency and future advocates for a healthy Delaware River Basin.
- Michele Perch, Program Associate, William Penn Foundation
Engaging Business in Sustainability Work
The business community is an essential partner in the work we do to ensure a healthy Delaware River Watershed region. Participants in this session heard from organizations that are working closely with the private sector to engage businesses in promoting sustainable practices, environmental conservation, and water quality protection. Following the presentations, participants engaged in a facilitated discussion on how the lessons learned by other organizations and projects can be replicated and incorporated in planning throughout the Watershed.
- Daniel Nees, Director, Environmental Finance Center of the University of Maryland
Planning for Climate Change
Climate change is beginning to impact our country and our region. Participants in this session heard about efforts to plan for a changing climate in our the Delaware River Basin and discussed how these plans can be incorporated in the development a broader watershed-wide management plan.
- Eric Olsen, Delaware River and Bay Project Coordinator, The Nature Conservancy
- Claire Jantz, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Land Use and Sustainability, Shippensburg University
- Emma Melvin, Bayshore Program Director, American Littoral Society
- Christopher Linn, Manager of the Office of Environmental Planning, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
Breakout Session Three: Watershed Policy
In this set of breakout sessions, participants learned about the implementation of current policies in the watershed as well as different policy options aimed at water quality and wildlife habitat protection, increasing access to natural areas for underserved communities, energy infrastructure regulation, abandoned mine reclamation, and other conservation practices.
Clean Water Act Implementation Across the States
The Clean Water Act has been instrumental in protecting and improving our nation’s waterways, however, its implementation is not uniform across the country, including the four state of the Delaware River Watershed. Participants heard presentations on how the Clean Water Act is being used by the states of the river basin, and engaged in a facilitated discussion about the gaps that still exist in the law’s implementation and how the Coalition and its partners can work with policymakers to improve water quality protection.
- Ellen Kohler, Esq., Ellen J. Kohler, LLC
Why Wildlife Matters for Water Quality Policy
Water quality and wildlife habitat are intertwined in many respects, leading many organizations dedicated to wildlife protection to focus on water quality as well. Participants heard presentations on how wildlife habitat messaging can be and is used to promote water quality policy and engaged in a facilitated discussion around effectively incorporating wildlife habitat into policies aimed at water quality protection.
- Rachel Dawson, Senior Manager for the Delaware River, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
- Jeff Skelding, Executive Director, Friends of the Upper Delaware
- Keith Curley, Vice President for Easter Conservation, Trout Unlimited
- Kyle Rorah, Government Affairs Representative, Ducks Unlimited
Providing Access to Underserved Communities
Ensuring all people and communities have access to the natural resources of our region is para-mount to creating an engaged constituency for the Delaware River Watershed across its diverse landscape. Participants learned about policies and programs aimed at increasing underserved communities’ access to the Delaware River and its surrounding environments and tributaries, and engaged in a facilitated discussion around applying the principles introduced in the presentations and increasing access to natural resources and recreation throughout the Watershed.
- Julie Slavet, Executive Director, Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, Inc.
Energy Policy in the Watershed: Pipelines, Fracking, and Beyond
The proliferation of pipelines and other energy infrastructure in the Delaware River Watershed poses a significant challenge to water quality and land conservation policies in our region. Participants learned about efforts to address these challenges and engaged in a facilitated discussion about what is needed to address the concerns around energy infrastructure in the watershed from a policy perspective.
- Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters
Finding the Common Ground in Environmental Action
Working with decision makers on both sides of aisle is key to advancing important policies that protect our natural resources and water quality; however, that sometimes means working with legislators that do not recognize climate change as a substantive threat. Participants learned about successful efforts to engage policymakers on both sides of the aisle to advance efforts to protect the environment and water quality, and engaged in a facilitated discussion around effective communication and advocacy tools for engaging decision makers who are resistant to accepting climate change as a reality.
- Stephanie Pendergrass Dalke, Projector Director of Common Waters Partnership, Pinchot Institute for Conservation
- Matt Stepp, Policy Director, PennFuture
- Robert Hughes, Executive Director, Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation
- Julie Sibbing, Senior Director of Agriculture and Forestry Programs, National Wildlife Federation