Defending the Delaware River: One Year After the DRBCA

Defending the Delaware River: One Year After the DRBCA

By Madeline Urbish

CDRW was in Washington D.C. earlier this month to advocate for the DRBRP.

CDRW was in Washington D.C. earlier this month to advocate for the DRBRP.

This past Saturday we celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act’s (DRBCA) enactment. On December 16, 2016, President Barack Obama signed the DRBCA into law establishing, for the first time, a federal program dedicated to protecting and restoring the Delaware River Basin.

After over six years of tireless work from our advocates in the environmental community and champions in Congress, the Delaware River Basin was given the recognition it was denied for so long.

The river basin covers the four-state, 13,500 square-mile region that drains into the Delaware River. Across Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, the Delaware River Basin supplies clean, reliable drinking water to over 15 million people, supports $25 billion in annual economic activity, and provides over $21 billion in ecological services each year.

At a time when Congress seems to be doing less and less – fewer than 3% of bills were passed and signed into the law since 2010 – moving the DRBCA across the finish line was an unprecedented accomplishment.

The DRBCA created the non-regulatory Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP) and directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to bring partners from the nonprofit community, state and local governments, universities, and other sectors to comprehensively address some of the region’s greatest challenges. The program identifies and prioritizes projects to restore natural resources, monitor water quality, and ensure public access along the river, among others. Importantly, the DRBRP also includes a grant component to provide money to local communities for on-the-ground projects such as tree planting, water quality monitoring, and wetlands restoration. This work can help improve our streams, protect our community from flooding, and restore previously decimated fish populations.

In a normal time, funding this program would be a no-brainer. It is clear that we are not operating under normal circumstances. In September, the House of Representatives approved $5 million for the DRBRP. Since then, Congress has passed two continuing resolutions to keep the government open, but they have not included this funding. Now, a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives have sent a letter to leadership calling on them to include DRBRP funding in whatever final spending package is approved before the next budget deadline (currently December 22nd).

We must continue advocating for our region and our river. Now is the time for the public to contribute their voice to protecting the Delaware by contacting members of Congress and urging them to support the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program this December. The Delaware River provides so much for so many, and it’s our responsibility to safeguard its future.

Complete this action alert to help ensure funding for the DRBRP today!

Update: Congress is planning to pass a temporary budget to keep the government running until January 19, 2018. That means that the DRBRP will likely not be voted on until January 19th, as well. This extension means we have more time to reach out to members of Congress in order to stress the importance of the Delaware River on our health, economy, and environment.

 

86,000 Miles of Streams: Protecting Pennsylvania's Trout

86,000 Miles of Streams: 
Protecting Pennsylvania's Trout

By Rob Shane, Mid-Atlantic Organizer for Trout Unlimited

Pennsylvania is home more than 86,000 miles of rivers, streams, and creeks - second in the United States only to Alaska. That’s three-and-a-half trips around the Earth. Thirty trips from Los Angeles to New York. It’s five times more than the 10 largest rivers in America combined.

These 86,000 miles provide clean drinking water to Pennsylvania’s residents, water for crops and livestock, and recreation opportunities for boaters and paddlers.

When we at Trout Unlimited (TU) look at those 86,000 miles, the first thing we think of is that they’re home to wild trout – a lot of them.

TU’s mission is to protect, connect, and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. We can’t protect those fisheries if we don’t first know where they are, so since 2011, TU has been conducting stream surveys to document and protect unknown populations of wild trout in the state’s streams. This project, the Unassessed Waters Initiative (UWI) spear-headed by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, has led to the discovery of wild trout in more than 40 percent of streams surveyed. Over the past year, Pennsylvania has protected more than 1,000 miles of newly identified wild trout streams.

Nationally, our 300,000 members and supporters donated over 700,000 hours of volunteer time in 2017 to protect more than 3 million acres of land and waterways, reconnect 750 miles of streams, and restore 310 miles of streams. In Pennsylvania alone, TU boasts more than 13,000 members and 49 chapters—the most in the country. With that many miles of wild trout streams to protect, it’s easy to see why. 

Award-winning filmmaker Sam Dean from Virginia recently spent some time in the field with TU’s UWI team, producing the video below on the effort.

Pennsylvania now has 15,000 miles of wild trout streams, including 2,000 miles of Class A waters, which have the largest populations. Counting linked upstream stretches, wild trout protections cover more than 35,000 stream miles.

Locating these populations is critical given the ongoing natural gas boom in the Marcellus Shale region. More than 10,000 natural gas wells have been “fracked” in the Keystone State over the past decade. As many as 25,000 miles of new pipelines could be built in the state by 2030. The projected development of the shale fields would require hundreds of stream crossings and disturb tens of thousands of acres of forests — many of which contain the headwater streams wild trout call home.

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Deforestation and construction leads to increased sedimentation in streams, erosion on stream banks, and rising water temperatures, all of which are detrimental to critical trout habitat. Pennsylvania’s Wild Trout Water designation affords these streams additional protections under state regulations.

TU’s Mid-Atlantic policy team continues to advocate for wild trout protections in the Marcellus Shale region. For more information on how you can get involved in these efforts, contact David Kinney, Mid-Atlantic Policy Director, at dkinney@tu.org, or Rob Shane, Mid-Atlantic Organizer, at rshane@tu.org.

What Does the Delaware River Mean to You?: Contest Gives Voice to Different Delaware River Experiences

The Delaware River Watershed crosses through mountains, valleys, cities, and rural landscapes from the headwaters in New York, and down through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The Delaware River means so many different things to different people, from boaters and anglers, to photographers and bird-watchers. Whether it’s spending summers in the Delaware Bay with friends, or hunting in the thickly wooded forests of Mount Pocono – the Delaware River holds a special significance in the hearts of many. The Delaware River Means campaign seeks to capture these different experiences and highlight the varied importance of the River with a four-phased contest that runs from 2017 to 2018.  

Long-Term Agreement in Place for NYC Delaware River Reservoirs

On October 20, 2017, after 5 years of stalemate, a new long-term management plan for the NYC Upper Delaware River reservoirs was adopted by the 1954 Supreme Court Decree Parties (NY, PA, NJ, DE, and NYC). For decades, the management of the NYC Delaware River reservoirs was driven by a relatively narrow set of water resource considerations primarily focused on water supply. The Decree Parties spent most of their time divvying up Delaware River water to satisfy parochial and sometimes competing needs. However, as the years went by, the complexity of water resource management challenges began to increase.

Funding for Delaware River Basin Restoration Program Approved amidst Cuts to Critical Environmental Programs

Today, funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program advanced amidst cuts to other critical environmental programs. The U.S. House of Representatives approved $1.2 trillion as a package of twelve bills to appropriate funds for many government programs. The package, HR 3354, specified funding for Departments of Interior, EPA, NOAA and other related and unrelated agencies. Cuts to critical programs as well as riders which will weaken environmental protections were included. If approved, this spending package could harm public health, natural resources and habitat by cutting funding for many critical programs. Some of those proposed cuts include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a cut of more than $500 million and cuts to climate change research among many others.

Delaware River Featured in New Contest to Promote Local Stories and Photos for a Chance to Win Prizes

The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), in collaboration with the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, and the Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, has launched the “Delaware River Means” campaign. This online photo and story entry contest focuses on the benefits and experiences around the Delaware River Watershed, aiming to engage residents of and visitors to the Watershed in appreciating its unique qualities.