Conservation in the Delaware at Stake in Trump Administration Budget Proposal

President Trump released a more detailed budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 recommending severe cuts to the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, among other areas. If enacted, these reductions would result in the elimination of funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Chesapeake Bay Program, and other geographic watershed programs, as well as the National Estuary Program and critical water quality research and support grants that go directly to the states. This would halt critical work around the country that has shown real success in protecting, preserving, and restoring our nation’s waters.

Photograph by Nicholas A. Tonelli.

Photograph by Nicholas A. Tonelli.

"Investing in the restoration of our nation’s watersheds yields tremendous returns, from improved drinking water quality and enhanced habitat for fish and wildlife. In addition to natural benefits, investment in our watersheds provides a many fold return in direct economic benefits that result from tourism, outdoor recreation, and related activities. It is short-sighted to decimate funding for these crucial programs, and a proposal we plan to fight as hard as we can,” said Drew Tompkins, public policy coordinator of New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.

The Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, which was established at the very end of last year within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has yet to receive funding and could lose out if this limited budget were approved by Congress. The program sets out to identify, prioritize, and implement restoration and protection projects throughout the watershed while supporting locally-led projects through technical assistance and a new grant program.

This non-regulatory, bottom-up approach is intended to support critical conservation work across the watershed by leveraging private investment as part of the 50 percent non-federal match requirement for the grant program.

“Conservation of the natural resources in major watershed across the country has garnered strong bi-partisan support in Washington, DC for years, and this commitment was recently extended to the Delaware when Congress passed the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act in December 2016.” said Madeline Emde, Conservation Associate for the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed at New Jersey Audubon.

While funds have not yet been appropriated for this new program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already started to develop of a basin-wide strategy for this important work. The Service began mapping out a framework for the program in January and coordinated closely with the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed and other stakeholders in the basin to accurately reflect the needs and potential solutions to challenges in the watershed.

This investment is laudable, but the Service will need much more to implement the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program strategy. The 14.5 percent cut to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s budget in the Administration’s FY 2018 proposal is consequently disconcerting.  

“We are troubled to see the lack of support for the Department of Interior and regional watershed programs similar to the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program in the proposed budget,” said Madeline Urbish, Director of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed at New Jersey Audubon, “We are hopeful, however, given the overwhelming public and bi-partisan Congressional support for this issue and look forward to working with our members of Congress to ensure the program is funded through the appropriations process.”

It is imperative that Congress follow through on its intent when it authorized the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program last year and provide robust funding sufficient to implement the framework mapped out by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed unites over 110 organizations working throughout the region to share information, leverage resources, and enhance their capacity to effectively advocate for protecting and restoring the Delaware River Basin. It works to achieve this mission by coordinating communications, messages, and actions fostering accountability for success at the federal, state, and local levels. The Coalition is coordinated by New Jersey Audubon in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation.

 

Firm stance on Flexible Flow Management Plan could have big impacts for the Delaware River

By Jeff Skelding

The management of the New York City Delaware River reservoirs near the top of the watershed has many implications for the entire basin. Water releases from the reservoirs are used to meet downstream flow targets, repel the northward migration of the salt front from the Delaware Bay, maximize recreational opportunities, and ensure healthy aquatic habitat. 

The current reservoir management plan expires on May 31, 2017, and the Decree Parties (NY, NJ, PA, DE, and NYC) have been unable to reach agreement on a long-term plan that meets the needs of all watershed stakeholders. For the past 5 years, the parties have approved consecutive one-year extensions of an unchanged management plan. 

There's a new twist this year. In February 2017, the State of New Jersey declared it would not agree to another extension. In the absence of a unanimous agreement of the parties, this sets the stage for a return to a 1980's reservoir management approach known as "Revision 1." Water releases under Revision 1 will be dramatically lower than under the current plan and the entire river system stands to suffer. The parties continue to negotiate, but with each passing day, the likelihood of Revision 1 looms increasingly larger. 

Coalition member, Friends of the Upper Delaware River, is asking groups and individuals to call or email the decree party principals to urge them to protect the Delaware River.

The message is simple: Work together to develop a reservoir management plan before June 1 that avoids Revision 1 and provides strong environmental and economic protections for the entire watershed.

 

Led by Executive Director Jeff Skelding, Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR) works to protect, preserve, and enhance the cold-water ecosystem of the Upper Delaware River Watershed, addressing any environmental threats for the benefit of local communities, residents, and visitors to the region. FUDR is a founding member of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed and serves as the Coalition’s State Outreach Lead in New York.

Presidential Budget Takes Aim at Restoration Programs Nationwide

Yesterday, President Trump released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 recommending the elimination of funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Chesapeake Bay Program, and other geographic watershed programs – a total reduction of $427 million from last year’s support. This would bring to a standstill these critical programs aimed at protecting, preserving, and restoring our nation's waters.

President Obama Signs Conservation Law for Delaware River Basin

On December 16, 2016, President Obama officially signed the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (DRBCA) into law as part of a larger legislative package known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation (WIIN) Act. The WIIN Act passed earlier this month with an overwhelming majority in both chambers of Congress and will provide over $10 billion in federal investment for water resources and infrastructure projects nationally, including this critical authorization for the Delaware River Basin.

Congress Passes the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act

The U.S. Congress passed the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (DRBCA) on December 10, 2016 as part of a larger legislative package known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation (WIIN) Act, previously called the Water Resources Development Act. The WIIN Act was passed by a majority of 78 to 21 in the Senate and 360 to 61 in the House of Representatives.

What does the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act mean for the Upper Delaware River?

Watershed constituencies in the Upper Delaware River region in New York State are increasingly adopting a new ethic about the importance of river protection and how that contributes to a healthy business climate in an impoverished area that desperately needs economic revitalization. As the New York State Outreach Lead for the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR) is leading the charge in building coalitions, working with landowners, and engaging elected officials in this new dialogue and it is starting to pay off.

Congratulations to Philadelphia Water on 5 Years of Green City, Clean Waters

To many of us, when we think of clean water, the first thing that might come to mind is a trickling, tree-lined stream meandering its way down a hillside. That’s certainly a great example of clean water, and it’s an image that we at PennFuture and our many partners in the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed strive to protect. But, a good deal of work to achieve clean water, especially for our cities’ drinking supplies, is done in urban settings – like the empty lots and crowded alleyways of our urban centers.