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.
“These restoration efforts offer a huge economic return on investment and should not face cuts, let alone being zeroed out,” said Ginger North, Director of Conservation at Delaware Nature Society. “Protected and restored watersheds provide clean drinking water, increase property values, support fish and wildlife, are vital for industry and transportation, and enhance outdoor recreation.”
In our region, the Delaware River Basin contributes $21 billion annually in ecosystem services such as water and air filtration and flood reduction. The Basin is also a huge economic powerhouse; each year it generates $25 billion economic activity throughout a variety of sectors from supporting agriculture and fisheries to providing world-class recreation opportunities.
“For years, Congress has shown strong bi-partisan support for these types of approaches in major watersheds across the country and has recently affirmed its commitment to the Delaware River Watershed, when it 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.
The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act establishes the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program within U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 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.
While the appropriations process has not yet begun for this new program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already initiated development of a basin-wide strategy to provide a framework for this important work.
“We are disappointed to see the lack of support for regional watershed programs similar to the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program in the proposed budget, but we are hopeful that the overwhelming public and bi-partisan Congressional support will ultimately give rise to a successful, funded program,” said Madeline Urbish, Director of the Coalition for the Delaware River at New Jersey Audubon. “If funded, this program stands to be a critical piece in protecting one of our nation’s most important river systems, the Delaware River Basin, which provides clean drinking water to over 15 million people.”
It is critical for Congress to follow through on its intent when it authorized the program just last year and provide robust funding sufficient to get this important program started.
The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, which unites nearly 100 organizations working throughout the region, will continue to work with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to secure funding to support clean water for the Delaware River Watershed.
The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed unites organizations working throughout the region to 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.