President’s 2020 Budget Proposal Lacks Delaware River Investment
By Rita Yelda, Outreach & Communications Manager, Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed
The decisions made by our nation’s leaders today will impact generations to come. This statement couldn’t be truer of investment in our natural resources, including life-sustaining water. Waterways within the Delaware River Watershed provide drinking water, recreation, wildlife habitat, and economic stimulus for New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
Prioritizing the Delaware River Watershed is essential to the health and vitality of Mid-Atlantic states, as the watershed provides 15 million people with drinking water, supports hundreds of vulnerable wildlife species, brings in $25 billion annually in economic activity.
Bearing the significance of the Delaware River Watershed in mind, it’s disappointing to see that President Trump’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020 either reduces or completely excludes much needed funding for programs that provide direct benefits to the watershed.
The President’s 2020 budget proposal kicks the legs out from under some of the nation’s most important conservation programs by:
Including no funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, which is necessary for catalyzing on-the-ground conservation and restoration projects that address key issues facing watershed, such as conserving and restoring fish and wildlife habitat, improving and maintaining water quality, sustaining and enhancing water management and reducing flood damage, and improving recreational opportunities and public access.
Slashing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 95%, which has provided funding to protects parks, forests, open space, and watersheds. Over the last 50 years, the four states in the Delaware River Watershed have received over $1 billion from this fund to support public lands including the Appalachian Trail (NY & PA), Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (PA & NJ), Pinelands National Reserve (NJ), Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (DE), and the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River (PA & NY). President Trump should follow Congress’ lead by increasing funding, as Congress approved $435 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in fiscal year 2019, which was a $10 million increase.
Cutting the funding provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by approximately 31%, though this agency oversees and administers bedrock environmental protections on which we all rely, such as the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Resources must be given to agencies that determine the future state of our environment and protect public health.
Including no funding for the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), although the federal government agreed to “fair share” funding percentages in 1988. Without full funding, the DRBC, which serves as the main governing body for water resources issues, is unable to function at the level at which it was originally intended. The commission's policies, programs and abatement efforts must have the ability to adapt and evolve in order to continually improve the basin's water quality for future generations.
While we are dismayed to see critical funding for environmental programs cut or excluded from President Trump’s proposed budget, Congress will likely modify and strengthen the 2020 budget.
The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed went to Washington D.C. on March 12th for our annual Hill Day, where we met with Members of Congress that represent the watershed to advocate for clean water priorities. These delegates have shown bipartisan support for programs that benefit the Delaware River Watershed in the past, and we encouraged them to continue to do so in fiscal year 2020. Now is not the time for rollbacks, but rather a time for smart investment in our watershed for the people, wildlife, and businesses that rely on it.