The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act Would Create Federal Program Dedicated to Strengthening Water Quality & Conserving Watershed

Delaware River Watershed Directly Responsible for $149 Billion in Annual Wages, With Estimated 200,000 Jobs in Tourism and Agriculture

Schumer, Gillibrand: Delaware River Vital to Upstate Economy, Deserves a Federal Conservation Program

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today introduced legislation that would improve and preserve the overall wellness and quality of the Delaware River watershed. The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2015 will strengthen the environmental health of the watershed while also spurring the Delaware River watershed region’s economy. The Delaware River is not just a key resource for important habitat and recreational activity, but — from tourism to industry to agriculture — it is also a vital generator of economic activity for the region. The Delaware River is directly responsible for an estimated $4.3 billion in annual wages, with $149 billion in annual wages contained within the watershed. However, despite the impact on so many people, Schumer and Gillibrand said the Delaware River lacks a federal program dedicated to its conservation, unlike other nationally significant watersheds, like the Chesapeake Bay and the Long Island Sound.

“The Delaware River and its watershed are not only special to the heritage of Upstate, it is also vital to the regional economy. The Delaware River watershed pours both good-paying jobs and clean drinking water into Upstate New York, which is why it is so important that we coordinate conservation efforts by creating a federal program dedicated to improving its quality and protection. This legislation is a sound investment in both our economy and our environment, as it will ensure that New Yorkers and residents in nearby states can reap the benefits of the Delaware River watershed for years to come,” said Senator Schumer.

 “Whether it’s clean drinking water, flooding mitigation, or tourism and recreation; the Delaware River Basin is a vital economic anchor for New York that must be protected,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “This legislation will foster coordination and partnerships that will help conserve the watershed and enhance the economy and jobs that depend on it.” 

This legislation was cosponsored by Schumer and Gillibrand along with Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Robert Casey (D-Penn.). According to a 2011 comprehensive study of the region, more than 200,000 jobs are estimated to be directly tied to the Delaware River, with nearly 3 million jobs contained within the watershed. The Delaware River also houses the nation’s largest fresh water port, the Delaware River Port Complex. The complex is estimated to generate more than $19 billion in economic activity annually. About one-fifth of the upper watershed lies within New York State. The headwaters originate in the Catskill Mountains and eventually flow into Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2015 would establish the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The program would implement a coordinated approach, requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director to adopt a basin-wide plan that sustains and enhances the Delaware River basin restoration and protection efforts. The program would support projects from federal, state, and local governments and stakeholders, ensuring that existing successful restoration plans are leveraged. In addition to the creation of the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, the bill would establish $5 million in annual competitive grant funding that assists voluntary, non-regulatory, on-the-ground restoration projects across the four-state region, with a maximum federal share of 50 percent.

The Delaware River watershed stretches more than 300 miles from the Catskill Mountains in New York to the mouth of the Delaware Bay in Delaware. The land area of the watershed is 13,600 square miles, including nearly 1,000 miles in Delaware, and is home to more than eight million people. More than 16 million people depend on the Delaware River as a source of drinking water, including the populations of the first and fifth most populous cities in the U.S., New York and Philadelphia. The Delaware River watershed comprises 50 percent of the land area and 72 percent of the population of Delaware (and 26 percent of the land area and 20 percent of the population in New Jersey, and 7 percent of the land area and 30 percent of the population in Pennsylvania), and includes the tributaries of the Brandywine and Christina rivers, the C&D Canal, and the Delaware Bay.


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