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Senators Say NY-NJ Watershed Protection Act Will Address Ongoing Threats To Watershed From Climate Change And Improve Water Quality Of One Of The Nation’s Most Populous Watersheds

Schumer, Gillibrand: This Is Our Watershed Moment To Turn The Tide On Restoring The Hudson River And New York’s Scenic Waterways

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today made a splash by reintroducing the bipartisan New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act, legislation that supports the restoration and protection of the vital water resources of the Hudson, Mohawk, and Raritan Rivers and their tributaries. This bill would help $20 million in new federal grant funding flow annually to these waterways across New York and New Jersey to help restore this vital natural resource that is home to over 15 million people and is one of the Empire State’s greatest beauties and economic engines.

“The New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act will turn the tide for the cleanup and restoration of our waterways from the Hudson River to Jamaica Bay and ensure the environmental beauty of our region flows for generations to come,” said Senate Majority Leader Schumer. “New York’s beautiful rivers and waterways generate billions in economic activity, provide critical pathways for both commerce and recreation, and improve the quality of life for millions of residents across the state. I am proud to co-sponsor of this important piece of legislation, which aims to address negative impacts of legacy pollution while placing the needs of frontline communities affected by environmental injustice at the forefront. I’ll fight tooth and nail to get this across the finish line so we can set sail for a cleaner and more equitable future.”

“Investing in our waterways is critical to the health and vitality of our region’s water resources and ecosystems, as well as to our local economies and communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act will invest in restoration and protection efforts and fund effective watershed management strategies, support conservation efforts and promote partnerships between stakeholders. The bill will ensure that future generations can benefit from this important natural treasure.”

The New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act of 2023:

1. Establishes a new program, administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and modeled on other successful regional watershed restoration programs, to coordinate restoration efforts around local and state sponsored plans.

2. Ensures that restoration efforts utilize science-based principles to protect fish and wildlife habitat, improve water quality, increase public access to the watershed, mitigate flood risks, and develop public outreach and educational activities.

3. Emphasizes the need for restoration funds to be delivered to frontline communities experiencing environmental injustice.

4. Authorizes $20,000,000 annually for watershed restoration grants through Fiscal Year 2029.

Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand have long advocated for environmental justice and cleaning up our New York waterways through various legislative actions and funding allocations. Both co-sponsored the New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act last year during the 117th Congress. They have consistently fought to address water contamination, expedite Superfund designations, and championed efforts to clean up toxic PFAS chemicals to protect public health across New York State. The senator’s secured $14.45 billion to reinstate certain Superfund fees that will be collected over the next 10 years to provide a steady stream of funding to clean up Superfund sites. Last year, the duo secured $18.61 million in federal funding for the restoration of Jamaica Bay Stony Creek Marsh Island, an initiative aimed at restoring the marsh and spur habitat restoration, helping to clean waterways and protect communities from extreme weather events. The pair has also worked for years to clean up the PFAS found in Orange County’s drinking water supply flowing from Stewart Air National Guard Base.

Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand have been working closely with Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson in the development of the New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act. These organizations have been pushing for the passage of this legislation to help restore and protect the health of the Hudson, Mohawk, and Raritan Rivers and their tributaries. Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper are among the more than 50 organizations that support the bill, which also include NY/NJ Baykeeper, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Hudson River Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund Action, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Federation, New York League of Conservation Voters, The Nature Conservancy – New Jersey, and The Nature Conservancy – New York.

The close partnership between these organizations and the senators underscores their shared commitment to preserving New York's natural resources for future generations.

"The reintroduction of the NY-NJ Watershed Protection Act in both the Senate and House is a momentous occasion for the Hudson-Mohawk Rivers and the greater watershed. This legislation creates a program that will fund projects aimed at restoring our rivers through science-based rewilding efforts. Moreover, it will bolster climate resilience, protect drinking water, improve waterfront access, and support environmental justice initiatives. It's been long overdue, and this kind of support is critical for the health of our regional waterways. While other iconic rivers, lakes, and bays have benefited from federal funding for similar programs for years, the Hudson has been left behind - but not for much longer. We extend our gratitude to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for investing in the future of the Hudson. Riverkeeper looks forward to working with our senators to secure the funding our Hudson River and greater watersheds deserve," said Jeremy Cherson, Senior Manager of Government Affairs for Riverkeeper.

“The Hudson River and the watersheds of New York and New Jersey provide enormous economic and environmental benefits not just to the region but the entire nation. Along with supplying the country’s most densely populated regions with clean water, they host some of the busiest U.S. ports and provide opportunities for tourism and outdoor recreation,” said Andy Bicking, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy for Scenic Hudson. “This legislation will inform and guide management and conservation actions for decades to come through targeted federal involvement that listens to and builds upon the hard work of local communities. I'm so grateful for the great work that New York and New Jersey's Senate and House delegations have put into this legislation and look forward to working with them to pass the measure."

The House bill is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Jefferson Van Drew (R-NJ), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Mike Lawler (R-NY), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), and Marc Molinaro (R-NY).

“For too long, our New York-New Jersey Watershed has been grossly underfunded, despite being America’s most populated watershed,” said Representative Tonko. “I’ve long pushed to support this critical waterway, driving forward federal restoration efforts that will have massive ripple effects, including protecting communities from flood risks, supporting local wildlife, improving water quality, and driving economic growth. Our Watershed Protection Act recognizes the environmental, economic, and community importance of our watershed. I’m grateful to my colleagues in the House and Senate who are standing in support of this bill and urge Congress to advance this bipartisan, commonsense bill at once.”

“New York and New Jersey share nearly 500 miles of coastline that play a critical role in generating billions in revenue, promoting tourism, and protecting our communities from storm surges and rising seas,” said Representative Malliotakis. “In recent years, hazardous waste, chemicals, and untreated wastewater have diminished the quality of water in the NY-NJ watershed, putting our already vulnerable waterways at risk. I’m proud to have joined my colleagues in cosponsoring this critical piece of legislation that supports federal restoration efforts, improves our water quality, and mitigates flood risks in our communities.”

The full list of supporting organizations and their statements can be found here.

The full text of the bill can be found here.