WILMINGTON, DEL. — U.S. Senator Tom Carper, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (both D-Del.), today reintroduced bicameral legislation to reauthorize the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (DRBCA).
Carper and Blunt Rochester, an original co-lead and sponsor of the legislation in the House of Representatives, made the announcement at an event highlighting the program’s success to date on the Wilmington Riverwalk, the site of one of the DRBCA’s projects. They were joined by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Secretary Kyla Hastie, Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Shawn Garvin, National Wildlife Federation President Collin O’Mara, Riverfront Development Corporation Executive Director Megan McGlinchey, and Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed Director Kelly Knuston.
“The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act has been a tremendous success story in bringing all levels of government together with community partners to restore and protect vital wetlands, habitats, and waterways,” said Senator Carper. “My hope is that we can build on this track record by reauthorizing this legislation and expanding the tools at our disposal to be better stewards of the Delaware River Basin. Enacting our bill would benefit our environment and economy by cleaning up an important source of drinking water, protecting wildlife in the watershed, and providing a boost to local tourism.”
“With a constant mission to make Delaware more resilient in the face of climate change, the reauthorization of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act is one of the most important things we can do,” said Senator Coons. “As our watershed goes, so goes the surrounding ecosystem, and our economy. Securing funds for this important protection as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee will always be a focus of mine, because it is always going to be the focus of those who rely on it.”
“The bipartisan Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (DRBCA) plays a critical role in helping us maintain our waterways, support diverse wildlife and their habitats, mitigate the impact of the climate crisis, and enhance water quality across the communities touched by the Delaware River Basin,” said Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, co-chair of the bipartisan Delaware River Watershed Caucus. “I’m thrilled to re-introduce the DRBCA in the House today alongside Senator Carper as he leads the Senate companion bill. Reauthorizing the DRBCA will help us continue those vital conservation efforts across the Delaware River Basin that are essential to keeping our environment healthy and our economy competitive.”
“The investments made possible by this Act are so important to our work to improve water quality, protect vital habitat and enhance outdoor recreational opportunities,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “We’re grateful to the federal delegation for their leadership in getting the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act reauthorized.”
“The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed (CDRW) applauds Senator Carper and Representative Blunt Rochester for their introduction of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act, which continues critical funding, bolstering our ability to protect and preserve the Basin and the people it serves. Senator Carper has been instrumental in raising national awareness of the Delaware River Watershed, and continues to be one of the most influential clean water champions. We’re fortunate to have him work with Rep. Blunt Rochester on important Delaware state and River environmental priorities, including the DRBCA reauthorization,” said Kelly Knutson, Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed director. “And while we applaud this important step, we also acknowledge there is much more work to be done, and believe members of Congress must not only reauthorize the DRBCA, but continue prioritizing the allocation of additional funding that supports the DRBCA long after 2030”
“The restoration projects fueled by the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act are rejuvenating America’s founding waterway,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Work, such as the river-friendly restoration effort along the Christina River waterfront, shows that when we work together, we can recover imperiled fish and wildlife populations, improve water quality, expand equitable recreational access, and create good jobs. Reauthorizing the DRBCA to ensure we can continue its success just makes sense “We are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Senator Carper and his colleagues as they work hard every day in Washington to bring home much needed funds for key projects across the Delaware Basin — from restoring shad runs by removing dilapidated dams on the Brandywine and White Clay to partnering with congregation and faith communities to replant critical wildlife habitat at houses of worship — and the best is yet to come.”
“We are grateful to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and US Fish & Wildlife Service for their support of our pilot project along the Wilmington Riverfront, and to Senator Carper and Congresswoman Blunt Rochester for committing to the reauthorization of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act, so that critical restoration and conservation efforts may continue in the Delaware River Watershed,” said Riverfront Development Corporation Executive Director Megan McGlinchey.
Signed into law in 2016, the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act has successfully brought federal, state, and local governments together with regional partners to identify, prioritize, and implement restoration activities within the Delaware River Basin. Grants through the legislation have assisted Delaware and other watershed states with restoration projects.
To date, the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund — funded through the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act — has awarded $40.4 million to 159 projects that support recreation, water quality, and habitat conservation. Grantees have matched that investment by a ratio of nearly 2-to-1 — a total conservation impact of more than $100 million.
The program has funded several diverse projects in Delaware including installing pollinator gardens at places of worship, dam removal in the White Clay Creek, improving fish passage in the Brandywine River, and restoring wetlands at Bombay Hook and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuges.
The legislation Carper and Blunt Rochester are introducing would reauthorize the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act through September 30, 2030, and make it easier for small, rural, and disadvantaged communities to engage in restoration projects.
Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined Carper to introduce the legislation in the Senate. Blunt Rochester will join Congressmen Dwight Evans (D-Pa.-3), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.-1) to introduce the legislation in the House.
The full text of the bill is available here