Congress approves Delaware River program
UPDATE as of December 9: The Water Resources Development Act of 2016, which includes the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act, was passed by the Senate on Friday, December 9. It will now go to President Obama's desk to be signed.
DELAWARE RIVER BASIN — According to the advocacy group Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR), it seems likely that Congress will pass the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (DRBCA) this year.
A post on the FUDR website says, “We just heard that the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (DRBCA) will be included in the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA). While nothing in Congress is a sure thing until it happens, based on what we’re hearing right now, it is expected that both the House and Senate will approve the WRDA bill by the end of this week and send it to the President’s desk for passage into law.”
The office of Congressman Chris Gibson did not immediately respond to as question regarding the accuracy of the FUDR statement. Check www.riverreporteronline.com for updates.
The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act creates a restoration program for the river and the basin within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Through the program the federal government would provide $5 million to fund restoration and protection activities throughout the basin, which would be pursued through grants that could be distributed to state and local governments, nonprofits and universities.
The basin provides drinking water to over 15 million Americans including residents of New York City and Philadelphia.
The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed (www.delriverwa tershed.org) writes, “The Delaware River is the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi, traveling 300 miles from its headwaters in Hancock, NY down to the Delaware Estuary and Bay. The Watershed spans New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware through one of the most densely populated areas of the mid-Atlantic region. Within the Watershed’s boundaries are roughly one million acres of wetlands and about 50% is forested. Significant ecological and recreational assets include the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (one of the country’s most visited national parks, the more than 400 miles of waterways designated under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers program), six National Wildlife Refuges, and the highly complex Delaware Estuary, which is one of the most important shorebird migration sites in the world. This vast river system not only provides vital habitats for a rich variety of fish and wildlife species, but it’s also home to more than eight million residents, provides drinking water to another eight million people living outside its boundaries, and is critical to the economic well-being of the mid-Atlantic region.
Matt Sheehey of Congressman Chris Gibson's office sent this email on Wednesday:
I am pleased to report that the majority of that bill was incorporated into the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which is scheduled for a vote today in the House and very soon in the Senate.
Rep. Gibson was instrumental in advancing this legislation, which represents a significant victory for conservation, fishing, and economic development in our region and is supported by Trout Unlimited, Audubon, the Coalition of the Delaware River Watershed, and FUDR.
In addition to the Delaware River initiatives, the WIIN Act includes these sections of local interest:
Section 1177. Rehabilitation of Corps of Engineers Constructed Dams.
This section establishes a program for the Corps to carry out projects for the rehabilitation of high hazard potential dams constructed before 1940.
Section 5006. Rehabilitation of High Hazard Potential Dams.
This section amends the National Dam Safety Program Act to authorize Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide assistance to non-federal sponsor for the rehabilitation of high hazard potential dams in states with a dam safety program, subject to a non-federal cost share of at least 35 percent.