$300k victory

EPF line-item grants funds to Upper Delaware River

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 4/26/22

UPPER DELAWARE REGION — The beauty of the Upper Delaware River has significant impacts on the region’s economy, as tourists come to visit and as homebuyers flock to the area’s …

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$300k victory

EPF line-item grants funds to Upper Delaware River

Posted

UPPER DELAWARE REGION — The beauty of the Upper Delaware River has significant impacts on the region’s economy, as tourists come to visit and as homebuyers flock to the area’s houses.

Some of these impacts were highlighted in “Making Connections,” a 2018 report from the National Parks Conservation Association. It cited earlier studies to report $10.5 million in spending by visitors to National Park Service sites in the region, $305 million in economic activity from the region’s cold-water fishing and boating and $159 million in annual state and local tax revenue from tourism in the region.

As the region has boomed throughout the course of the pandemic, those economic impacts have only increased. Sullivan County saw the largest year-over-year growth in county sales tax collections in the state in 2021. Local sales tax collections increased 31.5 percent.

A provision in the latest New York state budget will help bring some of that money back to invest in the region’s beauty and sustainability, with a $300,000 line item for the Upper Delaware in the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).

The EPF funds capital projects that protect the environment and preserve communities across the state. Grants are available for projects such as conserving farmland, upgrading municipal sewage treatment plants and controlling invasive species.

The Upper Delaware-specific line item is the result of  a three-year campaign from an alliance of regional organizations, including the Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR) and the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV).

Last year, FUDR, NYLCV and the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed held a press conference on August 5, 2021. The three groups announced the formation of the Alliance for the Upper Delaware River Watershed, with 30-plus organizations and individuals dedicated to gathering state funding and technical resources. Guests Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and Sen. Mike Martucci promised to support the effort in Albany.

“This is a really big victory for us and for all our parties,” said Jeff Skelding, executive director of FUDR. He credits Gunther and Martucci with a major role in securing the funding; “We couldn’t have done it without these two river champions representing our interests in Albany.”

The money will help the Upper Delaware region take advantage of funding available through the federal Delaware River Basin Restoration Program. That program provides funding for restoration, protection and recreation projects all along the river.

FUDR and Trout Unlimited have secured over $4 million from that program for the region since 2018. But it comes with strict matching requirements, says Skelding, and it has gotten harder to find matching funds as the years have progressed. The money from the state EPF can be used to match federal funding, which would give the river a consistent source of support.

The EPF line item will also bring money to a region that has been historically underserved.

New York City has funded preservation and restoration efforts above the reservoirs at the head of the Delaware River to protect the quality of its drinking water, and sections of the river downstream from Port Jervis have had their own sources of funding. The section of the Delaware River between those points has until now not had the same level of investment, says Skelding.

The EPF funding will support projects that help protect the ecology of the river and enhance its recreational opportunities. Projects that FUDR supports include the replacement of culverts throughout the watershed, which helps prevent flooding, and the fortification of stream banks, which helps protect against erosion.

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