Policy Update May 6, 2024

NPCA Position on H.R. 1395, Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act

NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House Committee on Natural Resources ahead of a markup scheduled for May 7, 2024.

The Delaware River Basin is home to nationally significant assets including more than 400 miles of National Wild and Scenic Rivers, one of the country’s most visited national parks sites, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, six National Wildlife Refuges, and Delaware Bay, one of the largest systems in the National Estuary Program. The river basin is a powerhouse for the economy and home to more than 8 million people. Significantly, the watershed serves as the source of clean drinking water for 14 million people, or roughly five percent of the U.S. population, in the densely populated Mid-Atlantic region, including New York City and Philadelphia.

Signed into law in 2016, the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (DRBCA) has successfully brought federal, state, and local governments together with regional partners to identify, prioritize, and implement restoration activities within the Delaware River Basin. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Delaware River Basin Restoration Program takes a non-regulatory approach to landscape-scale conservation: it is voluntary, incentive driven, and builds upon existing collaboration by partners throughout the five-state watershed. Conservation priorities include reducing flooding and runoff; restoring fish and wildlife habitats; improving water quality; and enhancing safe recreational access for the public.

H.R. 1395 would reauthorize the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program through 2030, continuing to affirm the national and historical significance of the Delaware River Watershed as a resource worth protecting.

The reauthorization bill seeks to make the program accessible to a wider array groups and geographic areas by allowing up to a 90% federal investment with 10% match for small, rural, or disadvantaged communities and the Secretary could waive all match requirements under extreme circumstances. This change is important to help reduce funding disparities in a locally driven and cost-effective way, tapping into the tremendous unmet demand to do work throughout the watershed. This type of approach is an efficient and effective way to ensure that limited resources are targeted to where they can provide maximum benefit. The current reauthorization lapsed on October 1, 2023, and requires a one-to-one non-federal match for all grants under this program.

The Delaware River Basin is an economic generator for its surrounding communities— it contributes approximately $25 billion annually in economic activity and $21 billion in ecosystem goods and services and supports an internationally renowned cold-water fishery that generates over $21 million in annual revenue through tourism and recreational activities. H.R. 1395 will ensure the continued protection and restoration of this critical watershed is a national priority, we urge Congress support this legislation.