Critical Funding and Advocacy for the Delaware River Watershed

Audubon continues to raise the profile of the Delaware River.
Red Knots. Foto: Elizabeth Brensinger/Audubon Photography Awards

From forested headwaters to urban cityscapes, the Delaware River Watershed is home to millions of birds and people. The watershed supports more than 400 species of migratory birds and provides drinking water to over 14 million people throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Audubon works up and down the watershed to engage communities, restore habitats, and support the river.

Recently, the Delaware River Watershed received some much needed national attention on Capitol Hill and beyond.

First, some news about federal funding. Audubon worked with our partners over the past year to support federal funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP). The House of Representatives originally included $13.5M in their bill while the Senate included $11.5M. Despite tenacious support from Audubon and our colleagues, the final number in the fiscal year 2024 appropriations package was the lower of the two, $11.5M. This was flat funding from the previous year, but still a good outcome for the river given the incredibly tight fiscal constraints governing the 2024 appropriations negotiations.

Looking ahead to fiscal year2025 (FY25), Audubon and our partners will work to ensure the watershed continues to gain its deserved attention and funding. We are supporting $17M for DRBRP throughout FY25 and will use all opportunities to highlight the critical funding needed. This funding would support critical on-the-ground restoration projects, public access projects, and educational projects throughout the watershed.

In February, almost 3000 people submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency on their proposal to change water quality standards for portions of the Delaware River. These changes could help declining fish populations and protect aquatic wildlife that birds need for survival.

In March, Audubon joined our colleagues from across the watershed as part of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed’s (CDRW) annual Capitol Hill Day. We were pleased to join the CDRW, which includes more than 185 local watershed associations, land conservancies, outdoor recreation and sporting interests, national organizations, and other stakeholder groups advocating for the Delaware River. In addition, colleagues from the Alliance for Watershed Education (AWE) joined efforts in DC. Audubon is a proud member of AWE and grateful for their support on the Hill.

Participating in CDRW’s Hill Day allowed me to engage in the legislative process and leverage a platform to voice one of the many issues that matter to me—having a clean and healthy Delaware River,” says Amberly Choi, Alliance for Watershed Education Support Fellow.

In late March, the House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries held a legislative hearing on H.R. 1395, the Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2023. The CDRW’s Director, Kelly Knutson, testified in support of the bill and represented the coalition on the Hill.  The bill will reauthorize the DRBRP through 2030 and empower small, rural, and disadvantaged communities to protect their local environment through a reduced match requirement of 10%. The bill also offers the Secretary of the Interior the ability to waive all cost-share requirements in cases of significant financial hardship. These changes will ensure that these communities can engage in conservation projects and access federal funds more equitably. Audubon is pleased to support H.R. 1395 with our CDRW colleagues and urges swift passage of this critical legislation.