This March, for the first time ever, the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program received funding as part of the 2018 omnibus spending bill. The Delaware River Basin encompasses over 13,000 squares miles of land across Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, where water feeds into the Delaware River and supplies drinking water for over 15 million people, including the residents of New York City and Philadelphia.
The basin—with its 400 miles of designated National Wild and Scenic River, extensive forests, and 700,000 acres of wetland habitat—is an important place of refuge for birds and other wildlife. The watershed is home to a diverse array of birds including Ospreys, Bobolinks, and Red-headed Woodpeckers. The Delaware Bay serves as critical habitat for over 400 species of birds, including Sanderlings, Red Knots, and Ruddy Turnstones that stopover to feed on Horseshoe Crab eggs during migration. Also, thanks to long-term clean-up efforts, the Delaware River has become one of the largest and most important inland Bald Eagle wintering habitats in the Northeastern United States. Investment in the health of the basin has a significant positive effect on the region’s wildlife, water quality, flood control, and opportunities for recreation.
The Delaware River Basin Restoration Program was created in December 2016 through the passage of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act. The program operates in part by awarding grants administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for on-the-ground conservation projects aimed at combatting issues like habitat degradation and invasive species. Unfortunately, the program did not receive any funding in 2017 to begin restoration work, despite being formally authorized months before. In a win for birds, the program received the full $5 million in this year’s spending omnibus, which will contribute to new conservation projects and coordination across partners working to restore the watershed.