Delaware River Federal Priorities for 2023 and Beyond

Audubon's efforts on and off Capitol Hill.
Belted Kingfisher. Photo: Jeff Crawn/Audubon Photography Awards

The Audubon network has been busy advocating for the Delaware River Watershed on Capitol Hill. Audubon’s Delaware River Watershed Program Director, Aneca Atkinson, recently met with offices for the Choose Clean Water Coalition and Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed’s Capitol Hill day events.

Audubon is excited to continue collaborating with our coalition partners to further environmental conservation efforts, on and off the Hill. This Congress we are working to reauthorize programs that support vital on-the-ground conservation projects and secure funding to protect clean water and healthy habitats for birds and people.

S. 654 / H.R. 1395, the Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act (DRBCA) and the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP)

Last Congress, the Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act passed through the House of Representatives, but was unable to move through the Senate, despite bipartisan support for the bill. In March of this year, Senators and Representatives from the watershed reintroduced the legislation in a bipartisan and bicameral push led by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

The Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act would renew the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP), currently set to expire this September, until 2030. The DRBRP has successfully protected miles of natural habitat in the Delaware River Watershed through grantmaking to over 150 projects since 2018. The Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act will also empower marginalized communities, who often bear the greatest burden of climate change, by reducing the financial burden to participate in the program. In order for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fully implement this program for another year, Audubon is seeking $15 million in FY24 federal funding for the DRBRP.

The Delaware River Basin Commission

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) plays an important role in protecting clean water in the Delaware River Watershed. The Delaware River Basin Commission, founded in 1961 when President Kennedy signed the Delaware River Basin Compact into law, is a regional body responsible for overseeing and managing the local river system, including water quality protection, water supply allocation, flood loss reduction, drought management, water conservation, permitting/docketing, watershed planning, and recreation.

In addition to creating the DRBC, the Delaware River Basin Compact also mandated that the involved parties—the states of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, and the federal government—contribute funding to support DRBC’s important work. Audubon is recommending $715,000 for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in FY24 to fulfill the federal government’s responsibility to the DRBC.

The Farm Bill  

Every five years, Congress passes legislation to support and facilitate American agriculture, commonly referred to as the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill was last renewed in 2018 and includes forestry and voluntary environmental conservation programs that provide for federal, state, and local partnerships. Audubon supports these investments in important resources for birds and people.

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), made possible by the Farm Bill, aims to improve water quality and wildlife habitat, reduce soil erosion and water pollutants, and restore wetlands by providing financial incentives to landowners to participate in conservation practices. Delaware River Basin states have identified over 100,000 acres as high-priority for CREP conservation.

S. 1149, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act of 2023 (RAWA)

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act of 2023, introduced by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Tom Tillis (R-NC), will dedicate critical funding to protecting fish and wildlife across the nation. States currently do not possess the funding necessary to address wildlife conservation, but under RAWA, Delaware River Basin states would receive over a combined $55 million annually to support hundreds of species that state governments have identified as needing assistance, including the Bald Eagle, Ruddy Turnstone, and Red Knot. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will also support job creation and outdoor recreation economies in the Delaware River Basin.

Take Action Now

Audubon looks forward to supporting these and other federal policy priorities for the birds and people of the Delaware River Watershed.