Lawmakers push bill to protect Delaware River

A group of lawmakers want to create a federal program to protect and conserve the Delaware River basin.

Democratic senators from New Jersey, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania and a bipartisan collection of House lawmakers from the region introduced a bill Tuesday that would create a “Delaware River Basin Restoration Program” in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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The program would be charged with identifying and overseeing federal and local efforts to protect the Delaware River basin, similar to programs for the Chesapeake Bay and the Long Island Sound. The bill would also create a grant program to fund up to $5 million in restoration projects for the river annually.

The 13,000-square-mile Delaware River basin runs from New York to Delaware, and creates about $25 billion in economic activity annually, according to Sen. Cory Booker's (D-N.J.) office. The region’s commercial fishing operations attract more than $56 million in revenue each year.

“The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act is vital to the environmental and economic health of our region,” Booker said in a statement. “From providing drinking water to millions of families to supporting recreational activities, the Basin plays a critical role in New Jersey’s economy and ecology.

“This bill will help provide for continued restoration and mitigation projects in the region, as well as facilitate local, state, regional, and federal partnerships to protect this watershed, and its many benefits, for generations to come.”

Lawmakers have introduced bills establishing a Delaware River conservation program for several years, but none have moved in Congress.

Rep. John Carney (D-Del.), who has introduced the bill since 2011 and is a sponsor this year, couldn’t resist an easy pun on Tuesday, posting an Instagram video of himself celebrating this year’s bill by dancing to “All About That Bass.” 

Updated at 5:03 p.m.