Little Fish, Big Pond


Patrick Starr, Executive Vice President
Patrick Starr, Executive Vice President

You know those images of a school of fish seeming hellbent on a mission and turning in a flash to avoid peril and course correct? The Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI), recently funded for Phase 2 by the William Penn Foundation to the tune of $42 million, is like that.

The Atlantic Sturgeon spawn in freshwater tidewaters near Marcus Hook PA. They require high dissolved oxygen, and they are a threatened species.

Like a school of fish, the DRWI enables the little fish and big fish to swim together to the betterment of all. As coordinator of the Upstream Suburban Philadelphia watersheds, PEC coordinates a team comprised of two universities steeped in the science of urban stormwater management, several land trust and watershed organizations deep into managing land and education people, as well as a multi-municipal stormwater management collaborative. We work hard at aligning our work to support each other, to learn from each other, and to produce better clean water outcomes by swimming together!

Within the Upstream Suburban Philadelphia collaboration, PEC would be a “middle-sized” fish at least one that has a broader statewide perspective and more of regulatory governmental slant. We are the MS4 gurus.  Esoteric stuff that matters to the 1000 Pennsylvania municipalities required by the PA Department of Environmental Protection to “do something” to slow and manage stormwater run-off in order to improve water quality.

The DRWI and PEC’s work in the USP reduces pollutants and helps the sturgeon.
The DRWI and PEC’s work in the USP reduces pollutants and helps the sturgeon.

In the Upstream watersheds we have 35 of those municipalities, and PEC is providing training and insight into how to meet the regulatory requirements cost effectively and meaningfully. We’re more effective working hand in hand with our partners who have relationships with local elected officials, who know landowners, and have members who are constituents of the elected officials and motivated champions for water quality.

And because of the DRWI, all of us benefit from the interaction with and support of some of the BIGGEST fish around such as the prestigious Academy of Natural Sciences, the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the Institute for Conservation Leadership, and the Open Space Institute. On a daily basis, we get to work with colleagues with national and international know-how who want to advance our work and need our Upstream collaborative to make our local water cleaner.

PEC has always valued collaboration. We don’t own any land; still we’re committed to protecting and restoring Pennsylvania’s environment. We have long worked with land trusts and watershed organizations to get the job done! Through partnerships, we’ve protected open space; we’ve built trails; we’ve promoted Pennsylvania’s special places.

We may not turn on a dime quite like a school of fish, but collectively, we shine and shimmer much more brightly than we would as a lone fish struggling against the current!