Restoring the Delaware Riverfront: a “shore” thing

Philadelphia, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Environmental Council was awarded $74,900 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Delaware Estuary Watershed Grants Program in support of ecological restoration along the Delaware Riverfront in Northeast Philadelphia.

The Council’s project will develop plans to restore nine acres of riparian upland, 2000 linear feet of inter-tidal shoreline, and six acres of aquatic habitat on a site to be developed by Westrum Development Company.  The site will allow public access to the riverfront, and the landscape will become part of the North Delaware Riverfront Greenway, implemented by the Delaware River City Corporation (DRCC).

Freshwater tidal marshes are uncommon along the main stem of the Delaware River, though they provide essential habitat for migrating birds such as red-winged blackbirds, and water-fowl such as pintails, mallards and blue-winged teals.  Freshwater wetlands also provide migration, spawning and nursery areas for anadromous fish such as Atlantic Sturgeon, Shortnose Sturgeon, American Shad, and American Eel.

“Freshwater tidal marshes along the Delaware River’s urban areas have been filled in, or piers have been constructed to accommodate large industrial, commercial and residential land use complexes,” said Patrick Starr, Vice President of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

“This ecological restoration project not only improves wildlife habitat, it also provides amenities for the residents of Bridesburg, and contributes to the overall health and vitality of the Delaware Estuary,” Starr said.

The Council will work in cooperation with DRCC and Westrum Development Company, which is planning a 2000 unit residential development on the former Philly Coke site, and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), who owns adjacent land.

“This project exemplifies the multiple benefits of restoring the environment,” said John Dean, Vice President of Westrum Development Company.

“It demonstrates that what’s good for the environment also makes homes and neighborhoods desirable places for families to live.”

The Philadelphia Water Department identified the site as a good candidate for ecological restoration during a wetland survey completed in July. The site already supports yellow pond-lily and freshwater eelgrass, important species for wetlands.