An important part of PEC’s mission is working with community and watershed groups to strengthen connections to their riverfronts, identify and implement strategies to enhance water quality, and protect and restore waterways. Often this means helping to forge regional trail networks — aligning recreation, economic, and ecological goals.
Lardner’s Point Park, on the banks of the Delaware River in Philadelphia, is a wonderful example of where PEC’s watersheds program intersects with our work in outdoor recreation. PEC was an early partner in the development of this pioneering low-impact-development park, and helped to secure some of its early funding from a combination of federal, state, and private sources. That’s one reason I was especially excited to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Congressman Brendan Boyle (PA-13) and our Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI) partners at Lardner’s Point on a sunny October morning, to support legislation that would increase the federal government’s investment in the health of the Delaware River Basin.
Rep. Boyle is one of eight House members from Pennsylvania, representing both political parties, who are asking Congress to increase funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP). Though DRBRP is in line for a $6 million allocation in fiscal year 2019 — up from $5 million the previous year — Congress missed a September 28 deadline to approve the legislation, instead passing a continuing resolution through December 7. That leaves precious little time in the legislative session to reauthorize funding for a program that not only provides direct support for critical projects in our region, but also figures crucially in the larger system of funding for watershed restoration work across the basin.
Currently PEC acts as coordinator for the Upstream Suburban Philadelphia Collaborative (USPC), one of eight regional collaborations comprising the DRWI. With significant investment from the William Penn Foundation, this initiative unites 50 organizations working across the basin to reduce pollution, protect headwaters, and promote water-smart practices and policies. Our partners in the USPC include local watershed and conservation organizations as well as academic partners, Temple and Villanova Universities. Our projects include diverse and targeted on-the-ground restoration practices combined with strategic education and outreach to a wide range of audiences including municipal officials, business owners, institutional landowners, and residents.
Dedicated federal funding such as the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program is critical to support the multiple conservation and restoration activities in this nationally significant basin.
Our work with the USPC includes training local residents as watershed stewards and encouraging small and large landowners to implement practices to help capture and infiltrate stormwater. This work helps us restore impaired waterways, mitigate flooding, and improve water quality in our local streams and rivers in the Philadelphia region, improving environmental, recreational, and economic benefits to our communities. None of these activities would be possible without sustained, coordinated, and diverse funding. Dedicated federal funding such as the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program is critical to support the multiple conservation and restoration activities in this nationally significant basin.
The committed partners — community watershed groups, private organizations, and local governments — who are working to implement site-specific projects to reduce pollution and produce clean water, would lack money to do so without $6 million in federal funding. Federal funds can match existing private and public funding and will accelerate watershed restoration. The path to success is thousands of site-specific land-based projects that cumulatively will achieve our goal of cleaner water for the entire basin for generations to come.