Fitz­patrick co-spon­sors bill to help con­serve Delaware River Basin

News-Herald (Perkasie, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Meghan Ross

U.S. Rep. Mike Fitz­patrick, R-8, wants the Delaware River to have what the Great Lakes, the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, the Gulf of Mex­ico and the Long Is­land Sound al­ready boast: fed­eral sup­port and a bas­in­wide con­ser­va­tion strat­egy.

That’s why Fitz­patrick is cospon­sor­ing the Delaware River Basin Con­ser­va­tion Act, which is backed by a bi­par­ti­san group of 10 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from four states: Delaware, Penn­syl­va­nia, New Jersey and New York. Other rep­re­sen­ta­tives co-spon­sor­ing the act in­clude Demo­crat Allyson Schwartz and Repub­li­can Pa­trick Mee­han. The bill was orig­i­nally in­tro­duced by Delaware Repub­li­can Michael Cas­tle back in 2010, but it was rein­tro­duced to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Wed­nes­day, Feb. 13, by Rep. John Car­ney of Delaware.

The act would call on the sec­re­tary of the in­te­rior to help co­or­di­nate fund­ing in or­der to pro­tect and re­store the Delaware River basin.

“My district of Bucks and Mont­gomery coun­ties is lit­er­ally the cen­ter and the heart of the Delaware River wa­ter­shed,” Fitz­patrick said in a press con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day, Feb. 13. “It’s pretty per­sonal and im­por­tant to me and my con­stituents.”

He em­pha­sized a need for a clean, healthy water sup­ply, es­pe­cially be­cause the basin serves as a potable water source for 15 mil­lion peo­ple. In ad­di­tion, about 8 mil­lion peo­ple live by the Delaware River, WLWK VRPH UHVLGHQWV fiQGLQJ WKHP­selves a lit­tle too close to the river WKHQ flRRGLQJ RFFUUV.

“From time to time, the river ac­tu­ally en­ters into our homes and stays for a while,” he said. “It’s beau­ti­ful as long as the river is within the banks of the Delaware.”

Cur­rently, Fitz­patrick noted, there are state, lo­cal and mu­nic­i­pal or­ga­ni­za­tions along the river that drum up re­sources to pre­serve the basin. With this bill, Fitz­patrick sees the po­ten­tial for grants to be­come avail­able, which would be sub­ject to a 50 per­cent lo­cal match, es­sen­tially re­plac­ing some lo­cal dol­lars with fed­eral dol­lars.

“Here in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, where 42 cents out of ev­ery dol­lar spent is bor­rowed, we are right- fully con­cerned about the cost of ev­ery­thing we do,” he said.

Fitz­patrick main­tained that the act could be funded, how­ever, with­out any new funds from the fed­eral government. In­stead, the fund­ing would come from ex­ist­ing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Bureau ap­pro­pri­a­tions, and it would give the Delaware River basin the same op­por­tu­nity to com­pete for re­sources as other wa­ter­sheds in the coun­try.

“We’re right­ing a wrong,” Fitz­patrick said of the bill.

Brian Cow­den from Trout Un­lim­ited East­ern Con­ser­va­tion said the act would help in re­mov­ing ob­so­lete dams, in­creas­ing angling fa­cil­i­ties and en­abling or­ga­ni­za­tions to work with lo­cal farm­ers to pre­vent fer­til­izer run- off from con­tam­i­nat­ing the river. Ac­cord­ing to Cow­den, the river sup­plies 5 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion with drink­ing water.

Robert Tu­dor, deputy di­rec­tor of the Delaware River Basin Com­mis­sion, said he saw the bill giv­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties for wildlife and habi­tat en­hance­ment and pre­serv­ing the river’s recre­ational as­sets, in ad­di­tion to bet­ter flood con­trol. Tu­dor also men­tioned that some stud­ies sug­gest a healthy wa­ter­shed is tied to a strong, re­gional econ­omy. If the bill is passed, Tu­dor said he sees the river gain­ing equal sta­tus with sib­ling bays and es­tu­ar­ies along the Mid-At­lantic.

“It’s such a crit­i­cal wa­ter­shed,” Tu­dor said. “It de­serves that kind of pri­or­ity sta­tus.”

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