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December 04, 2016
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The Delaware River: it’s everyone’s water

Now comes the downstream-based William Penn Foundation, a private foundation, which has announced an initial investment of $35 million in grants to dozens of organizations in the Delaware River watershed. Basin-wide, these funds are earmarked to support 46 named conservation and research institutions to work collaboratively in smaller clusters centered on eight sub-watersheds of the Delaware River. Fifteen million dollars over three years will go to develop projects, conduct research and to strengthen community outreach and organizing; $7 million is for restoration (projects like tree planting, stream bank stabilization and installation of best management practices on farms); $10 million is for protection activities (for targeted acquisition of land and conservation easements); and $3 million goes to the Academy of Natural Sciences for scientific monitoring of each project’s impact on water quality to inform continuous improvement.

In our region, eight local organizations working in the Pocono-Kittatinny Sub-watershed Cluster will share $1.7 million; they are Delaware Highlands Conservancy, Pinchot Institute for Conservation, Pocono Heritage Land Trust, Nature Conservancy (PA field office), Trust of Public Land (NJ field office), Brodhead Watershed Association and East Stroudsburg University. Together they will work on 17 conservation projects aimed at preserving high-quality and extra-value waters and at supporting the permanent conservation of cold-water trout streams. Other grant-covered work for this cluster includes supporting local municipalities with land-use planning; stream monitoring projects and complementary research to provide the rationale for investment by downstream water utilities in source-water protection; and identifying critical landscapes, such as forested headwaters and greenway corridors deserving of protection.

The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP), established in the 1980s to address the severe pollution of the bay, holds a lesson for how a regional, basin-wide partnership can address water-quality problems. Through this program over the years, millions of dollars have been invested in the Susquehanna River Watershed to improve water quality to the benefit of farmers and other landowners, fishermen and recreational users, and countless others. The time has come for all stakeholders in the Delaware River watershed to work together, too, to preserve our own natural treasure. And because our river is in better shape than the Susquehanna was (or even is today), it may provide an even better model for future conservation.