New Jersey Audubon is anticipating that millions of dollars in federal funds will soon be available for environmental restoration and protection in the Delaware River Basin after President Barack Obama signed a conservation law last week.
The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act authorized creation of a basin restoration program in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The program will identify, prioritize and run projects throughout the watershed, which makes up 40 percent of the state, said Eric Stiles, president and CEO of NJ Audubon.
“The ability to leverage private, state and now federal funding to protect and restore these critical habitats will have a major impact on water quality and special protection species in our state, including the red knot and Atlantic sturgeon,” Stiles said.
The watershed is made up of all the waterways that drain into the Delaware Bay and Delaware River. In South Jersey it encompasses substantial parts of Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, Camden and Burlington counties, as well as small parts of Atlantic and Ocean counties.
The program will bring funding for projects to protect water resources, especially in the Pinelands and Highlands, Stiles said, bolstering work to combat habitat degradation, invasive species and climate change.
NJ Audubon helped advocate for the DRBCA through the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, said Stiles.
According to the coalition, the Delaware River Basin provides clean drinking water to more than 15 million people, and the river and its tributaries flow through nearly a dozen national parks and historic sites.
NJ Audubon, a nonprofit environmental organization founded in 1897, is a lead partner in the William Penn Foundation’s Delaware River Watershed Initiative in the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer Cluster in the Pinelands region and the New Jersey Highlands Cluster in the northwestern corner of the state, said Stiles.
The new law was part of a larger legislative package known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, passed by Congress earlier this month.