Natl. Fish and Wildlife Foundation awards $11.5M in grants to protect Delaware River Watershed

DELAWARE – Delaware is known for its scenic coastline and wide variety of plants and animals; and all of that relies on water. Much of that water in the First State is part of the Delaware River Watershed. “It touches millions of people, and the more we can do to conserve it, protect it, and heal it, the better we’re going to be,” said Director of Advocacy and External Affairs for the Delaware Nature Society Emily Knearl.

The Delaware River Watershed provides drinking water for about 275,000 Delawareans. It’s also home to countless species of flora and fauna. That’s why the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is providing 41 grants, totaling $11.5 million, to help protect it. “The Delaware River, over the arc of the 50 years that I’ve lived in Delaware, is gradually getting cleaner and healthier. More people are using it for recreation, but we still have a ways to go,” said U.S. Senator Chris Coons.

The grants will help fund projects that aim to conserve, protect, and replenish the watershed. Those projects are sprinkled across the region, from New York, to Pennsylvania, to New Jersey, to upper Delaware. In total, the projects are expected to improve more than 12,000 acres of land, treat polluted runoff using agricultural conservation on about 937 acres, and restore 585 acres of wetlands. They’re also slated to plant nearly 2,000 trees and establish 1,500 acres of new public access lands.

In Delaware, $237,000 is being awarded to start the Sacred Ground Program. It helps to install pollinator gardens while engaging communities of faith. Plus, $179,000 will go to the New Castle Conservation District to remove a dam in the White Clay Creek. Knearl says while those projects will happen further north, they’ll have a direct impact on Sussex County. “Essentially, what a watershed is, is it’s a place where all of the rain and all of the water drains into a particular location,” said Knearl. “That’s what’s interesting about the watershed. All the water flows south. So, it’s going to eventually impact you.”

But, Knearl says the importance of protecting and healing the watershed doesn’t stop at just environmental stewardship.  She says the watershed provides about 20 million jobs, and $8.9 billion in wages across the region. “Water isn’t just about what goes in our mouth and what we drink. Water is about the economy. Not only by protecting the water do you make sure that there’s plenty of opportunities for recreation and drinking water, but it’s also about protecting jobs,” said Knearl.

Another part of conservation is awareness, according to Knearl. That’s why last fall Governor John Carney and DelDOT unveiled six signs marking the areas in the watershed. Knearl says something as simple as a sign can help people realize what kind of environments they’re living in. “A lot of times when people think about lower Delaware, they think about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. That’s the more famous watershed. The Delaware River Watershed stretches all the way from New York, all the way down to southern Delaware,” said Knearl. “The idea is to get people thinking about how the watershed exists.”

For a full list of the grant awardees, click here.

Categories: Delaware, Local News