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House Bill Proposes Improvements in Delaware River Basin

A bill introduced Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives calls for the federal government to improve restoration and conservation efforts in the Delaware River Basin through the use of public-private partnerships and coordination among basin stakeholders.

HR 1772, also known as the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act, calls for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to create a Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRCBA). According to documentation, the bill also would authorize spending $5 million per year on the program, of which at least 75% of any allocated funds would be used for grant and technical assistance programs, and the maximum federal share is 50% per project.

"Since our state sits at the mouth of the Delaware River, we're highly invested in the overall health of the basin, which offers our region critical resources like drinking water and is home to a variety of wildlife," said Rep. John Carney Jr. (D-DE), the bill's sponsor. "Doing what we can to conserve and restore the basin is not just the right thing to do environmentally, it's also good for the economy.

"This legislation will help government, nonprofit groups, and private industry work together to preserve the Delaware River Basin for future generations."

Carney's office added that while the program would also contribute about $25 billion to the regional economy, "Delaware River restoration efforts receive very limited federal resources compared to similar watersheds across the country."

Fifteen additional House members -- nine Republicans and six Democrats -- are co-sponsors of the bill, which has since been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

The bill introduced Tuesday marks the fourth time similar legislation has been introduced in Congress. Previous efforts stalled in the House in 2010 and 2013; in the Senate in 2012 and 2014; and in both chambers in 2011. The prospects of the bill passing the muster of a Congress now led by Republicans were unclear.

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has regulatory jurisdiction over the 13,539-square-mile watershed. It enacted a moratorium on oil and gas development in the basin, which includes parts of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

In February, the DRBC unveiled "One Process/One Permit" designed to promote efficiency and cooperation between the commission and the four member states (see Shale Daily, Feb. 27).

The DRBC is led by the governors of the four basin states and the federal government, represented by the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' North Atlantic division.

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