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Delaware Basin funding falls short of needs


After a fiscal year 2020 budget analysis of the four Delaware River Basin states (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware), Sandra Meola, the director of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, a network of over 140 nonprofits located throughout the basin, said that the commission had been shortchanged. Only Delaware contributed its share of funding.

“The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is the interstate and federal agency charged with overseeing water quality and quantity of the Delaware River Basin, which over 13 million people rely on for clean drinking water and to support our region’s economy.

“Since 1996, the federal government has failed to support its share of the commission’s operating funds ($715,000 per year or 20 percent of annual member contributions) except for partial contributions during two DRBC fiscal years – 2009 and 2010.”

Fiscal year 2020 is no exception, Meola said.

“Collectively, the states’ funding shortfall for fiscal year 2020 totals $1,142,500, yet the states are relying on the commission to ensure the future of the Delaware River. This shortchanging of the DRBC impacts the commission’s ability to hire staff, conduct monitoring, and advance vital research that provides the scientific basis for water quality protections and flow management.

“We’re disappointed and frustrated that after placing Pennsylvania’s full member contribution to the DRBC in his budget – the sum of $893,000 – and just weeks after pledging alongside the governors of New Jersey and Delaware to support the commission, Gov. Wolf of Pennsylvania signed into law a fiscal year 2020 budget that provides less than 25 percent of the commonwealth’s agreed upon contribution to the DRBC.”

More than 43 percent of Pennsylvanians reside in the basin, and the state comprises more than 50 percent of the basin’s land area, Meola said. Delaware’s budget signed by Gov. Carney last week includes the First State’s full “fair share” contribution to the DRBC, as it consistently has since 2012.

“In the face of new water quality and flow management challenges associated with changes in our climate, now is the time to invest in the DRBC and secure our water resources for generations to come.”

The DRBC funding formula is based on a 1988 agreement with the members.