"Uniting the Delaware River Watershed" is the slogan for the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, formed in 2012, not just to bring all the organizations working on the welfare of the river together but to amplify their voice at the local, state and federal level.
delriverwatershed.org

It seems to be working.

One of its significant achievements was to usher through Congress the Delaware River Basin Restoration Act in 2016, forming the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Lots of titles, but what it means is $5 million annually for a competitive, matching grant and technical assistance program.

That's $5 million federal dollars invested in the Delaware River Watershed, matched by other entities, making it $10 million of improvements to the watershed.

In addition, the CDRW works at the state level to bring attention to each state's relationship not just to its part of the river, but by working together, to the river and the watershed as a whole. Key to this effort are the state leads, different representatives of different environmental organizations chosen to focus attention of each state to the needs of the Delaware.

Delaware Currents asked each of them nine questions to better understand who they are, and what the role of the state lead is.

Drum roll, please.

Jeff Skelding<br>New York
New York

Jeff Skelding

Friends of the Upper Delaware | FUDR.ORG

Q and A with Jeff

1. When you were younger, what first got you interested in the environment?

I grew up on the banks of the Delaware River in Bucks County, PA and spent my summers barefoot and knee-deep in the Tinicum and Tohickon creeks. My brothers and I fished the big river and we hunted for small game in the cornfields and hedgerows surrounding our old farmhouse. It was these experiences that gave me a deep appreciation of nature and, not soon after,  ignited a passion for conservation that has lasted a lifetime for me.

2. Now, what (aside from your job) keeps you interested in the environment? (Maybe a hobby, like camping or hiking, etc.)

I am fortunate enough to have a job that blends my passion for  both conservation with the sport of fly fishing. Its amazing how therapeutic it is, at least for me, to stand alone in a river for hours at a time and practice the art of fly fishing.

3. What is the last book you read?

"A Knight Comes to Stockport"– a great book about the rich history of Buckingham Township, PA.

4. What do you think is your biggest environmental accomplishment -- it might be more than something you achieved on your own.

I have two accomplishments that come to mind: 1) My eight-year stint in Washington, D.C., at the helm of the Great Lakes coalition, a grassroots movement that was the catalyst for congressional adoption of a highly successful federal program in 2007. it continues to deliver conservation funding and other resources to the eight states of the Great Lakes region. 2) Spending my last seven years helping build Friends of the Upper Delaware River into a respected and successful full-time advocate for the river in New York State and northeast PA.

5. What is your biggest goal for this year as state lead for the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed?

Now that the federal Delaware River program is in place and delivering much needed resources to the upper watershed here in New York State, its time to turn our attention to the state capitol in Albany, NY. The Upper Delaware River has never been the beneficiary of state funding like many other iconic NY waterbodies and its time to turn that around in 2021! 

6. Favorite spot on the Delaware (or in the watershed?

Two places, one where I grew up and one where I live now. My brother and I love to fly fish for smallmouth bass (and whatever other species comes to the fly) at the mouth of the Tinicum Creek where it enters the big Delaware in Erwinna, PA. The second place is my back yard on the banks of the river in Equinunk, PA.

7. Define your role as state lead?

As New York State lead for the CDRW, FUDR is responsible for establishing productive relationships with the NY congressional delegation to ensure that our senators and congressman are doing the right things in Washington, D.C., to ensure the future protection and restoration of the Upper Delaware River. Were also creating new pathways in the state capitol and increasingly putting the Upper Delaware higher and higher on the political radar screen with key decision makers in Albany. Along the way, we are growing a grassroots coalition comprised of diverse watershed stakeholders who can generate the local and regional political energy to support our work at the federal and state level.

8. Biggest set back recently for the Delaware River?

COVID-19. It disrupted everything. And it contributed to some significant divisiveness among UDR constituencies, including anglers, homeowners, local businesses, and politicians. Along the way it hurt the local economy of the UDR region, which relies heavily on tourism revenues from visiting anglers and people who love to spend time in our region.

9. When all our fears about Covid-19 are finally gone, what are you most looking forward to?

Fishing without a mask.


Congressman Antonio Delgado (N.Y) welcomes FUDR (executive director Jeff Skelding next to Delgado), Trout Unlimited and CDRW

Rebecca Hilbert<br>New Jersey
New Jersey

Rebecca Hilbert

New Jersey League of Conservation Voters | NJLCV.ORG

Q and A with Rebecca

1. When you were younger, what first got you interested in the environment?

I grew up in Pennsauken, N.J., close to the cities of Philadelphia and Camden. As a result I wasn't really exposed to much nature until I went away to Stockton University in the middle of the Pine Barrens, which is when I became interested in the environment. 

2. Now, what (aside from your job) keeps you interested in the environment? (Maybe a hobby, like camping or hiking, etc.)

Aside from my job, one thing that keeps me interested in the environment is the idea of urban/community gardens. I think it's awesome when people learn to grow their own fresh produce, especially in areas where it's hard to come by. I can't wait to have my own garden one day, filled with native plants for the pollinators of course! 

3. What is the last book you read?

The last book I read was "Educated" by Tara Westover 

4. What do you think is your biggest environmental accomplishment -- it might be more than something you achieved on your own.

I think one of my biggest environmental accomplishments was being a part of the creation of New Jersey LCV's environmental scorecard, a document that gives citizens of N.J. the ability to see their representatives' voting record on the environment. This is a powerful tool that holds our legislators accountable for protecting our natural resources and lets their constituents know when it might be time to make a change.  https://www.njlcv.org/scorecard

5. What is your biggest goal for this year as state lead for the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed?

My biggest goal for CDRW this year is to work with our partners and staff to make sure that we stop plastic pollution at the source in N.J. by passing legislation that would eliminate single-use plastic and paper bags and polystyrene-foam food-service products. This is a shared goal by all of our members and we will continue to support this bill. 

6. Favorite spot on the Delaware (or in the watershed)?

My favorite spot in the watershed is the Palmyra Nature Cove, one of the only nature areas around my town.  http://www.palmyracove.org

7. Define your role as state lead?

As state lead for N.J., it's my job to make sure that our N.J. part of the coalition is advancing our state CDRW priorities while supporting the federal CDRW goals where we can. 

8. Biggest set back recently for the Delaware River?

I think one of the biggest setbacks for the Delaware was in the last legislative session when the plastic bag ban bill failed to pass in the N.J . assembly. We were so close to our goal and the more time we have to wait, the more plastic continues to pollute our waterways. This is why we are so eager to see this legislation move in this session. 

9. When all our fears about Covid-19 are finally gone, what are you most looking forward to?

I'm most looking forward to being able to see my Grandma again! None of our family have been able to visit her in person in fear of passing along the virus, so the sooner we can safely see her the better!


Congressman Andy Kim (N.J.) (center) welcomes Sandra Meola, executive director of CDRW (next to him) and N.J. League of Conservation Voters (Rebecca Hilbert is second from right)

Emily Baldauff<br> Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania

Emily Rinaldi Baldauff

PennFuture | PENNFUTURE.ORG

Q and A with Emily

1. When you were younger, (how old?) what first got you interested in the environment?

For as long as I can remember I was interested in Nature. My grandpa and dad taught me how to fish and every summer I would go to my grandparents' lake house and play in the lake and the woods.

Emily Baldauff, PennFuture, 2020 Pa. state lead for the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed.

It is still my favorite place to be, even after my parents took over the property. I decided to make environmental science my career when I was in ninth grade at Mid Valley High School in Throop, Pa. One of my teachers got me involved with a program from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources called Community Connections to your Watershed." It was a program with enviro field trips once a month which introduced me to macroinvertebrate sampling, renewable energy (windmills at the time), geo-caching, trail clean-ups, and many other conservation-minded activities. My heart was sold after the windmill trip.

2. What is the last book you read?

I am in the middle of The Restorers.” It is a great piece authored by my friend Brook Lenker from FracTracker

3. What do you think is your biggest environmental accomplishment -- it might be more than something you achieved on your own.

Being part of the DC Lobby Day that helped pass the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act in 2016.  Also leading the program called Our Pocono Waters Campaign,” which has been fighting to protect Exceptional Value” Stream designations in PA since 2018.

4. What is your biggest goal for this year as state lead for the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed?

My biggest goal for the year is to keep momentum going within the Pennsylvania membership so that we can come back stronger post-COVID. We managed an extremely successful virtual legislative education day in April. I want to get us back to the capitol come 2021 for more discussions to move towards clean water in the Delaware River Basin.

5. Favorite spot on the Delaware (or in the watershed?)

Delaware Bay: Lambertville, N.J. / New Hope, PA

Chesapeake Bay (Where I live): Tunkhannock Creek behind Keystone College

6. Define your role as state lead?

As state lead I try to coordinate Pennsylvania organization members in order to move Pennsylvania's portion of the watershed forward through educational opportunities and advocacy opportunities. I also collaborate with N.J., N.Y., and Del. state leads to ensure that we are advocating for a coordinated message and supporting each other as we move forward.

7. Biggest set back recently for the Delaware River?

COVID-19 pandemic has been a HUGE challenge for the Delaware River Basin. Advocacy had to change to virtual and on-the-ground projects that should have started in the spring have been put on pause. This will put a back log on restoration projects that need to be done to support tributary health in the watershed. And will back up future projects. I'm looking forward to seeing groups get their boots dirty again in the coming months.

9. When all our fears about Covid-19 are finally gone, what are you most looking forward to?

Meeting folks where they are” in person. There is something special about communicating face to face.


State Representative Rosemary Brown (Pa.) (in red jacket) welcomes PennFuture (Emily Baldauff next to her) and CDRW.

Laura Miller<br>Delaware
Delaware

Laura Miller

Delaware Nature Society | DELAWARENATURESOCIETY.ORG

Q and A with Laura

1. When you were younger, what first got you interested in the environment?

I have been interested in the environment for as long as I can remember. I grew up surrounded by nature – forests, mountains, and lakes – so I spent much of my childhood outdoors hiking, fishing, and searching for wildlife (especially small critters that I could sneak home without my mom knowing). My dad taught me that when I was enjoying the outdoors, I should always leave it better than I found it. That has greatly shaped my education and career choice.

2. Now, what (aside from your job) keeps you interested in the environment? (Maybe a hobby, like camping or hiking, etc.)

When Im not working I love to hike at one of the parks nearby. Especially during quarantine, Ive found peace in daily hikes in nature. Being able to spot the birds migrating north for the summer was a really beautiful experience. When the summer hits, you can find me floating down the Brandywine River with friends and my flamingo float, Florence.

3. What is the last book you read?

The last book I read was called In The Dream House, by Carmen Maria Machado. A very well written and moving book, and a great read during Pride Month!

4. What do you think is your biggest environmental accomplishment -- it might be more than something you achieved on your own.

Weve celebrated some really big wins in the watershed, and in Delaware specifically, in the past few years. Going from no funding for Delawares Open Space and Farmland Preservation programs and no clean-water funding in the Delaware budget to securing $70 million in the past two fiscal years was a real testament to the power of grassroots advocacy. That is a huge accomplishment my team and I are still celebrating.

5. What is your biggest goal for this year as state lead for the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed?

My biggest goal as State Lead for CDRW in 2020 has shifted in the past month. Originally I was pushing for sustainable, dedicated clean-water funding for Delaware, a goal weve worked towards for years. As society has been shaken by COVID and the effects of systemic racism and police brutality, my goal now is to fight for clean-water funding while connecting those who support the environment to environmental justice. As the environmental movement grows to include environmental justice, we can also begin considering social justice as part of our work to make sure that all community members are able and welcome to enjoy the natural world safely.

6. Favorite spot on the Delaware (or in the watershed?

My favorite spot in the Watershed would be any secluded spot where I can tie up my tube with friends and have a picnic lunch by the water. The Brandywine Creek and White Clay Creek have some wonderful spots.

7. Define your role as state lead?

As state lead, it is my role to connect groups working on Coalition priorities in Delaware to the resources and opportunities the Coalition has to offer. By building relationships with members and sharing information, we are able to work together to advocate with one voice for a healthy watershed. For members who arent able to connect with our elected officials, I serve as representative to the Coalition and our membership to those legislators to advocate for our priorities.

8. Biggest set back recently for the Delaware River?

2020 has highlighted some of the setbacks we have grown used to these past few years, including rollbacks of environmental protections from the EPA, and also introduced new setbacks due to COVID and the financial trouble caused by the pandemic. Luckily, we have some fantastic champions in Washington, D.C., for our watershed, particularly our Delaware senators and representative, who are fighting for environmental justice, conservation funding, and are holding the EPA to fulfilling their mission to protect the environment and public health.

9. When all our fears about Covid-19 are finally gone, what are you most looking forward to?

When COVID fears have passed, personally I am looking forward to traveling again. I am also looking forward to connecting in person with the Coalition and other clean-water advocates. Many events I look forward to every year are being held virtually, including the Delaware River Watershed Forum and Delawares Clean Water Rally (now the Clean Water Week, June 22-26). Virtual engagement and learning opportunities are great, as weve seen over these months of isolation, but networking and sharing updates on our overlapping priorities isnt quite the same online.


Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (Del.) welcomes Delaware Nature Society (Laura Miller in red jacket) and Partnership for the Delaware Estuary executive director Kathy Klein

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About Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire has been a journalist for 30 years in New York and Connecticut. She started in weekly newspapers and moved to full-time work in dailies 25 years ago. She knows about the tectonic changes in journalism firsthand, having been part of what was euphemistically called a "reduction in force" six years ago. Now she's working to find new ways to "do" the news as an independent online publisher of news about the Delaware River, its watershed and its people.

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