The Delaware River Watershed Congressional Caucus was announced today on a wet field in Callicoon, N.Y., by U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado (NY-19.)
As one of the speakers at today’s press conference, Sullivan County Legislative Chairman Robert Doherty said, referring to Delgado: “Promises made, promises kept.”
This is what Doherty is talking about — a response on Oct. 7, 2019 (on another wet field in the upper Delaware) from Delgado to a question about a Congressional Delaware River caucus:
“If there is a Delaware River caucus in Congress, I’ll join it. If there isn’t, I’ll start one.”
There wasn’t. (Here’s that story.) And so he joined with his Republican co-founder, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1) to start building the caucus to focus federal attention on the Delaware River and its watershed.
Many watersheds receive significant federal dollars, like the Great Lakes, which receives close to $500 million. It was only a couple of years ago that the federal tap was finally turned on with the efforts of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed and its partners the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to create the Delaware River Conservation Fund, aimed at finding federal dollars to partner with local organizations to preserve and improve the watershed, project by project.
Rep. Delgado’s comments:
“The Upper Delaware River is more than beautiful scenery — it’s an economic driver for our communities. In New York’s 19th Congressional District, the river generates more than $400 million in economic value every single year. I am proud to launch the bipartisan Delaware River Watershed Caucus alongside Representative Fitzpatrick. This caucus will bring together members from both sides of the aisle to advocate for our communities and secure federal funding to protect these precious waters. Thank you to Friends of the Upper Delaware River, local elected officials, and conservation organizations for your continued partnership and advocacy.”
Rep. Fitzpatrick’s comments, via email:
“The Delaware River runs along the entire length of my district, which includes tourist destinations such as New Hope, historically significant villages like Washington Crossing, and job hubs like Bristol and Bensalem. Our new Caucus will help advance bipartisan coordination on the marquee conservation programs throughout the Delaware River Watershed. I’m honored to co-chair this bipartisan caucus with Congressman Delgado.”
Jeff Skelding, executive director of the Friends of the Upper Delaware and host of the press conference enunciated the benefits of federal dollars coming into the region: local jobs; support of the tourism industry; strengthening local infrastructure; increased attention to flooding issues; support of the fishing community and more broadly the entire ecosystem of the Delaware River, and for the whole river, finding ways to combat the effects of climate change.
“The Delaware River Watershed Congressional Caucus will be an excellent opportunity to prioritize and leverage funding for the watershed and start thinking creatively about implementing potential infrastructure stimulus dollars and the Civilian Climate Corps. This initiative will help protect and restore the entire watershed from the upper reaches of the headwaters to the Delaware Bay,” said Sandra Meola, director of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed.
One of the first priorities for the caucus, Delgado said, will be to investigate the lack of federal funding for the Delaware River Basin Commission, the four-state commission charged with overseeing the Delaware River’s water quality as well as quantity.
Though here Delgado was careful not to promise anything specific too soon: “We don’t have a magic wand.” But he praised the passion of the people who have been working on the river and promised to marry their local knowledge with the political promise of a basin caucus.