A sign for the Delaware River Basin Commission outside of its brick building headquarters.
The Delaware River Basin Commission office in Trenton, N.J.

Could the DRBC finally get the federal money it’s owed? Maybe

| February 4, 2024

If “Ensure Funding For Our Environment Act” passes, the Delaware River Basin Commission will finally get its full fair share of funding from the federal government.

Delaware Currents has written many stories about the shortfall in funding — both from the four states of the watershed, but most notably the federal government.

But if this bipartisan bill were to pass, it would also affect neighboring watersheds’ management.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin as well as the DRBC are all part of the Mid-Atlantic River Basin Commissions.

Two U.S. representatives from the Delaware River watershed have joined forces to propose the bill: Congressman Marc Molinaro, a Republican representing New York’s 19th District, and Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, a Democrat representing Pennsylvania’s 6th District. Both Houlahan and Molinaro are members of the Delaware River Caucus.

The bill addresses the logjam that has blocked the funding ($715,000 annually) that should be coming from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and directs the funding to come from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It’s still early stages yet for the bill and it’s hard to predict if it will pass and in what version.

Comments from both Houlahan and Molinaro are from Molinaro’s press release:

Rep. Molinaro: “For decades, the Delaware River Basin Commission and Susquehanna River Basin Commission, which manage these rivers, have not had a consistent source of federal funding, leading to untenable budgetary shortfalls. Supporting our waterways and protecting access to clean drinking water cannot be optional. By moving the funding source to the EPA, my bipartisan bill provides consistent and reliable funding to ensure clean drinking water is protected and more progress can be made on flood prevention and climate resiliency efforts along the Delaware and Susquehanna River communities.”

Rep. Houlahan: “I remain committed to the sustainable management of our nation’s water resources, and I’m proud to partner with Rep. Molinaro as we introduce the bipartisan Ensure Funding for Our Environment Act. With a special emphasis on prioritizing the Mid-Atlantic River Basin Commissions, which collectively serve over 24 million residents across seven states and the District of Columbia, this bill will direct federal resources where they are desperately needed. Despite congressional direction and authorization, these commissions have faced a cumulative federal funding shortfall for years, hampering their vital water resource management efforts. Building on my previous legislative efforts, Congress can rectify this funding deficit and put the Mid-Atlantic River Basin Commissions on a sustainable path for the benefit of our communities and the environment.”

The bill has been welcomed by the basins’ managers.

Steve Tambini, executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission: “The DRBC thanks Congressman Molinaro and Congresswoman Houlahan for introducing the Ensure Funding for Our Environment Act. By committing to bipartisan funding solutions for our shared water resources, this bill demonstrates the importance of science-based water management for over 14 million people in communities throughout the Delaware River Basin.”

Andrew Dehoff, executive director of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission: “We see great benefit in Representative Molinaro’s proposed bill as it would be a major step in remedying a decades-long challenge in ensuring the federal funding committed to the River Basin Commissions in each legislated compact. Securing the overdue federally-obligated funds, to match consistent partner-state contributions, is crucial for effective river basin management, long-term project planning and continued prudent oversight of our rivers and watersheds into the future.”

Meg McGuire

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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