New Clean Water Funding for Delaware

Delaware is uniquely poised to act as a sink for the Delaware River Watershed, a source for water in the Chesapeake Bay, and the Inland Bays Watershed. The main stem of the Delaware River is the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi, traveling 300 miles from its headwaters in Hancock, NY down to the Delaware Estuary and Bay.  The Watershed spans New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware through one of the most densely populated areas of the mid-Atlantic region.

Like many states, Delaware contains assets from three naturally important watersheds that provide drinking waters to millions, habitats for a range of wildlife, and recreational opportunities for people throughout the region.

It is no secret that watershed systems in Delaware and throughout the country, are in trouble. The fight to clean up and protect these vital waterways is ongoing and long term.  But every now and then, with a lot of time and effort, you get some good news.

Here’s the good news!

In January 2020 water advocates joined Delaware’s Governor and legislative leaders as they introduced A New Clean Water for Delaware ActIt creates a $50 million Clean Water Trust Fund to address Delaware’s most pressing clean water and waterway projects.

What can be funded by the Clean Water Trust? Funding will go towards:

  • Improving flood resiliency and drainage in our most flood-prone communities
  • Repairing failing sewer pipes and septic systems
  • Improving drinking water quality & expanding access to safe drinking water
  • Removing decades-old pollution from our waterways
  • Conservation funding for Delaware’s agriculture community
  • Low-interest loans and grants for low-income and underserved communities

How will projects be chosen? The bill will create a seven-member cabinet-level and state legislator committee composed of the secretaries of the Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; Health and Social Services; Finance; Agriculture and Transportation; as well as the two co-chairs of the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Capital Improvement (also called the Bond Bill Committee). They will create a strategic plan containing:

  • A list of goals for the Trust
  • Projects ranked in terms of importance
  • Recommendations on how to help low-income and underserved communities
  • Challenges facing water quality
  • Drinking water priorities
  • A global strategy for clean water including water infrastructure investments beyond what is funded by the Trust account (such as beach replenishment)

But what happens when that money runs out? Exciting news, clean water fans! It technically shouldn’t run out. The money in the Clean Water Trust account will be going into state revolving Funds, which are replenished year after year by interest from project loans.

This all seems great, right? Are you wondering how to make this a reality? There are two big steps to ensuring this becomes reality:

  1. The Clean Water for Delaware Act (HS1 for HB200) needs to become law. First, the bill must pass the House, then the Senate, then head to the Governor’s desk for signature. Follow our social media and sign up for our newsletter to learn as we pass each milestone.
  2. The Governor’s recommended Bond Bill is just that: a recommendation! The initial investment of $50 million for clean water must be approved by the Bond Bill Committee and passed by the General Assembly. It must be debated and signed like any other piece of legislation.

Great news Water Warriors! You can advocate for this innovative plan for clean water funding! There are three things you can do to help ensure the Clean Water Trust becomes a reality this year, and for years to come.

  1. Contact your legislators and let them know you support HS1 for HB200. If you don’t know your legislators, visit the DE Department of Elections website , enter your name and birthday for your voter registration information. Click on “Districts” and you will see who represents you in the State House and Senate.
  2. Reach out to Delaware’s Bond Bill Committee and tell each member that you want to see the full $50 million earmarked for the Clean Water Trust to be included in the final budget proposal.
  3. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for our newsletter to get up-to-date information and action alerts to learn more about how you can advocate for clean water funding!
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