Upcoming budget earmarks $50 million for improving Delaware's water quality
Delaware legislators are taking steps to address water quality for its residents with the creation of new trust aimed at targeting those very concerns.
Last week, Gov. John Carney unveiled plans to establish the Clean Water for Delaware act, using $50 million in seed money from the 2021-22 budget, which will be announced Thursday, Jan. 30.
The Act establishes the Delaware Clean Water Trust, designed to “help rebuild Delaware’s drinking water infrastructure, prevent flooding in vulnerable communities, and keep contamination out of our waterways,” according to a press release.
Chief sponsor of the bill and House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst called the legislation a monumental one that protects a valuable and necessary natural resource.
“I’ve traveled up and down the state talking to Delawareans about how we need to protect our natural resources. This is an issue of environmental justice,” Longhurst said. “Clean drinking water, safe waterways, updated infrastructure and adequate wastewater treatment are not luxuries; they are necessities. What we are doing today is taking a huge step forward toward securing our future and ensuring that our children and grandchildren have those necessities of life.”
Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride said that no community in Delaware should live in fear of polluted water and failing wastewater systems.
“Yet across our great state, hundreds of our residents must be leery of the water they drink and the fish they catch,” McBride said. “As we enter our third straight year of surpluses, the time has come to take action. I want to thank Governor John Carney for working with the General Assembly to find the revenue we need to begin addressing this problem today. Our vulnerable communities simply cannot wait any longer.”
The Act will require an annual strategic planning process, according to a press release, and will place a new emphasis on infrastructure projects in low-income, underserved communities.
In the first year, $50 million in state funding will leverage significant federal investment in Delaware’s water quality, the release states.
Jim Jordan, Executive Director of the nonprofit water conservation and education organization the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, hopes that some of the funds find their ways to agencies like the BRCA, to fund their various restoration projects.
“I think [the Act] is great, but my only concern is that Delaware is looking at it that this is for government agencies to spend, whether it’s to DNREC or the town of Elsmere, or the City of Newark,” Jordan said.
Jordan said he hopes the Act is comparable to Pennsylvania’s “Grow Greener” grant, which is highly competitive in its selection process.
"When Pennsylvania … gives us $250 000 for, say, a project like the Plum Run bank restoration, BRCA brings in $500,000 through donations and in-kind to match it, which makes the government’s dollar go that much further,” Jordan said. “We could leverage that $50 million into who knows what?”
It is more likely, Jordan noted, that the funding would go to governments and governmentally established, who would in turn create their own individual grants that may make into the hands of nonprofits like BRCA.
The bill to create the Act – SB1-HB200 – has currently been taken up by the General Assembly.
The entire bill can be found at: legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail?legislationId=47964.