Over the past few decades, huge strides have been made to improve the waters of the Hudson-Raritan watersheds, which include the ports in New York and New Jersey, as well as the Hudson, Mohawk, Raritan, Passaic, Hackensack and Bronx rivers.
However, the New York – New Jersey Watershed Protection Act would supercharge those efforts by establishing a $50 million a year federal fund for restoration similar to existing funds for Long Island Sound and Chesapeake Bay.
Recently, the bill, which has been championed for a decade by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), passed in the House of Representatives as part of a larger funding package. Now it must be taken up by the US Senate, where in January companion legislation was introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). You can help by thanking these sponsors and contacting your senators (find their contact info) to encourage support.
“Our waterways are key economic, environmental and recreational engines for our communities,” Congressman Tonko said. “Despite this, our New York-New Jersey Watershed—the most populated watershed in America—has been neglected without key federal investments that would serve our Capital Region and beyond. My legislation responds to that long-failed opportunity by providing federal support to facilitate local restoration projects that promote healthy ecosystems, increase coastal resilience, improve water quality, address the needs of communities facing environmental injustice, and increase public access across our historic Watershed. I’m delighted to advance this legislation that will bolster this vital resource for our communities to enjoy now and for years to come.”
If passed, this program would coordinate restoration and protection activities among government entities and conservation partners throughout the watershed, while also establishing a grant program to support essential and long overdue projects in habitat restoration, flood management, protection of drinking water supplies, community access to waterfronts, environmental education, and recreation.
In addition to creating a new program administered by the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service, the NY-NJ Watershed Protection Act would:
“The New York-New Jersey Watershed is a vital natural resource, providing economic and environmental benefits to nearby communities as well as greenspace for millions of Americans to enjoy,” said Sen. Booker. “As the watershed is increasingly threatened by rising sea levels, storm surges, and the harmful effects of legacy pollution, I am introducing this legislation to make federal investments that help restore the natural resources of our region, mitigate flood risks, and create greater recreational opportunities for residents to enjoy.”
“Investing in our waterways like those in the New York-New Jersey Watershed is vital to protecting our economic and environmental future. The NY-NJ Watershed is one of our most important natural treasures and serves as a vital economic anchor between our states,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “This legislation is critical to protecting the NY-NJ Watershed’s long-term health and environmental quality and will support New York State’s local economy for years to come. I am proud to be co-leading this important legislation with my friend and colleague, Senator Booker.”
“From climate change causing more frequent storms and rising sea levels to pollution and hazardous waste, it is now more important than ever to invest in the protection and restoration of the New York-New Jersey Watershed,” said Sen. Menendez. “Restoring the watershed will improve the ecosystems for marine and wildlife populations, improve water quality, increase public access, and improve the quality of life for the millions of Americans living within the watershed. With revenue from tourism, fishing, and other recreational activities, the watershed is vital to the regional and national economies, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the critical bill.”
“From the Hudson Valley to the New York Harbor our rivers and waterways generate billions in economic activity, are vital pathways for both commerce and recreation, and are some of our most invaluable natural wonders,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “The New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act will turn the tide for the cleanup and restoration of our waterways and ensure their environmental beauty continues to flow for generations. I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation that puts the environment and frontline communities suffering from environmental injustice first.”
“The waters and coastal environments of the New York and New Jersey region are the foundation on which our communities and lives are built” said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the American Littoral Society, “The support this legislation will provide will help us be better stewards of these waters, protecting and restoring them for today and tomorrow.”
The bill is supported by the American Littoral Society and more than 40 other regional and national organizations, as well as almost every member of Congress in the Hudson-Raritan rivers watershed.