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DRBC Releases First "State Of The Basin" Report

For Immediate Release

December 5, 2008

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.) --  The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) joined with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum today to officially release the 2008 State of the Delaware River Basin Report (State of the Basin Report), as well as reintroduce PDE’s 2008 State of the Delaware Estuary Report (Estuary Report) which was released in July. 

Speakers at the joint press conference included DRBC Deputy Executive Director Robert Tudor and PDE Executive Director Jennifer Adkins. Also speaking was Gerald Kauffman, the director of the University of Delaware Institute for Public Administration’s Water Resources Agency (IPA-WRA). Kauffman led a team of universities which collected and compiled data submitted to both DRBC and PDE earlier this year that was used as a baseline for their reports.             

Both reports discuss the current health of the Delaware River Basin by examining the status of certain environmental conditions, as well as trends and actions needed to better monitor and improve these conditions in the future. The two reports provide a baseline analysis to help answer the question: Are things better or worse in the Delaware River Basin, and are the goals set forth in DRBC’s 2004 Water Resources Plan for the Delaware River Basin (Basin Plan) and the PDE’s 1996 Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) viable and being achieved?

“The general assessment is that the answer to this question is both yes and no,” Tudor said. “While there are some conditions in the basin and estuary that have improved over time and are on a positive trend, there are others that have worsened, as well as some that have remained static. Furthermore, while some goals in the plans have been attained, the reports highlight that more work needs to be done. Such progress will be tracked in subsequent analyses and through additional or enhanced monitoring programs. For water resource managers and policy makers, it is important to look at the basin both as a holistic system and as a sum of its inter-related parts in order to effectively improve its overall health and vitality.”

DRBC’s State of the Delaware River Basin Report serves as a benchmark of current conditions and provides a platform for measuring and reporting future progress. It is meant to be a companion to the 1981 Level B Study, which was the last comprehensive assessment of water resource issues in the basin, and a point of reference for gauging implementation status of the water resource management goals listed in the 30-year Basin Plan completed in 2004. 

“Our federal and state commissioners directed the preparation of this periodic environmental condition report when they endorsed the principles, goals, and objectives set forth in the Basin Plan,” Tudor said. “The desired conditions listed in the State of the Basin Report link to specific Basin Plan goals and the collaboration that occurred to produce this report satisfies additional goals in support of institutional coordination and cooperation.” 

The State of the Basin Report catalogs specific indicators, or measurements of environmental conditions, on which data were readily available and assembles them into four categories: hydrology, water quality, living resources, and landscape. Each of the 37 indicators – for example, water use, dissolved oxygen, horseshoe crabs, and wetlands –  is discussed in terms of current status and trend (positive, negative, or static) toward a desired condition, as well as future actions and needs necessary to achieve that desired condition. The report also includes features on burgeoning issues such as climate change, emerging contaminants, invasive species, and the valuation of natural landscapes. It concludes with a summary of all conditions and recommendations for future monitoring and reporting. Updating this comprehensive report is planned every five years. 

The State of the Delaware Estuary Report specifically examines the portion of the Delaware Basin where the fresh water of the Delaware River mixes with the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean, and includes the Delaware Bay and tidal river upstream to Trenton, N.J., as well as its surrounding drainage area. This Estuary Report, and the earlier one issued in 2002, tracks the progress that has been made toward implementing the 1996 CCMP, which is PDE’s long-term plan. 

A total of 26 indicators were examined in the 2008 Estuary Report based on the availability of data and the capability of these indicators to explain current conditions and future needs. The method used to illustrate current status, trends, and actions and needs is similar to that used in the State of the Basin Report.  Examples of estuary indicators are population, land use, nutrients, blue crabs, and salinity. “The Delaware Estuary is both a living and working estuary,” Adkins said. “Managing it is a delicate balance we and many others are working hard to preserve and perfect.”

DRBC and PDE collaborated with one another, as well as with state and federal agencies, universities, and advisory committees, to prepare both reports. Data were shared, assembled, and assessed among the partners, who also provided technical review. A portion of the funding for the State of the Basin Report came from the William Penn Foundation as part of the original grant for the Basin Plan. Additional monies were provided by DRBC, and substantial in-kind support was provided by university and state and federal agency partners. Funding for the Estuary Report came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program. 

The State of the Basin Report is available on the DRBC web site at www.drbc.net. The Estuary Report can be found on the PDE web site at www.DelawareEstuary.org, where information also is available about the upcoming Delaware Estuary Science and Environmental Summit, Planning for Tomorrow’s Delaware Estuary, January 11-14, 2009, in Cape May, N.J. To view the IPA-WRA’s report, Technical Summary: State of the Delaware Basin Report, please visit the University of Delaware's web site. Hard copies of each report can be requested from the appropriate agency. For additional information on the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, one of only a few urban national wildlife refuges in the country, please visit http://www.fws.gov/northeast/heinz/.

The DRBC was formed in 1961 through compact legislation signed into law by President Kennedy and the governors of the four basin states (Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania), marking the first time in our nation’s history that the federal government and a group of states joined together as equal partners in river basin planning, regulation, and dispute resolution.

The PDE, a National Estuary Program based in Wilmington, Del., leads collaborative and creative efforts to protect and enhance the Delaware Estuary and its tributaries for current and future generations. It envisions everyone working together to make the Delaware Estuary the most inviting, prosperous, and healthy natural resource of its kind in the nation.


Contact: Kate O'Hara, DRBC, 609-883-9500 ext. 205