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Nearly $32 million in grants will help fish, birds, streams, trails in the Delaware River Watershed

The money will fund 45 projects along or near tributaries of the watershed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

A view of the Delaware River from the bridge connecting Lambertville, N.J., to New Hope, Pa.
A view of the Delaware River from the bridge connecting Lambertville, N.J., to New Hope, Pa.Read moreTYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced $15.8 million in grants this week toward Delaware River watershed conservation that includes helping restore shad in the Brandywine, preserving wildlife on Delaware Bay, and enhancing the Schuylkill River Trail — among a host of other projects.

Environmental and conservation groups pitched in an additional $16 million in matching grants, bringing the total to $31.8 million for watershed projects.

The money will fund 45 projects along or near tributaries of the watershed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The grants are designed to enhance recreation, water quality, and habitat conservation. Nearly $5 million came from the bipartisan infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden last year.

The grants are awarded annually through the federally administered Delaware Watershed Conservation and Delaware River Restoration funds. The William Penn Foundation is a major contributor to the funds. This year, the Bezos Earth Fund and AstraZeneca also contributed.

“By building on the strong partnerships underlying our Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, this historic investment will improve fish and wildlife habitat and directly engage underserved communities in addressing issues such as flood mitigation, water quality and safe access to nature where they live,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams said in a statement.

What will all that money be used for?

Officials said during a press event Thursday in Delaware along the banks of the Brandywine River that the awards “will improve more than 10,000 acres through enhanced voluntary management and the voluntary treatment of polluted runoff using agricultural conservation practices on about 2,200 acres, restore 439 acres of wetlands, plant over 50,000 trees, and open more than 65 miles for fish passage.”

The Delaware River watershed covers 13,539 square miles of land and water. It spans the Catskills in New York through Pennsylvania and New Jersey, ending in the Delaware Bay.

The projects are designed to help advance the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, largely funded by the William Penn Foundation, which has spent more than $151 million since 2013, including $23 million this year.

» READ MORE: $2.5 million grant will help extend Schuylkill River Trail from Bartram’s Garden to South Philly

“The health of the Delaware River watershed has made remarkable progress over several decades, thanks to the tireless work of conservationists across its four-state landscape,” said Stuart Clarke, Watershed Protection Program Director at the William Penn Foundation. Still, it’s important that we continue to unite to ensure its health and resilience.”

For example, one local project to restore shad on the Brandywine River would get $1 million from the new funding for engineering, hydrologic, architectural, and archaeological studies needed for removal or modification of the Brandywine Falls Dam near the Pennsylvania state line in Delaware. Project officials say that will improve fish migration not only for shad but other species as well.

Another $180,000 would go toward a design of a Schuylkill River Trail segment from Bartram’s Garden to Passyunk Avenue. The money would go toward restoring 16 acres along 1,500 feet of the Schuylkill in Philadelphia. Officials say the project “will accelerate improvements to the shoreline, water quality, wildlife habitat, and access to recreational opportunities along the river consistent with local conservation efforts.”

That project also recently received a $2.5 million Pennsylvania economic development grant for the trail segment being designed to connect South and Southwest Philadelphia via the Passyunk Avenue Bridge to the Schuylkill River Trail — and create a new route for bicyclists and pedestrians to Bartram’s Garden and University City.

A sampling of other local projects

  • A $244,800 federal grant and $110,100 in matching funds to the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership Grant for a total of about $354,900 for restoration of the Shoemaker Run stream at Abington Club Golf Course. The money will go to install green stormwater infrastructure to reduce impacts from stormwater runoff at the Abington Club golf course in Jenkintown.
  • $239,200 federal grant and an equal matching grant for a total of $478,400 to Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey to restore a Delaware Bay stopover location for migrating red knot birds. The project is part of an efforts to recover the rufa red knot and other shorebirds as well as horseshoe crabs through protection and monitoring.
  • A $1.46 million federal grant and $2.2 million matching grant, totaling $3.6 million for Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Salem County, New Jersey. The money will be used to restore and enhance “430 acres of existing and lost critical tidal freshwater marsh habitat” through removal of excess rock in channels, enhancing marshes, and using dredge materials to build up elevation.
  • A $199,000 federal grant and $231,800 matching grant to Darby Township for a total of $430,800 toward restoration of the stream bank and resilience at Conway Park. The project would restore a floodplain near Hermesprota Creek and create 1.3 acres of native woods within the township owned park, which is just upstream of Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. It will reduce flooding and create habitat connections with Heinz.
  • $1 million federal funds and a nearly equal amount in matching funds totaling more than $2 million to Wildlands Conservancy for a stream and fish passage at Bushkill Creek in Easton, Pa. The project entails removing the first of three dams in the creek, as well as installing structures to promote habitat, bank stabilization, buffer plantings, stream monitoring, and community outreach.
  • A $750,000 federal grant and $550,000 in matching funds for a total of $1.3 million to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to remove the Spring Garden Dam at Neshaminy Creek in Bucks County. The project, in partnership with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would remove the barrier to fish passage, and restore the creek to a free flowing condition.