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Projects on Delaware River win $2.4M in grants

The money is part of the William Penn Foundation's $35 million effort to study, restore river's watershed.

A far-reaching $35 million effort by the William Penn Foundation to study and improve water quality in the Delaware River watershed is working its way into specific on-the-ground and in-the-water projects across the region.

On Tuesday, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced $2.4 million in grants to 15 organizations that will not only do the work, but also bring in partners and additional funds.

Amanda Bassow, director of the Eastern Partnership Office for the wildlife foundation, said that the grantees "are able to leverage more than twice that amount" for the projects.

According to the foundation, the projects are slated to collaboratively restore 34 acres of wetlands and 32 miles of riparian habitat, engage more than 1,000 volunteers, and mitigate nearly two million gallons of stormwater runoff.

"The team at the William Penn Foundation is very excited to see the first steps of the recently launched Delaware River Watershed Initiative come to life," said Laura Sparks, chief philanthropy officer for William Penn.

Among the planned improvements is an effort by the Sisters of St. Basil the Great and students from Abington Friends School, who will be doing restoration work along Jenkintown Creek as part of school projects.

The Stroud Water Research Center, based in Avondale, will provide technical and financial assistance to farmers to control stormwater runoff.

The Lower Merion Conservancy will focus on planting streambanks and creating rain gardens, among other projects, to benefit the East Branch of Indian Creek.

The Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust will construct a wetland to stall and treat stormwater. Similar projects are planned for the Darby Creek and Cobbs Creek areas.

The William Penn initiative seeks to, in effect, turn the entire Delaware River watershed into a vast lab for innovation. The health of the system has recently been threatened by deforestation from commercial, residential, and energy development; contaminated runoff from farms, and urban stormwater.

Yet the watershed provides drinking water for more than 15 million people - from New York to Philadelphia, Camden to Wilmington. It is the only free-flowing river east of the Mississippi.

The grant recipients, by state, are:

Pennsylvania: Brandywine Conservancy Inc.; Brandywine Valley Association Inc.; Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership; Stroud Water Research Center; Berks County Conservancy; Lower Merion Conservancy; Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust; Pennsylvania Resources Council; Brodhead Watershed Association.

New Jersey: The Nature Conservancy; American Littoral Society; New Jersey Audubon Society; Musconetcong Watershed Association; Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions.