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New York – New Jersey Watershed Protection Act wins greater bipartisan support in Congress


Photo: National Parks Service/Brian Feeney
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Riverkeeper continues advocating to ensure the Hudson wins this long-overdue federal investment – authorizing $20 million for habitat restoration, flood management, drinking water protection, waterfront access & more throughout Hudson-Raritan watersheds

Photo: National Parks Service/Brian Feeney

The New York – New Jersey Watershed Protection Act (H.R. 2982) would authorize $20 million a year in federal funds until federal fiscal year 2029 to protect and restore the Hudson-Raritan watersheds. This grant program, facilitated by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, would support essential and long overdue projects in habitat restoration, flood management, protection of drinking water supplies, community access to waterfronts, environmental education and recreation.

On July 27, the Hudson and connected waterways received consideration for this new federal funding in the House subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries. The legislative hearing marked a key step in the development of a new regional, landscape-scale program envisioned by the act. Demonstrating the bipartisan appeal of the legislation, Congressman Mike Lawler (NY-17), a cosponsor of the legislation, spoke on behalf of the cosponsors in urging his colleagues in Congress to move the legislation forward.

This is a chance to put into action the plans that Riverkeeper and numerous government agencies and partners have collaborated on – including the Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda and Mohawk River Basin Action Agenda, developed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and restoration plans developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Hudson lacks this level of investment, even while we see such efforts succeeding in Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay, and the Great Lakes. Those programs received billions of dollars from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act while the Hudson River and surrounding watersheds missed out. The creation of a federal program will ensure that our region is eligible for federal dollars the next time opportunity comes knocking.

The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Paul Tonko and Nicole Malliotakis in the House with over a dozen bipartisan cosponsors. The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bob Menendez and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
In this Congress we have gathered greater bipartisan support than ever before. Hundreds of Riverkeeper supporters wrote to their representatives last year, and helped make this happen. Riverkeeper and our allies are working diligently to secure the legislation’s passage despite new funding rules in the House of Representatives that make passing a new program more challenging than in previous years. (In order to create this new program, legislators have to agree to cut other spending authorizations elsewhere.)

Federal funding is needed to help supercharge existing science-based plans within the watersheds that flow into New York-New Jersey Harbor, including the Hudson, Mohawk, Raritan, Passaic, Hackensack and Bronx rivers. These projects will help iconic species like American shad, bluefish, striper and American eel rebound, and halt the decline of our wetlands, streams and floodplains so that these ecosystems and the species that rely on them can thrive once again. And, this bill can help tackle environmental justice issues and safeguard drinking water for the public.

The legislation is endorsed by more than 50 national and regional organizations. The next step in the process would involve a “committee markup,” where changes to the legislation are considered. A markup has not been scheduled. We are also pushing for the Senate to hold a hearing on the legislation as well. The most promising path for this legislation is for it to be attached to a larger bill such as the Water Resources Development Act or another authorization.

We are in this for the long haul, and we will continue to advocate for as long as it takes to ensure the Hudson River gets its due in Congress.

You can support Riverkeeper’s efforts to protect and restore the Hudson River and its connected waters by becoming a member. To stay up to date, please join our mailing list.

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