Special Protection Waters Designation
After 7 years of advocacy which all began with a petition filed by Delaware Riverkeeper Network in 2001 with the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), we have secured Special Protection Waters (SPW) designation for the Lower Delaware River from the Water Gap to Washington Crossing.
The three biggest benefits are that:
(1) new or expanded discharges to the River are largely prohibited, this means we will not be seeing new industry or sewage treatment facilities being built along the banks of this reach of the River except in exceptional circumstances;
(2) any facilities that are allowed will have to put in place the best technologies and create nonpoint source pollution control plans that prevent, minimize and treat any stormwater runoff that is generated anywhere within that facility’s service area;
(3) a new benefit that could not have been anticipated at the time we began this campaign is that SPW designation is giving the Delaware River a level of protection from proposed natural gas drilling that is unrivaled anywhere in the region or the country and that is much needed if we are to protect the high quality waters and habitats of the River.
The advocacy it has taken to achieve this designation has been significant, and led entirely by Delaware Riverkeeper Network. We attended and testified at every DRBC opportunity, drafted written comments, letters to the editor, action alerts, online action opportunities and press releases. We reached out to educate and engage municipal officials, federal elected officials, regulators, citizens, and other environmental organizations. Thousands responded in the form of letters and attendance at public hearings speaking up for this special protection for the River. We defended the proposal against the discharger community and against politicians who perceived it as a threat to their political contribution base. In the 11th hour, we mounted a major defense against a clandestine attack by the Pennsylvnia Governor and DRBC Commissioner.
As the result of our steadfast commitment and efforts, on July 16, 2008, the DRBC Commissioners voted to designate the Lower Delaware as SPW.
As a result of the set of three Special Protection Water designations the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has petitioned for and secured for the Upper, Middle and now Lower Delaware River, the Delaware River has the longest stretch of river nationwide that is protected by anti-degradation laws – 197 miles