Thursday, December 16, 2010

Deepening is an Earmark that Contributes to the Deficit - Responsible Legislators Must Dump It


Congress is promising fiscal restraint – they promise no more earmarks and no more wasted investments that won’t generate real economic benefits for our country.

Delivering on this promise mandates cancelling the earmark that is the Delaware Deepening.

The Deepening is an earmark:
  • it is an earmark that is not defensible fiscally;
  • it is an earmark that has pitted the federal government against state governments and communities;
  • it is an earmark that will cause community and environmental harms that could cost hundreds of millions in the future, especially if it decimates oysters, pollutes drinking, and extirpates endangered species all of which are very real possible outcomes.

Democrats and Republicans need to act responsibility and to ensure that every federal tax dollar spent will yield healthy communities and economies, not fulfill the political whims of some while damaging and threatening the good health and jobs of others as the deepening does.

No federal tax dollars have yet been spent on construction, only Pennsylvania has ponied up the money to serve the personal political needs of Governor Rendell. 

Deepening Robs The Budget for a Failed Investment
The Government Accountability Office has three times challenged the claims of economic benefit from deepening – with the most recent report issuing just this past year, April 2010.   In this most recent report the GAO documented once again that the Army Corps has failed to provide Congress or the public with accurate, up-to-date, complete information regarding the economic ramifications of deepening and in so doing has failed to provide the objective assessment Congress needs to make an informed choice about continuing to fund the project.  This is in addition to a 2002 Report and 2006 Congressional testimony provided by the GAO characterizing similar concerns. 

Assertions that deepening will inject millions of dollars into the region’s economies are peculiar claims considering that the Government Accountability Office has estimated the annual benefits of the project to be only $13.3 million. Even the Army Corps of Engineers is only claiming $32,645,000 of annual economic benefit (this according to their 2008 economic update.).

The fact is that there is nothing on the record to demonstrate or document that deepening will lead to the economic benefits claimed by project supporters.
  •  The Army Corps has stated that the “mix and volume of cargoes coming to the benefiting terminals will be equivalent for the current 40 foot or the proposed 45 foot channel depths. There is no induced tonnage as a result of the deepening project.  … The future volume of cargo passing through the Delaware River port system is determined by … factors that are not affected in any measurable way by the channel depth.
  •  The Army Corps further makes clear: “with the deeper channel, fewer total vessel calls will be required ….”
  • According to the Army Corps, the few economic benefits claimed for the deepening would be enjoyed mostly by six oil facilities — one of which recently shut down. None of these facilities has invested in the project, and some even oppose the deepening, or have stated that it would provide them with no benefit.  

It is also important to recognize that while at best the Army Corps is asserting $32 million of annual economic benefit from deepening, what is put at risk is economically worth far greater including, but certainly not limited to, $80 million a year from the oyster industry, $34 million a year from ecotourism associated with horseshoe crabs and migrating shorebirds, and the Delaware River portion of the region’s recreational fishing industries including New Jersey’s $630 million of annual economic benefit (a statewide figure but much of which can be attributed to the Delaware River).

Deepening Strips States Rights.
The project is the subject of major litigation in two federal district courts, being challenged by the State of New Jersey, the State of Delaware and 5 environmental and community organizations for failure to comply with 6 federal environmental laws as well as state legal obligations and permits.  Considering the depth and breadth of the legal challenges at issue it is most appropriate for Congress to ensure that federal environmental laws and States rights obligations are fulfilled before it aids in the forward movement of the project with additional funding.

The Constitution and Federal Law are carefully designed to protect the sovereign rights of States to oversee and/or affect projects that have impacts within their borders.  Protecting this balance of power is essential for the proper implementation of law and for the proper protection of citizens.  Actions and decisions that affect this balance of power have ramifications far beyond the debate of whether to deepen the Delaware River’s main navigation channel.  Continued federal funding in the face of these legal battles directly pits the federal government against the rights of our states to uphold their laws and enforce applicable federal laws.

Deepening Is a Threat that Costs – Costs Health, Safety, Jobs and the Taxpayer Dollars it Will Cost to Restore the Damage to Come. 
Environmentally, deepening the channel changes the movement and balance of fresh and salt water in a way that will move the salt line up river, threatening drinking water supplies and other community harms. 

A moving salt line is a major threat to the oyster populations of the Delaware Estuary – including threatening the reintroduction of parasites and disease that decimated their populations in the recent past.  Oysters are vital to the ecology of the Delaware.  Oysters act as a vital food source and are important filters for pollution found in Estuary waters. Oysters of the Estuary are also economically important. The annual harvest of oysters from the Delaware Estuary are expected to generate up to $80 million of annual economic benefit for the region. In recognition of the economic, job and cultural importance of the Delaware Estuary’s oysters they have been the recipient of over $6.5 million of public restoration funds and resources. 

The Delaware Bay is home to the largest spawning population of horseshoe crabs in the world irreplaceable for supporting migratory birds and a $34 million boost to the region’s ecotourism industry. Nationally, horseshoe crabs represent a substantial benefit to the biomedical industry, to which one pint of Horseshoe Crab blood is worth $15,000 for required testing on medical devices, vaccines and intravenous drugs used by all, representing $150 million of annual revenue and social welfare value. The deepening project directly threatens the horseshoe crabs and as a result is also a threat to dependent migratory birds and associated ecotourism.

According to experts, deepening and associated spoil disposal will introduce heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxins into the environment.  And will cause the washing away of wetlands important ecologically and for storm protection.  It also is a direct and immediate threat to the Atlantic Sturgeon populations of the Delaware River – a population that once supported the largest caviar industry in the country – and could again if allowed to recover (potentially over $400 million of economic benefit here).

Earmarks of this kind – that threaten harm to our economy and region, have no place in a fiscally responsible government.
Neither the House of Representatives nor the President included funding for the project in their proposed budget – nor have they in the past 3 administrations.  There is a strong recognition that earmarks have allowed bad projects to move forward – projects not worthy of taxpayer dollars but instead given for political gain or interests.  President Obama would be the first to budget for this project in well over a decade if he were to succumb to the political pressures of the defeated Senator Specter and to Senator Casey.  Better he support the good works of respected Senator Lautenberg, Menendez, Kaufman and Congressmen Andrews and Lobiondo on the matter and continue to oppose funding for deepening.

The Delaware Deepening is a major threat to our River and region.  It should not continue to receive the casual funding that has kept it alive and unjustified all these years.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gas Drilling Harms River Jobs and Communities

The Delaware River attracts visitors from all over the world to spend money and support business up river and down.

When we keep our River clean and full flowing it provides those who live here 
                clean drinking water, 
                healthy food, 
                memorable recreation, 
                good paying jobs, 
                strong local economies, and 
                unparalleled quality of life. 

The gas drillers claim they will bring us better jobs and income at little or no cost. 
They also try to pitch this as a property rights fight. 

This is about rights, we agree, but it is about the right to life, and the rights of a community to ensure that no piece of property is used in a way that hurts the rest of the community. 

It is also about jobs – the jobs the gas drillers will take from hardworking people today, and the jobs they will rob from future generations. 

With the drillers come big costs – for our River, for our region and for our communities. 

Drilling will leave us a legacy of pollution and environmental degradation that will have to be cleaned up by everyone else, i.e. by the taxpayers. 

Gas drilling brings with it: 
              Toxic pollution to our air and water – that will last generations 
              It robs us of fresh, clean water in the rivers and streams that we drink and eat from, swim and fish in. 
             It will decimate forests that protect us from pollution and flooding, and that are vital for recreation, ecotourism and economic investment. 
             Gas drillers bring trucks, generators and bright lights by the thousands which create unending noise, traffic, and pollution disturbing and sickening our communities and taxing our community infrastructure. 
             Drilling brings overwhelming odors and 
             Too often it brings fires, explosions and toxic spills that damage and threaten our communities and environment, and that burden local responders with emergencies they aren't equipped for. 


The gas drillers will take from our children the natural, cultural and historic heritage that our region is known for. 

Gas drilling cannot wean the U.S. off its dependence on foreign oil. In fact, much of what they extract is planned for shipment overseas to places like China, Japan, Norway, France, India. 

Gas drilling contributes to global climate change, it does not make it better. When you consider the drilling process from cradle to grave: 
              Drilling (extraction, collection and distribution) emits vast amounts of methane, VOC, NOX and other emissions that are major contributors to GCC. 
             Construction of each well is estimated to require at least 1400 truck trips, each fueled by dirty diesel. With estimates of 10,000 to 50,000 wells for our upper Delaware you can see the magnitude of this pollution and traffic harm. 
             Construction of the wells, transmission pipes and needed roadways – means the loss of forests which are natural carbon sinks. 


Destroying the health and image of the River will drive businesses away from our communities.  Businesses increasingly look to settle in attractive and well renowned communities.  If we lose our River, we lose our cache, and we lose this attraction for big business. 

Gas drilling also puts at risk ecotourism and river jobs. 

Ecotourism is a fundamental mainstay of many Delaware River businesses and communities. 

In just one year the Upper reaches of the Delaware River brought to local communities over 367,000 whitewater paddlers, who spent over $20 million, contributed almost $10 million to our local economies, and supported 447 jobs. 

There are 20 canoe liveries that operate along the Delaware. Some employ as many as 200 people. With an annual attendance of over 60,000, one livery alone can create gross revenue of more than $3 million a year for our region -- just one livery. 

Trout fishing in the Upper Delaware resulted in $17.69 million in local business revenue in a single year. This revenue supporting 348 jobs, providing $3.65 million in wages and $719,350 in local taxes. This investment translated into an ongoing $29.98 million in local economic activities. 

River festivals up and down the River draw crowds. Lambertville’s shad festival draws 30,000 to 35,000 to that community just for one brief weekend generating tremendous amounts of business. 

In PA, NY an NJ wildlife viewing alone generates an estimated $1 million in retail sales, $623 million in trip related sales, $217 million in federal and state taxes and supports 35,000 jobs a year. Nature viewing only succeeds when there are healthy habitats and clean streams that sustain wildlife and beautiful views for the visitors. 

In Philadelphia and beyond restaurants and hotels market themselves based upon their river views and river access. Some hotels charge over $100 more for a room if it faces the River. 

Boating on the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers – rowing, paddling, and motorized boats are a big attractions – bringing visitors and business. The Schuylkill has hosted over 20 regattas in a single year – some bringing 1,400, 3,000 even 5,000 visitors each from all over the country to enjoy and spend in and around Philadelphia. 

The pollution, water withdrawals and massive land disturbance the drilling will bring does damage to these businesses, jobs and economic attractions – both through direct harm and indirect harm by harming the perceptions of the health and beauty of the River. 

Protecting and restoring the ecosystems of the Delaware River is not just of economic import, but is also important to the health and safety of our region. 

Woodlands and forests protect us from flooding and flood damages by absorbing the water that otherwise runs off and floods us. Tree cover has saved communities billions of dollars in infrastructure that would otherwise be needed to manage stormwater runoff and prevent flood damages. Trees in just four of our tributary watersheds saved a combined $6 ½ billion in otherwise needed infrastructure.  

Communities along the Delaware already suffer from catastrophic flooding and damages. Gas drilling will remove vast areas of trees and compromise vast areas of floodplain making the danger of catastrophic flooding for communities worse and more frequent. 

As for drinking water, Philadelphia and New York City both well know that protecting the watershed that is the source of drinking water is the most effective and cost efficient way to protect water supplies. Every dollar invested in watershed protection can save a community between $7.50 and $200 in costs for new water treatment facilities. 

New York City has invested 1 to 1.5 billion dollars to protect the Upper Delaware, the source of its water supply. The alternative treatment plant option would have cost the City $10 to $20 billion. 

Philadelphia too is investing to protect its drinking water source. 

The drillers put all this at risk with the pollution they create, the glutinous quantities of fresh water they withdraw, and the destruction of the green infrastructure that is the basis of all this clean water and economic prosperity. 

As recently as September 24, 2010 the DRBC put the region in drought warning and directed needed reservoir releases to ensure flows for Philadelphia and other communities. If we allow the gas drillers to take from us the hundreds of millions of gallons needed to feed their drilling operations we make these kinds of conditions worse. Remember, we are talking 10,000 to 50,000 wells at an average of 4.5 million gallons of water per well for fracking. 

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has determined that natural gas extraction is a threat to the water quality of the Delaware River. As a result it is developing natural gas specific regulations and gas production wells in the watershed are on hold until those regulations are adopted. 

DRBC should soon be getting federal funding to study the cumulative affects of natural gas drilling.  This study needs to be completed and used as the basis for the new DRBC regulations. 

Right now the DRBC is planning to do it backwards – to create their regulations and so allow drilling first, and do the study of the harms of gas drilling later when it is too late to take advantage of its findings. 

The DRBC needs to hear from us all that they doing it backwards means irreparable harm as the result of ill informed regulations. We need you to tell the DRBC that the City doesn’t want to see gas drilling regulations being drafted or drilling to start until the environmental and community harms analysis has been done first.  Go to the action page of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network website to get your letter in -- www.delawareriverkeeper.org. 

And as a community we need to stop focusing our energy on new ways to extract damaging, polluting fossil fuels and start focusing on sustainable, environmentally friendly sources of energy.  My husband and I invested in both solar and geothermal at our home in May and are reaping tremendous rewards. We aren’t polluting when we turn the lights on in our house, the amount of money we are saving each month is immense, we are fully powered, without being an environmental and financial burden on our community or the future of our children. 

That is our future – sustainable energy – not the devastations brought by natural gas -- at least that's the way it should be.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pennsylvania Politicians Steal Property Rights to Support Gas Drilling


My daughter and husband playing by the brook on our land

Governor Rendell and many Pennsylvania politicians often resist issuing regulations to protect us from pollution, runoff and other environmental degradations -- even if water would be contaminated, communities flooded or economies harmed -- because to do so might strip a property owner of their rights to use the land for economic gain.

Now, by contrast, Governor Rendell is planning to strip me of my property rights to protect my 68 acres in Columbia County from misuse and harm.  These are the acres my Mother cherished and which, on her death bed, she called on me to protect from harm.


My Mum enjoying her land still during that last year
when she was battling her pancreatic cancer


Governor Rendell and others are seeking legislation called "forced pooling" that would strip me of my right to say no to natural gas drilling under my land.  

Drilling for natural gas on any portion of my property (whether the drill pad is located on the grounds or the drilling and injection of fracking chemicals are allowed to take place under the ground) puts at risk the waters that feed the tiny brook that flows through that land (a brook named after my daughter), threatens the many springs of fresh water that come to the surface all over, and puts at risk the well water I and my kids drink in the house.  

Gas Drilling happening nearby our property



With this legislation, I would be stripped of my legal right to say no to drilling, the injection of chemicals and the extraction of gas from the rock, soils and minerals that are part of my land (and therefore part of my legally owned property), if neighbors of mine decide to open up their lands to drilling.  

So Governor Rendell and other PA politicians are happy to defend the rights of property owners in order to prevent environmental and community protection laws from being passed; and yet now they are eager to strip me of my property rights to say no to the misuse of my land in a way that will harm the environment, my family and my community.  

There is one word to describe this kind of politicking -- "hypocrisy".

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Music - One of My Ways to Stay Strong for the River


People often ask me:  “how do you keep going in face of all of the opposition and challenges you face every day?”

There are a lot of ways I keep my passion and strength up to face the daily challenges and attacks I face in my job.  One of them is music, good music about protecting the environment. 

Before itunes and the like I had a cassette of songs I put together.  I’d listen to it all the time when in the car on the way to a hearing or a meeting or just to and from work.  Eventually it wore out.  And so for a long time I was without my environmental protection/social justice music.  But once I learned how to use today’s modern technology to amass this kind of music again I got to work. I haven’t found all of the songs I had in my original collection, but I found a lot and recently have found much more.

I’m always looking for good songs to add to my play list so if you have ideas please share them as a comment to this blog.  I need to expand my repertoire.

And for those who are interested, here are some of the songs that really help keep my mind and heart focused on taking on and winning the daily challenges for the River:

  • Of course: “Maya van Rossum’s Blues” by the Donuts (a song about the Athos I oil spill on the Delaware River)
  •  “Clear Blue Skies” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  •  “The Rape of the World” by Tracy Chapman – listen for the part where she urges you to “stand up and testify”
  • “Nature’s Way” by Spirit
  •  “We Bought it” by Brother Tree
  • “Help Your Mother” by Brother Tree
  • “All Over” by Brother Tree
  • “Earth Song” by Michael Jackson
  •   “Not Ready to Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks as I see this as a song about speaking for what you believe is right despite the opposition you face
  •  “If a Tree Falls” by Bruce Cockburn
  • “Way of the World” by Chante Pierce
  •  “Good bye to a River” by Don Henley
  • “Simple Living” by Fred Small
  • “Treehugger” by J.P. Taylor
  • “Rise to the Challenge” by J.P. Taylor
  • “Down along the River” by J.P. Taylor
  • “Hug the Earth” by J.P. Taylor
  • “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver
  •  “Don’t Cut Me Down” by Olivia Newton John
  • “Silent Ruin” by Olivia Newton John

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Boaters Beware -- Robbing the River From the Public, From Boaters, Is Plan of Some in Wake of Duck Boat Tragedy

River Belongs to the Public -- Including the Day to Day Boaters

Speakers on the radio, in the news, authors of letters to the editor and others are starting to assert that by virtue of the fact that they were operating on the Delaware River, including in and around the main navigation channel, the Duck Boat operators are somehow primarily responsible for the accident that took place on July 7, 2010. These characterizations are not only wrong -- blame cannot be placed simply because the Ducks Boats were operating on the Delaware River -- but they are now being used by some like the Maritime Exchange, to try to kick boaters off the water in Philadelphia leaving it open only to barge, tug, tanker and container traffic.  

The Duck Boat tragedy should not be used as a messaging tool to attempt to deprive the public, boaters, fishers and small business operations from free and appropriate access to the Delaware River.  This issue of boat access is a bit like the defense of the first amendment, we need to protect it for all; sometimes that means protecting it for the one in order to protect it for the all.  And so boaters and fishers of all kinds need to stand together to protect access to the Delaware River, no matter what kind of boat we are talking about.

The Delaware is a shared resource – it is a resource that belongs to the public and which we choose to share with industry.   The Delaware River does not belong to the ports or industry.  It is wholly inappropriate for any individual or entity to suggest that port operators or big business have a higher right to travel upon the Delaware River than the public.   It is wholly inappropriate for any individual or entity to attempt to use this tragedy to urge the ejection of the public, boaters, fishers or small business from travelling in any portion of the Delaware River if they are behaving responsibly, operating with the correct safety equipment, and operating in accordance with safe boating operations and measures.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

BP's Lesson for the Delaware River and Region


The BP oil spill should teach all of our legislators, regulators, friends and neighbors a huge lesson – the health of our Rivers, oceans, wetlands, streams, matter – they matter for every level of life.  In addition to clean waterways for drinking water, recreation, and our health, we need the clean water and healthy habitats to sustain the jobs that sustain lives, families and whole economies.   This is as true here along the Delaware River as it is in the Gulf.  The Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s recently released River Values report proves that. (found at www.delawareriverkeeper.org)

And yet, now that the spill has been weeks in happening, once again we hear conservative anti-environmentalists attacking any and all who are seeking strong laws and regulations and actions to protect our rivers, oceans and environments from the never-ending search for fossil fuels – whether it is oil drilling in the ocean, natural gas drilling in the Upper Delaware, or drastic deepening projects and LNG facilities to make transportation of that fuel cheaper for the oil companies and their profits.  This reality despite that seeking cleaner energy strategies are better long term job creating and community protecting investments.

(Please notice I said “conservative anti-environmentalists” not republicans.  This is not a political party issue.  Protecting our environment should be the highest priority for all political parties and at many points in history has been.)

We can no longer allow extremist groups rob us of the environmental protection we deserve and need – they do it by capturing the message and capturing the press.  But if we were to rise together in a common voice for the River, for the environment, for the health and future of our selves, our families, our children, and the critters that enrich our lives the extremists could not rob us of the message and in so doing rob us of strong action by our political representatives. 

 
When the extremist anti-enviros steal the message our politicians seem to cower.  Instead they need to stand strong and proud and take back the message, stressing that we best protect ourselves when we best protect our River and environments.  If the politicians on either side of the aisle don’t have the backbone to take back the message and take the action on their own to protect our River and environment, it is our job as the public to give them the strength and spine they need to help them -- to force them -- to do it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

New Report Documents Failure of New Jersey Towns to Protect from Runoff and Enforce Law -- Now the Governor Needs to Listen



A new report was released today, Monday May 24, 2010, (New Jersey Stormwater Management Implementation – A Case Study of Hamilton Township) which documents:
  • improper implementation of New Jersey’s stormwater program at the municipal level; and
  • a failure by the State to oversee the program and to protect against local abuses, and damaged application of the law to development projects.

The report contradicts the findings of Governor Christie's Red Tape Review Group regarding the state stormwater program.  In Appendix H the Red Tape Review Group said there was a duplication of responsibility and effort by the DEP and the municipalities in the implementation of the stormwater program and that perhaps the DEP should be pulled out of the review process. 

This new report demonstrates that DEP absolutely must not be taken out of the review and implementation process of new Jersey's stormwater regulations.  The law, as currently written, is only flawed because it isn’t being fully or properly implemented and enforced, both at the municipal and state level.

Responding to concerns about the stormwater program the Delaware Riverkeeper Network hired 4 consulting firms to review a series of projects in Hamilton twp -- they looked for completeness, accuracy and compliance with the stormwater law.
  • Of the 12 projects we present in the review, projects complied with the law a pidly average of 42% of the time. 
  • When it came to using the nonstructural strategies so important to the NJ regs, compliance averaged an even worse 13%.
  • Likewise the report found troubling results in the state’s efforts to identify and respond to these dramatic shortcomings.

 The result of the failures of local municipalities and the DEP to ensure full and fair compliance with the state stormwater program is:
  • increasing flooding for communities like Hamilton Twp and downstream communities like Trenton;
  • increasing costs for communities in the form of emergency flood response, including police services and public works departments;
  • polluting and eroding streams in a way that undermines infrastructure, infects drinking water, damages businesses and jobs, damages recreation and associated ecotourism, reduces property values, and threatens health and safety of communities.


If the NJ Stormwater regulations were implemented as they are written, with both the state and municipalities participating, NJ communities would save and make money. 

For example, vegetated buffers, an important strategy that results from implementation of the NJ stormwater regulations,
  • Reduces the volume of runoff, filters pollution and prevents erosion. 
  • At the same time buffers can increase the value of nearby homes by 6 to 15%. 
  • "Pennypack Park in Philadelphia is credited with a 38% increase in the value of a nearby property." Forested buffers generate tax revenues for host communities – in fact, in the United States trees planted on private properties have generated over $1.5 billion in tax revenue.

 Protecting and restoring tree cover -- has saved some New Jersey communities billions of dollars in infrastructure that would otherwise be needed to manage stormwater runoff:
  • Protecting existing tree cover was found to have prevented 65 million cubic feet of stormwater runoff in the Big Timber Creek watershed here in New Jersey saving communities $3.3 billion in stormwater infrastructure.
  • In the Mill Creek watershed also in New Jersey, protecting existing tree cover prevented 6.7 million cubic feet of stormwater runoff saving the community $350 million in stormwater infrastructure.

Just  3 weeks ago the Delaware Riverkeeper Network issued another report – “River Values, the Value of a Clean and Healthy Delaware River” in which the organization documented that protecting our streams and rivers, with a particular focus on runoff issues, brings to our States and region irreplaceable jobs, economic revenue, tax benefits, and increased safety from illness, physical harm and from economic harm.

The Red Tape Review Group has it wrong – we need a strong stormwater program to protect the jobs and economies of New Jersey.  The way to get that in New Jersey is for the state to provide complimentary reviews and needed oversight so as to ensure full enforcement of the regulations we already have on the books. 

When we leave the program in the hands of municipalities alone, the results can be abysmal failure, as is illustrated by the problems documented in the Hamilton Township report. 

State participation in NJ’s stormwater program is not redundant, it is necessary!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Very Cool Article about Deepening and Delaware Riverkeeper Network

The linked article gives a spectacular picture of the deepening battle and what we are facing.
I have to say I think the cartoon is really cool too.
Dont' think there's much more to say but check it out.

http://citypaper.net/articles/2010/05/20/delaware-riverkeeper-maya-van-rossum

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How much is a healthy Delaware River worth? More than anyone could ever conceive or pay!

When local, state and federal governments are being pressured to create jobs, jobs, jobs, the River and environment are often undervalued and their value as a job creator and economic engine vital for the region gets downplayed and forgotten as the special interests fight for their pet projects.  At the Delaware Riverkeeper Network we have written a report that demonstrates that protecting and restoring the Delaware River is fundamental to healthy jobs, economies and communities in our region and if sacrificed to achieve short term political or industrial ends will result in the undermining of the health, enjoyment and economic vitality of our region’s children, families and communities.

 So often we hear about the need to deepen the Delaware to support big oil or industry, or that the state and local regulations that protect our waterways are too great a burden and must be relaxed or eliminated, or that the River is needed to support power plants regardless of the number of fish they slaughter, or that we have to continue to allow industries and communities to dump sewage, toxins, and other pollution into the River.  What gets lost in all of these conversations is the reality that a clean, healthy and free flowing river is essential for the jobs of others, to protect us from illness, to prevent us from suffering unnecessary flood damages.  Big business, politicians and bureaucrats are so busy worrying about whether Dupont will sue them or the ports will oppose them in an election that they forget the River can benefit many more when we protect it for the benefit of all.

Our report titled River Values, includes case studies documenting individuals  and businesses that benefit economically from a clean and healthy Delaware River.  But it also shows the many ways a healthy Delaware River and tributary streams protect us, benefit us, nurture us, enrich us, care for us as individuals and communities.  

If you are fighting to protect the Delaware or any of its tributary streams or habitats from harm this report, River Values, is a must read.  It's going to be a great tool for many of us.

To learn how to get a copy contact the Delaware Riverkeeper Network -- 215 369 1188 or at drn@delawareriverkeeper.org

Some of the Important Facts in the Report:
ü  In 1986 the Upper Delaware attracted 232,000 whitewater paddlers who spent $13.3 million, adding $6.2 million to local economy and supporting 291 local jobs.
ü  In just one year the Upper Delaware and Delaware Water Gap brought to our local communities 367,400 whitewater paddlers, who spent over $20 million (20,229,000), contributed almost $10 million (9,895,000) to our local economies, and supported 447 jobs. 
ü  Trout fishing in the Upper Delaware River resulted in one year in $17.69 million in local business revenue.  This revenue supporting 348 jobs, providing $3.65 million in wages and $719,350 in local taxes.  This investment translates into an ongoing $29.98 million in local economic activities.
ü  River festivals generate as many as 75,000 visitors to small riverside towns, giving an important boost to local businesses.
ü  Over 2.1 million bushels of clam and oyster shells have been harvested in the Delaware Bay from 2005 thru 2009.  For the region, oyster harvest resulting from this federal investment is projected to generate up to and over $80 million of annual economic benefit, much of this in some of New Jersey’s poorest communities who could not tolerate the loss of associated jobs, revenue and benefit.
ü  The annual economic value of migratory bird and horseshoe crab phenomenon in the Bayshore area provides $25 million in benefits to the Delaware Bayshore area and $34 million regionally.  Because most of these expenditures occur in the “off-season,” they are particularly valuable to local economies.
ü  Protecting, restoring and valuing the ecosystems of the Delaware River is not just of economic import, but is also important to the health and safety of our region.
ü  The biomedical industry dependent on the horseshoe crabs found in the Delaware Bay is said to provide $150 million of value in addition to the life saving tests they provide for medical devices, intravenous drugs and to detect life threatening illness such as spinal meningitis.  The LAL needed for these tests is irreplaceable, found only in the blood of the horseshoe crab, cannot be created synthetically.
ü  In the United States trees planted on private properties have generated over $1.5 billion in tax revenue and can increase the value of nearby homes by 6 to 15%.
ü  Trees in just four of our local watersheds saved a combined $6 ½ billion in otherwise needed infrastructure. (Big Timber, Cobbs, Mill, & Frankford-Tacony)



Monday, April 19, 2010

Earth Day -- Then & Now

I had the good fortune at the invitation of WHYY to see the new film Earth Day.

Earth Day told the story of why and how the first Earth Day in 1970 came to be.

It was interesting and scary to see the course of events played out over the course of an hour (or so) that led to the first Earth Day.  It was inspiring to see the tremendous energy and action and commitment that went into creating Earth Day, launching the environmental movement of the United States, and making change for the benefit of us all.

So much I didn't remember and/or didn't know.  So much I did remember and was reminded of.

And it was sad to see how much of the past that inspired all of this environmental protection is still happening today in new and increasing ways.

The Earth Day of 1970 was the start of a movement -- an environmental movement, a movement to pursue and achieve change.  Passage of the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Coastal Zone Management Act; creation of the Environmental Protection Agency; solar panels on the roof of the White House.

Today Earth Day is starkly different -- today it is a single day of education and perhaps a little bit of action -- mainly with our kids -- and then it ends with the day.

Because Earth Day has lost its power and inspiration the solar panels at the White House (put there by President Carter) were removed (by President Reagan); and the laws passed continue to be methodically eroded by industry and politicians with little opposition from the public at large.  Deepening and offshore oil drilling to benefit big oil and undermine alternative energy despite of the environmental harms is very much alive in the Delaware River watershed.  PCBs, a toxin so dangerous its use was banned in the 1980s but it is still discharged legally from over 100 sources into the Delaware River.  Natural Gas extraction is being pursued in a way that will turn our beautiful upper Delaware into an industrial landscape, pollute our waterways and threaten drinking water supplies, and sap our streams and aquifers dry of water and health.  And development runs rampant - including so aggressively that folks like Governor Rendell think it is perfectly acceptable to fill in 33 acres of the Delaware River to accommodate development.

This has to stop!

Earth Day's next 40 years need to be about a movement for change, for strengthened environmental laws, and expanding environmental restoration.

In fact, with this blog post, I challenge each one of you to begin this year by:
(1) getting involved at the community level -- get active and vocal on one environmental issue threatening a water or ecosystem you care about (to help identify some issues and how you can get involved go to the Delaware Riverkeeper website www.delawareriverkeeper.org and check out the action page) and by
(2) making a change in your personal life -- make one relatively dramatic life change that reduces your impact on the earth such as revegetating your lawnscape with native trees or shrubs (for more info on how to accomplish this go to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network website at www.delawareriverkeeper.org) or perhaps installing solar panels on your roof.

And please, email me at keeper@delawareriverkeeper.org to tell me about the step or steps you took this year to help defend the Delaware River, its tributaries or any of the habitats and ecosystems in its watershed.  Send me text and pictures as you see fit to help share your story.  I'd love to see the change we can accomplish when we all commit to take action over the course of the year together and to turn Earth Day 2010 into the beginning of a new movement for our River, our environment and our Earth.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How Deepening the Delaware Hurts Millions in River Jobs and Local Economies

Deepening the Delaware River is not going to bring more goods up the River resulting in more jobs (even the Army Corps doesn't try to make that claim) but it is going to hurt jobs, lots of jobs, and hundreds of millions in economic revenue to our region and communities.  Watching this video to start to learn how - this short doesn't tell you all of the jobs and values that will be hurt, not by a long shot, but it does start to spread the word that

DEEPENING HURTS JOBS and the COMMUNITIES DEPENDENT UPON THEM!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Natural Gas Drilling Threatens Clean Streams

Natural gas drilling as it is being proposed for the Upper Delaware River region threatens devastation.
It threatens to devastate the streams and communities that live in the Upper Delaware and it threatens harm to all those who live down stream and rely upon the Delaware River for drinking water as well as those that rely upon the economic revenue generated by the beauty of the Upper Delaware region.

There are great debates regarding gas drilling taking place today.  The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is at the heart of that debate -- along with so many of the citizens and communities that are put at risk by the proposed drilling practices.

I will be posting more on this issue in the coming weeks - there is so much to learn and to tell.  But here is a video clip that talks about some of the harms threatening the still clean streams we have left in our watershed and region.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Delaware Deepening debated on NPR's Radio Times


Rather than read about it, here is a chance to listen to some of the risks and threats posed by the Delaware deepening project, and to listen to the back and forth debate from both sides.

This is a key issue for our region -- will we allow the health of the Delaware River, and all of the jobs, drinking water, critters and communities who depend upon it be put at risk for false promises that even the Army Corps of Engineers says will never come to pass?

We say no!
Take a listen and see what you think?

And of course, you can always learn more and follow this debate by checking out the information at the Delaware Riverkeeper Network's website (www.delawareriverkeeper.org)

http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes/2010/02/18/delaware-river-dredging/

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Creating Jobs Shouldn't Mean Destroying the Environment


Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.
Jobs are very important.
They allow us to eat, to live, to take care of our kids, to enjoy life, to care for ourselves, our families and all we care about.
Jobs are important.

But, creating a job should not be done at the expense of our environment or our communities.
Just the opposite, the best jobs, the ones that last and grow and advance our communities are those that respect, honor and protect our environment.

Making cigarettes creates jobs.  It also kills people.
About 5.4 million people die each year because of tobacco.  By 2030 this is predicted to rise to 8.3 million.
Every 6.5 seconds a current or former smoker dies.
If cigarette companies had argued, way back when, that in the interest of creating jobs they had to kill over 5 million people a year would we have agreed that all of these deaths was worth it to create some jobs?

PCBs now contaminate over 10 species of fish in the Delaware River, you can't eat them or should limit your consumption of them because to do otherwise exposes you to dangerous levels of PCBs.
PCBs have been shown to cause a variety of serious health effects including cancer and serious non-cancer illnesses.  PCBs cause cancer, harm the immune system, harm the nervous system, harm the endocrine system.  PCBs, among other things, harm short term memory development and learning.  PCBs have been shown to change thyroid hormone levels in infants, by affecting thyroid hormone levels PCBs can affect normal growth and development.  PCBs can affect liver toxicity, blood pressure, cholesterol levels.  PCBs can harm the reproductive system.
Having PCBs in the fish of the Delaware River exposes all who eat them -- some by choice but some because they have to in order to feed themselves and their families -- to these dangerous harms.  It also affects the level of commercial and recreational fishing that can and does happen on the Delaware River.
When the creators of PCBs were first embarking on its creation do you think as a community we would have agreed to sacrifice the health of our fish and families in order to support the jobs made by creating PCBs?

Today, folks are quick to overlook the harms to others from a particular project or proposal whenever it is preceded by "but it will create jobs."
The problem is that the short term gain of some jobs, if left unchecked, can so often result in the long term loss of many jobs and the health of many in our communities.

Creating a job should not be an acceptable excuse for creating harm to our environment and others.

The deepening, it is argued, will create some port jobs and therefore, it is argued, should be allowed to happen regardless of its implications for others.
But that is not good enough; it should not be allowed to be good enough for this dangerous project to move forward.

Deepening the Delaware River puts at risk so many - It threatens species already on the brink of extinction, species which now or once supported a tremendous wealth of economic benefit and jobs for our region in a way that did not inflict such wholesale environmental and community harm.  It threatens to move the River's salt line that puts at risk drinking water supplies for South Jersey and Philadelphia, as well as the oysters that support a vibrant and needed industry in our region.  It threatens to change the River in a way that will erode away and harm the wetlands that are important habitat and that provide storm protection to our communities.

Deepening the Delaware River is argued to create some port jobs.  But what about the jobs we know exist, jobs people and families rely upon today, that could be decimated by deepening because of the harm it will do to our River and environments?

Among those environments and associated jobs and economies put at risk by deepening:


ü    The annual harvest of oysters from the Delaware Estuary that now generates up to $80 million of economic benefit.  The loss of this income would be devastating to those communities dependent upon it, some of them the poorest in our region.

ü    The $34 million ecotourism industry dependent upon the horseshoe crabs and migratory shorebird phenomenon of the Delaware Bay, providing crucial support to local economies in the “off-season.  And the additional $34 million of ecotourism generated by other shorebirds dependent upon a healthy Bay.

ü    The $150 million of annual revenue and social welfare value from the horseshoe crab-dependent biomedical industry to whom one pint of Horseshoe Crab blood is worth $15,000 for required testing on medical devices, vaccines and intravenous drugs used by all. 

ü    Spending in the estuary region by recreational anglers valued at an average of $62 to $100 per day which fuels jobs and income critical for many of our region's communities. 

Why is it okay with Senator Specter, Governor Rendell, Delaware Assemblymen J. Johnson, G. Carey and G. Hocker, and the port community to put these jobs and economic benefits on the chopping block? 

Those opposing deepening do not oppose the ports.  In fact we have advocated for wise port investments that will protect the environment and create port jobs at the same time.  Our goal is to protect all communities, all jobs, and all who depend upon the Delaware River; not to sacrifice the many in order to benefit only those who are using this project to further their own political, personal and professional agendas.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Special Delaware Has Special Atlantic Sturgeon



The Delaware River is unique and special in so very many ways -- in ways that many know, but also in many ways folks don't know.

Did you know that the Delaware River is home to a unique population of Atlantic Sturgeon?  There is a population of Atlantic Sturgeon that lives it the Delaware River which is only found here, in our River -- they are genetically distinct from all other Atlantic Sturgeon on earth.  Amazing.

At one time there were so many sturgeon in the Delaware River that they provided 75% of the caviar nationwide.  But then, as people do, people took advantage and overharvested the sturgeon, to the point of decimation.  By the early 1900s sturgeon fishers were pulling in only 6% of what they had pulled in just two decades before.

The Atlantic Sturgeon have such an extended life cycle, and reproductive cycle, that it has inhibited their recovery.  Females don't sexually mature until around age 16; boys age 12.

But the real reason the Atlantic Sturgeon have not been able to recover is not because of their normal growth and reproductive cycle, it is because people continue to take advantage -- advantage of the sturgeon and the River they live in.  Pollution, dredging, harvest as bycatch from other species, and more all continue to pound the Atlantic Sturgeon into decline.

By some estimates we have less than 100 Atlantic Sturgeon in the Delaware River -- LESS THAN 100!

The Delaware River Atlantic Sturgeon have a special, unique and irreplaceable place in our River and on this earth. They deserve our respect and care.  Whether you appreciate them as another living member of our planet, or as a contributor of food, jobs and income to those who would harvest them and/or eat them -- swift action is needed to restore the Atlantic Sturgeon populations to the Delaware River.

You can help provide the Atlantic Sturgeon the protection they need -- go to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network website at www.delawareriverkeeper.org to learn how you can take action to have the Delaware River Atlantic Sturgeon identified as endangered and receive extra needed protection pursuant to federal law.

February 5, 2010 is the deadline.
Please don't wait to take your action.
We have less than 100 -- the Atlantic Sturgeon need your help now.