"Delaware's natural waterways are polluted. We know that 90% of our waterways are polluted; 100 miles of fish consumption advisories in Delaware; one acre of tidal wetlands is lost daily in our region. We also have rising waters and increased flooding," said Emily Knearl, Director of Advocacy for the Delaware Nature Society Wednesday. "So if you're talking about our natural waterways, they need additional support, they need additional protections, they need additional funding."
On Wednesday, Knearl reacted to Governor John Carney's renewed promise to invest $50 million into a Clean Water Trust Fund as part of his budget proposal to take place Thursday, January 28, 2021.
"In terms of drinking water, it really varies based upon where you live. If you are part of a public utility, if you are part of a municipal utility, you should be fine, because that water is monitored and watched," she said. "The challenge is not everybody has access to that kind of water, and one of the classic examples is the Blades community. For a long time, those folks had to get their water from plastic bottles. What is so exciting about this new investment is we need to really have a conversation, and really push the conversation: Who lacks clean drinking water, and how do we get it to them?"
"The past year brought us a once-in-a-generation public health crisis, civil unrest and raci…
Carney unveiled his plans to reintroduce the push to make the investment during his 2021 State of the State address Tuesday, citing a continuation off the work on House Bill 200--the Clean Water for Delaware Act, from work started by state Representative Valerie Longhurst and state Senator Bryan Townsend--which directs Delaware's strategy for drinking water and dictates the plan be reviewed annually, while prioritizing the needs of low-income and underserved communities.
That work was interrupted at the onset of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
"We made a lot of promises before the pandemic last year. And I intend to keep them," the governor said January 26th. "We will make sure that all Delaware families have access to clean drinking water. And we will place a special focus on those hard-to-serve communities across our state. Delaware’s constitution and our oaths of office call on us to protect these natural resources for future generations. With the leadership of House Majority Leader Longhurst and Senate Majority Leader Townsend, the Delaware Nature Society and so many others -- we will do just that."
This funding would be a success that arrived via the hard work of 3,000 "water warriors"--lobbying supporters who have worked toward a goal of clean water in Delaware--and the support of more than 60 partnered organizations, Knearl said. Which, she pointed out, was no small feat.
"What it means for Delaware is the state is making a substantial investment in drinking water, managing wastewater, stream restoration, waterways restoration. This is literally a landmark investment. It's a game-changer," she said. "This is about water, wherever it lays. And what that means is it's about drinking water, it's about wastewater, it's about protecting our natural waterways, it's about restoring our damaged waterways. It really is an incredible moment for clean water."
However, Knearl said now is not the time for rest.
"As exciting as this announcement is, as well as how exciting House Bill 200 is, we have to understand that this is just the first step; that there is a six-month legislative process where we need to make sure that the $50 million for clean water is in the final bond bill, which won't be decided for several months, and that House Bill 200 gets through the House and the Senate," she said. "So the way we view it is, 'Wow, this is a great first step. We've got six months ahead of us to make sure we come to the end of the line with the $50 million in tact, and the passage of House Bill 200, the Clean Water Act.'"