Gov. John Carney on Thursday, July 22, signed into law House Bill 200, the Clean Water for Delaware Act, which creates a new Clean Water Trust to protect Delaware waterways and rebuild Delaware’s drinking water infrastructure with a focus on under-served communities.
HB 200, sponsored by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, establishes a framework for assessing needs and planning to implement projects that support Delaware’s longstanding efforts to improve the quality of the state’s water supply and waterways. The act also calls for creating the Delaware Clean Water Trust and is supported by $50 million in the 2022-fiscal-year budget as a funding source for water quality and water-related projects, giving it the financial clout that previous efforts at passing clean water legislation lacked.
“All Delawareans deserve clean water. The Clean Water for Delaware Act and our new Clean Water Trust will help us deliver on that promise,” said Carney. “This legislation and unprecedented investment, which had bipartisan support, will help us protect our waterways for future generations of Delawareans, and upgrade our infrastructure to make sure all Delaware families have access to clean drinking water. Thank you to Rep. Longhurst, Sen. Townsend, the Delaware Nature Society and all the advocates who have worked on this issue for years.”
“In Delaware, the quality of our water resources is directly linked to the health and vibrancy of our communities up and down the state,” said Longhurst. “Whether it’s water and wastewater infrastructure to support smart development in New Castle County, the needs of our agricultural industry downstate, or the challenges our coastal communities face with flooding and sea-level rise, so much falls under the banner of clean water in Delaware.
“My goal with the Clean Water for Delaware Act was to create an innovative new program to fund projects that would tackle water quality challenges on many fronts. We will help to right the wrongs of the past and, perhaps most importantly, we will set Delaware on a path to a future where people from all walks of life can enjoy the beauty and splendor of our streams, rivers, lakes and beaches.”
For DNREC, Delaware Health & Social Services and other state agencies, the Clean Water for Delaware Act goes much deeper into managing the state’s water resources. It spans numerous water-quality programs whose funding will be supported by the Clean Water Trust, including infrastructure for drinking water, stormwater and wastewater, and covering programs for drainage, waterway management and beach preservation, and many other water-related projects funded by separate state and federal resources among them the conservation reserve enhancement program, conservation cost-sharing and tax ditches.
One of the major environmental openings is the act’s support of the governor’s Clean Water Initiative for Underserved Communities, which is part of DNREC’s work with the state’s low-income, under-served communities. The initiative, which was announced on July 22, can be found online at https://dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov/environmental-finance/.
“I want to recognize Gov. Carney, Rep. Longhurst and the entire General Assembly, and all stakeholders for their support in giving DNREC additional tools to help the state realize the goal of Clean Water for all Delawareans,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “With this legislation, through the Clean Water Trust, we will be able to bring more resources to bear and more partners to the table to address the water challenges of our state.
“And though the Governor’s Clean Water Initiative, state agencies — particularly DHSS and DNREC — are in a position to lift those who until now might have been thwarted by circumstances, costs or lack of community governance structure from their right to safe drinking water and proper wastewater treatment.”
The act also contains a passage stating that “it is important that priorities for clean water projects in this state be given to projects that utilize green infrastructure and enhancement of natural systems to provide ecological benefits that improve water quality, demonstrate a high ratio of nutrient or pollution reduction to the amount of funding, and improve of community resilience to extreme weather, sea level rise, and other climate impacts.”
And language for creating of the Clean Water Trust is explicit that “existing federal and state funding resources alone are inadequate to meeting the state’s current and future demand for clean water projects.”
“House Bill 200 and the new clean water funding investments are a game changer for Delaware,” said Delaware Nature Society Interim Executive Director Joanne McGeoch. “Clean water is critical to Delaware’s environment, wildlife, economy, food supply and public health. HB 200 will ensure that this vital resource is protected today and for future generations.”