Photo Credit: riverkeeper.org Booker, Gillibrand, Menendez, Schumer Introduce Legislation to Protect the New York-New Jersey Watershed
U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), along with Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have introduced the NY-NJ Watershed Protection Act, legislation that would safeguard and restore the New York-New Jersey Watershed. A critical regional and national resource that generates more than $60 billion in annual revenue from tourism, commercial fishing, and recreational activities, the NY-NJ Watershed currently faces threats from climate change, legacy pollution, and untreated wastewater. The proposed legislation would address these ongoing issues by establishing and funding a new program, administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to jumpstart and coordinate restoration projects in local communities situated within the watershed, prioritizing communities that are experiencing environmental injustice. Companion legislation was introduced in the House last year by Representative Paul Tonko (NY-20).
“The New York-New Jersey Watershed is a vital natural resource, providing economic and environmental benefits to nearby communities as well as green space for millions of Americans to enjoy,” said Sen. Booker. “As the watershed is increasingly threatened by rising sea levels, storm surges, and the harmful effects of legacy pollution, I am introducing this legislation to make federal investments that help restore the natural resources of our region, mitigate flood risks, and create greater recreational opportunities for residents to enjoy.”
“Investing in our waterways like those in the New York-New Jersey Watershed is vital to protecting our economic and environmental future. The NY-NJ Watershed is one of our most important natural treasures and serves as a vital economic anchor between our states,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “This legislation is critical to protecting the NY-NJ Watershed’s long-term health and environmental quality, and will support New York State’s local economy for years to come. I am proud to be co-leading this important legislation with my friend and colleague, Senator Booker.”
“From climate change causing more frequent storms and rising sea levels to pollution and hazardous waste, it is now more important than ever to invest in the protection and restoration of the New York-New Jersey Watershed,” said Sen. Menendez. “Restoring the watershed will improve the ecosystems for marine and wildlife populations, improve water quality, increase public access, and improve the quality of life for the millions of Americans living within the watershed. With revenue from tourism, fishing, and other recreational activities, the watershed is vital to the regional and national economies and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the critical bill.”
“From the Hudson Valley to the New York Harbor our rivers and waterways generate billions in economic activity, are vital pathways for both commerce and recreation, and are some of our most invaluable natural wonders,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “The New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act will turn the tide for the cleanup and restoration of our waterways and ensure their environmental beauty continues to flow for generations. I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation that puts the environment and frontline communities suffering from environmental injustice first.”
In addition to creating a new program administered by the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service, the NY-NJ Watershed Protection Act would:
- Ensure that restoration efforts use science-based principles to protect fish and wildlife habitat, improve water quality, increase public access to the watershed, mitigate flood risks, and develop public outreach and educational activities.
- Recognize and prioritize the need for restoration funds to be delivered to frontline communities experiencing environmental injustice.
- Authorize $50,000,000 annually for watershed restoration grants through FY 2027.
Throughout his time in the Senate, Booker has worked extensively on environmental justice issues. Last year, he reintroduced the Environmental Justice Act, sweeping legislation that would address environmental injustices experienced by Black and Brown, low-income, and indigenous communities. He has also reintroduced the Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act that would invest over $200 billion to eliminate pollution that disproportionately impacts and harms marginalized communities.
Senator Gillibrand has long been an advocate for environmental justice in New York and across the country. She has also been a champion for cleaning up toxic PFAS chemicals, remediation, and testing for those affected by PFAS contamination. During the 117th Congress, Gillibrand introduced her PEAKER Act, which would facilitate rapid deployment of clean energy and battery storage to replace aging and dirty peaker plants historically located in disadvantaged communities. Senator Gillibrand also introduced the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act, enacted in 2018 through the Water Resources Development Act, which supports projects to protect and restore the Long Island Sound and watershed.
The legislation is endorsed by more than 40 national and regional organizations. Full text of the legislation can be viewed here.
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