Gov. John Carney, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride announced significant new investments in clean water across Delaware.
The fund has the support of two private water utilities and other stakeholders.
The Clean Water for Delaware Act — sponsored by Longhurst, D-Delaware City and McBride, D-New Castle, will create a Delaware Clean Water Trust to help rebuild Delaware’s drinking water infrastructure, prevent flooding in vulnerable communities, and keep contamination out of waterways.
The bill has no Republican co-sponosrs.
The Trust would get initial funding with $50 million in Carney’s proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget. Carney will release his budget proposal on Thursday, Jan. 30.
“This is a monumental piece of legislation for Delaware that impacts a resource we simply cannot live without: water. The time to protect our waterways, support our stormwater systems and ensure clean, healthy drinking water to our residents is now,” said Longhurst, chief sponsor. “I’ve traveled up and down the state talking to Delawareans about how we need to protect our natural resources. This is an issue of environmental justice. Clean drinking water, safe waterways, updated infrastructure and adequate wastewater treatment are not luxuries; they are necessities. What we are doing today is taking a huge step forward toward securing our future and ensuring that our children and grandchildren have those necessities of life.”
The Clean Water for Delaware Act will require an annual strategic planning process, and will place a new emphasis on infrastructure projects in low-income, underserved communities. In the first year, $50 million in state funding will leverage federal investment in Delaware’s water quality.
“Ninety percent of Delaware’s waterways are polluted or impaired. Nearly five years ago Delaware Nature Society founded the Clean Water Campaign as a statewide coalition to secure funding to improve Delaware’s water quality. The coalition and our Water Warriors have been with us every step of the way. This new proposal is a giant step toward clean water in Delaware,” said Anne Harper, executive dDirector of the Delaware Nature Society. “
“Economic development starts with infrastructure investment,” said Dave DuPlessis, president of the American Council of Engineering Companies-Delaware. “Clean water and sustainable water infrastructure is often taken for granted and the cost of service is frequently underestimated. We are grateful that the Governor and leaders of the General Assembly recognize the value of this investment to our quality of life and the economy.”
Dian Taylor, CEO of Artesian Water Co., said “Artesian supports the Governor’s Clean Water initiative. It has been our commitment for over the last hundred years and we adamantly believe that everyone has the right to clean safe drinking water. We commend the governor’s efforts to protect our State’s most essential resource.” Artesian provides water and wastewater services in all three Delaware counties.
“As a global leader in the provision of environmental services, SUEZ supports this effort to protect our most precious natural resource, clean water,” said Larry Finnicum, director of SUEZ Delaware Operations. Suez provides water service in northern New Castle County.
A clean water fund proposed by the Markell Administration that would have been financed by a small property tax levy went nowhere in the Legislature.