The Delaware River has been designated a “Great Water,” joining 18 other waterways nationwide selected for that honor by a national coalition formed to protect waterways of high economic, social and environmental importance.
The America’s Great Waters Coalition, based in Washington, D.C., announced its 2011 selections last week. The coalition was formed in 2009 to advocate for the restoration and protection of lakes, bays, rivers and marshes that are rich in natural resources and have a significant impact on their surrounding regions.
The Delaware River is the longest un-dammed river east of the Mississippi, flowing for 330 miles from Hancock, N.Y. to the Delaware Bay, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. More than 15 million people in four states depend on the river’s water for drinking, agricultural and industrial use. The Delaware includes natural wonders -- three stretches along its course are included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers program – and important commercial assets.
Besides the Delaware, eight other Great Waters were named by the Coalition on March 22, World Water Day. They are: the New York/New Jersey Harbor, Albemarle Pamlico Sound, Colorado River, Galveston Bay, Missouri River, Narragansett Bay, Ohio River and the Rio Grande. While the Great Waters vary in geographic location and physical characteristics, they are plagued by similar problems such as toxic pollution, altered water flows, habitat loss, and destructive invasive species.
The Delaware additionally faces new threats from hydraulic drilling for natural gas, a controversial process known as fracking. Other conservation advocates focused on the significance of the river to wildlife, including threatened and endangered species.