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Tonko Unveils NY-NJ Watershed Protection Act

Legislation will mitigate flood risks & improve clean water, economic viability of waterway for millions of Americans

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HALFMOON, NY—Congressman Paul D. Tonko was joined by local stakeholders today to announce his newly introduced, New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act, legislation to protect and restore hundreds of miles of waterways that flow through the Hudson Valley, across New Jersey, and into New York-New Jersey Harbor, strengthening resilience against storm surges and improving accessibility and economic opportunity for the millions of Americans.

“Not only do our waterways offer cherished places for us to gather and connect with one another, they help protect communities from flood risks and provide significant environmental and economic value for our region,” Congressman Tonko said. “As America’s most crowded watershed, the New York-New Jersey Watershed serves a vital role for millions. Despite its central importance in maintaining local ecosystems and spurring growth, the watershed remains significantly underfunded. My New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act turns the tide for this waterway, implementing a coordinated restoration effort to bolster resistance against dangerous storm surges and generate substantial economic returns. I urge my colleagues to support this critical bill that will ensure our watershed can serve as a resource to our communities for many years to come.”

The New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act:

  • Directs the Secretary of the Interior to build on and coordinate restoration activities at all levels of government.
  • Establishes a program to coordinate restoration and award grants to help fund restoration projects in local communities.
    • The program would ensure that restoration efforts utilize science-based principles to protect fish and wildlife habitats, improve water quality, increase public access to the estuary, mitigate flood risks, deliver funds to environmental justice communities, and develop public outreach and educational activities.
  • Authorizes $50,000,000 annually through fiscal year 2027 to accomplish these goals.

"The New York-New Jersey Harbor and its associated watersheds, including the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, are economic powerhouses that help sustain diverse communities and provide habitat for many imperiled plants and animals," said Andy Bicking, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy for Scenic Hudson. "Yet as precious as these waterways are, they all are burdened by a history of poorly planned development and now climate change, both of which threaten people’s access to clean water and long-cherished waterfronts. State and local governments are doing their part to address these challenges, but the federal government can do better. Congressman Tonko's New York-New Jersey Watershed Act represents a critical step forward to ensure these waterways remain a vital resource for local communities and the entire nation for many years to come.”

“We are extremely grateful to Congressman Tonko for this important regional watershed legislation that includes resources to create nature-based flood resiliency and wildlife habitat protection for underserved communities along the lower Passaic River, Raritan Bay and throughout the urban core of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary,” said Greg Remaud, CEO of NY/NJ Baykeeper.

“This legislation will provide much needed resources to restore fisheries and waterways across the region while enhancing public access, environmental justice, and climate resilience,” said Riverkeeper’s Senior Manager of Government Affairs, Jeremy Cherson. “Riverkeeper thanks Congressman Tonko for introducing this important bipartisan legislation to ensure our region benefits from a strong federal partnership to bolster existing efforts by state and local partners.”

"Thank you, Congressman Tonko, for recognizing the importance of our shared waterways" said Robert Pirani, Director of the New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program. "This legislation will help local communities address the challenges of climate change by improving water quality, enhancing fish and wildlife habitat, and creating public access across the estuary.”

“Representative Tonko continues to demonstrate genuine leadership by authoring visionary legislation to help and protect and restore our precious water resources”, said Rich Innes, Senior Policy Director for the Association of National Estuary Programs. “The New York-New Jersey Watershed Act is a major step towards revitalizing our communities and the natural resources they depend on.”

The New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act is cosponsored by Representatives Jerrold Nadler [D-NY], Andy Kim [D-NJ], Jefferson Van Drew [R-NJ], Nydia Velazquez [D-NY], and Bonnie Watson Coleman [D-NJ].

The bill is supported by the following organizations: Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper, Environmental Advocates of NY, the Schoharie River Center, NY/NJ Baykeeper, NYC Soil & Water Conservation District, National Wildlife Federation, Jersey City Parks Coalition, Environmental Defense Fund, National Parks Conservation Association, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, NJ Audubon Society, Hackensack Riverkeeper, Waterfront Alliance, and Natural Areas Conservancy.

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