Delaware • New Jersey • Pennsylvania
New York • United States of America
For Immediate Release
February 17, 2005
(WEST TRENTON, N.J.) -- The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) at a recent meeting unanimously adopted its $4.9 million annual operating budget for fiscal year (FY) 2006 (July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2006). For the second consecutive year, a mechanism was put into place for program and other service reductions if the five commission members do not fully contribute their fair share of the annual budget.
"The FY 2006 budget calls for no increase in the signatory funding levels that have been in place since fiscal year 2002, despite the rising costs of delivering services over the past four years," DRBC Executive Director Carol R. Collier said. "This underscores the urgent need for the federal government and our four basin states to fully pay their fair share contributions."
The DRBC was formed by compact in 1961 through legislation signed into law by President John F. Kennedy and the governors of the four basin states with land drained by the Delaware River (Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania). The passage of this compact marked the first time in our nation’s history that the federal government and a group of states joined together as equal partners in a river basin planning, development, and regulatory agency.
Although the five members agreed in the 100-year compact to support the commission's annual budget, very serious signatory revenue shortfalls have plagued the DRBC since 1997 when the federal government's contribution was eliminated by the U.S. Congress. The cumulative federal shortfall now totals over $5.7 million, exceeding the size of the DRBC's annual budget. Over this same period, the cumulative shortfall from New York State has reached $691,000.
"In the current fiscal year, the DRBC is being forced to cut spending by approximately $656,000, or about 13% of our adopted FY 2005 budget, due to the funding shortfalls from two of our five members," Collier said. "These additional cuts were required in order to protect the financial health of the commission, but at a serious cost to program output and staff morale. Such reductions cannot be sustained year after year because there is no fat in this agency to cut. We are now down to the bone and any reductions will hurt the commission and the basin community."
Decisions not to fill vacant positions as well as the reorganization of the Delaware Estuary Program previously housed at the DRBC have resulted in savings of over $340,000 in the current fiscal year. An additional $175,000 is expected to be saved by reductions in supplies and materials, building services, communications, travel, and maintenance/acquisition of computers/vehicles.
"Since most of the DRBC's expenses are personnel-related, programs have directly suffered by our cuts this fiscal year," Collier said. "We had to temporarily suspend our Flood Advisory Committee and its important flood loss reduction efforts on July 1, 2004, shortly before we witnessed the worst mainstem river flooding since 1955 in September. In addition, we were forced to cut back on monitoring activities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania tidal tributaries and in November 2004 we found ourselves facing a major oil spill in the Delaware where having that lost information could have proved very useful. The basin community would have been better served had these reductions not been necessary."
"Senator Arlen Specter continues to lead the efforts to restore federal funding and he was nearly successful in November 2004," Collier noted. "We are very grateful to him, along with Senator Tom Carper, Senator Jon Corzine, and Rep. Jim Gerlach who have all taken leadership roles on our behalf. We hope that all of the members of the congressional delegation representing the 15 million people who rely on the basin's waters will strongly and actively support efforts to restore our funding before additional program cuts become necessary," Collier added.
Commission programs that might be impacted during the July 1, 2005 - June 30, 2006 fiscal year if budgeted signatory party contributions are not realized include:
Technical and administrative support of flow management negotiations between the four basin states and New York City, including efforts to better define flows needed to support in-stream fisheries;
Technical assistance/coordination on fish and wildlife habitat efforts;
Cost-shared projects with federal partners where the DRBC would act as the local sponsor, thereby losing opportunities to bring much-needed dollars into the basin;
Flood loss reduction efforts;
Assessment of water quality impairments and assisting states in the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs);
Timely implementation of toxics pollution control initiatives;
Water quality monitoring and analysis;
Timely review of water withdrawal or discharge docket (permit) applications requiring DRBC action in order to proceed;
$250,000 in technical studies that would support the recently adopted basin plan's goals and objectives; and
- Education and public outreach.
For more information about the commission's budget and services reduction plan, visit the DRBC's web site at www.drbc.net.
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Clarke Rupert, (609) 883-9500 ext. 260
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