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The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (Partnership) oversees the National Estuary Program in the Delaware Estuary Region. The Program was established in 1998 and is currently implementing the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the Delaware Estuary (CCMP). The only tri-state National Estuary Program, principal partners include: the States of Delaware and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC); and the City of Philadelphia. Various other key partners include federal, state, and local agencies along with other nonprofits, the private sector, and coordinated authorities of its participants. The Partnership continues to strive for success in its role to implement the CCMP and to address new and emerging issues which impact the Estuary. The role of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary is to act as a coordinator, information clearinghouse, facilitator, a leader in providing a regional watershed focus, a setter of environmental indicators and goals, and a provider of incentives throughout the Delaware Estuary Region to encourage actions toward the implementation of the CCMP. There are 77 CCMP Action Items and to date, a total of 67 Actions (87%) have been implemented or initiated.

The Delaware Estuary Region stretches from the falls at Trenton, New Jersey, and Morrisville, Pennsylvania, south to mouth of the bay between Cape May, New Jersey and Cape Henlopen, Delaware. The Delaware Estuary is part of the Delaware River Basin. In addition to its remarkable natural habitats, the Delaware Estuary maintains the world's largest freshwater port, which is also regarded as a strategic military port. The port is home to the second largest refining-petrochemical center in the United States, providing 70% of gasoline and heating oil for the entire East Coast. The Basin also contains six nuclear reactors and one of the world's great concentrations of heavy industry. The entire watershed for the Estuary covers roughly 6,747 square miles of land that drains into 134 miles of the Delaware River and Bay, and it has an average depth of 21 feet. The entire Delaware River Basin is 13,539 square miles draining parts of Pennsylvania (50.3%), New Jersey (23.3%), New York (18.5%), and Delaware (7.9%). The Delaware River itself is the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi, fed by 216 tributaries, and extends 330 miles to the mouth of the Delaware Estuary.

Primary freshwater inflows to the Delaware Estuary are from the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers; the remainder originates from the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal and smaller tributaries. The water budget for the basin includes numerous human uses. Principle uses include public water supply, power generation and other industrial needs, which collectively account for 91% of withdrawals in the Delaware River Basin. For example, the Delaware River provides a source of drinking water for more than 15 million persons (2000 estimate), and New York City uses up to 800 million gallons per day from the upper Delaware River for its drinking water. Steam electric power generation accounts for a major portion of cooling water intake from the Delaware River Basin (72% in 1995).

More than 200 migrant and resident finfish species use the Delaware Estuary for feeding, spawning, or nursery grounds, including sharks, skates, striped bass, shad, sturgeon, American eel, blueback herring, Atlantic menhaden, alewife, bluefish, weakfish, and flounder. Fishermen in Delaware Estuary spend an average of $62 to $100 in single-day or multiple-day trips in pursuit of these species. Oysters and blue crabs represent important shellfish resources in this system. The Estuary is also home to the largest population of horseshoe crabs in the world, and is an important link in the migratory path of a wide variety of shorebirds and waterfowl. Natural habitats in this watershed include tidal salt marshes, tidal freshwater marshes, intertidal mudflats, oyster reefs, beaches, inland wetlands, and upland meadows and forests. Of particular note are the extensive tidal wetlands that fringe much of the margin of the estuary. The Estuary's wetland habitats formerly provided critical habitat for 35% of the region's threatened and endangered species. Today, they are believed to still play a fundamental role in sustaining the ecology and helping to maintain water quality for the overall estuarine system.

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Partnership for the Delaware Estuary
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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: February 18, 2010

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