Gov. John Carney pledged Jan. 21 to put $50 million in a Clean Water Trust account, money that would go to improve municipal stormwater projects, residential drinking water and the overall quality of Delaware's waterways.
“The issue of clean water in our state is so incredibly important to all of us,” said Carney as he pledged to put money from his budget into a trust account. Holding up a 1993 report on clean water, Carney said he remembers the past 30 years of work that has gone into trying to clean up Delaware's waterways. “This is not a new issue for us,” he said.
The fund would be managed by a seven-member committee that would offer funding to municipal and county governments and others to implement affordable water quality projects in places like Ellendale, Carney said, which have been plagued with poor drinking water and wastewater facilities for years.
Carney said with federal matching funds, he expects the trust could grow to about $120 million. “That will give us a pretty good head start,” he said.
Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, said he remembers visiting an Ellendale home in 1978 and seeing firsthand the dirty water coming out of the pipes. “Forty-two years later, we're still talking about nasty water and how it affects his neighborhood,” he said. “This is an effort to address those issues that have been out there for the better part of half a century.”
Schwartzkopf said the trust account would not depend on new taxes – money would come from appropriations and the bond bill. He said past bills have failed because they exclusively targeted drinking water. This bill, a substitute for House Bill 200, includes stormwater management because every legislative representative has problems with stormwater management in their district. “With this bill the first priority is drinking water; the second priority is stormwater management and wastewater. It affects everybody in our state,” Schwartzkopf said.
Schwartzkopf said he could put the bill on the House agenda for consideration next week, if prime sponsor House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, requests so.