Dissolved Oxygen Criteria
On March 3rd, 2021, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and a broad coalition of partner organizations demanded immediate action by the Delaware River Basin Commission with a supplemental petition to protect fish populations for higher dissolved oxygen standards. For over a decade, DRBC has promised prompt action to recognize and protect these resident and migratory fish, including the Delaware River’s population of critically-endangered Atlantic sturgeon. The new supplemental petition demands action to prevent extinction of this majestic fish, and recognizes both the enormous economic benefits of continued restoration in the estuary and the current risks in DRBC’s failure to act.
Since 2009, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has fought for higher standards that are clearly required in the Clean Water Act, and which yield cascading benefits to our riverside communities and our region. This includes the first formal petition in 2013 by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network alongside the Delaware River Shad Fishermen’s Association and the Lehigh River Stocking Association. It also includes a major policy recommendation brokered by the Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum on January 24th, 2013, with majority support at the Water Quality Advisory Committee for a one-year-timeframe for DRBC to prepare a description of the existing aquatic life uses of the Delaware Estuary which would be used to craft a formal Finding of Existing Uses for the Commissioners. DRBC finally adopted Resolution 2017-4 in September 2017 but this resolution only sought further study, and DRBC has since postponed this already-protracted and harmful timetable.
The summers of 2019 and 2020 remind all what is at stake. Dissolved oxygen levels these years repeatedly fell to lethal levels for the fish that depend on the spawning and nursery habitats of the Delaware River. Without immediate action by the DRBC to require simple conventional upgrades at the region’s treatment plants, the Delaware River will continue to suffer such insults for another decade or more, and we may forever lose the genetically unique population of Delaware River Atlantic sturgeon.