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Philadelphia Airport Expansion


Expansion of the PHL Airport continues at a variety of different locations. In 2019, DRN learned of the expansion of the West Cargo Redevelopment and Expansion Plan (Expansion Plan), which will relocate the UPS facility near Tinicum Township. DRN partnered with the Darby Creek Valley Association and the Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition. DRN has served on EFNC’s Board for 7 years.  

In 2019, the partnership prepared substantive comment on the Environmental Assessment (EA) Scoping document and in 2020 on the EA itself.  In both comments, we stressed that the impacts would be significant enough that a full EIS should be conducted on the Expansion Plan to fully understand the cumulative impacts of this expansive project, which includes but is not limited to, increase is impervious surface, disturbance of wetland and open space, increase noise and pollution, change in local hydrology and likely impacts on flooding and wildlife habitat. The cumulative impacts that would be documented in an EIS would reveal the impact the Expansion Plan will have on the surrounding human communities and the local and regional environment. Further, we believe that the EA has insufficiently addressed up-stream development, the impacts of sea-level rise, storm surges and other effects of Climate Change. The Expansion Plan is a multi-billion dollar project whose impact will be felt for decades.  

Attached are the comments from both the 2019 EA Scoping and the 2020 EA. Mitigation is required under the EA and DRN and partners will continue to follow and monitor those efforts. 


Delaware Deepening (Dormant, but expected to return when the Corps wants to go to 50 ft)

Editor’s note: This issue is currently dormant. We will continue monitoring the situation and may take up the issue in the future.


For over 20 years the Delaware Riverkeeper Network battled against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to deepen the Delaware River’s main navigation channel from 40 to 45 feet.   After grassroots organizing, advocacy and litigation the Army Corps finally got all of the approvals and funding it needed to start the project in 2010.  In 2019 the deepening work is still ongoing, with blasting taking place in the River in areas critical for our federal endangered sturgeon.

The deepening will have long term and enduring environmental and economic impacts on our River and region.

Economically Deepening is a Big Loser…

Three times the Government Accountability Office  questioned and/or challenged the claims of economic benefit made by the Army Corps of Engineers for its proposed Delaware River Deepening Project.  In May 2011 the Army Corps, without any public awareness or announcement, completed its 8th economic review of the project in which it once again concluded the project was cost beneficial.  Having secured a copy of this report as the result of a Freedom of Information Act the Delaware Riverkeeper Network secured an independent review which found basic and fundamental flaws in the analysis done by the Army Corps and which proves their positive economic claims for the project are over-inflated and misrepresent reality. In short, merely correcting for a fundamental and basic economic analysis flaw identified the benefit-cost ratio for the project falls to a mere 1.1 to 1, i.e. at best one can claim 10 cents of net taxpayer benefit for every $1 invested in the Delaware River deepening project.  When additional errors are taken into consideration, this figure falls even further, supporting a conclusion that when accurately assessed the Delaware Deepening project yields less than $1 of benefit for taxpayers for every $1 they invest – i.e. it is a net loss for the taxpayers and therefore cannot warrant the nearly $300 million it requires for construction.  The new analysis also showed that the ports will continue to get traffic without a deepened channel and that the Army Corps knows this.

Environmentally Deepening is a Big Loser…

When it comes to the environmental and community harms, for years, agencies and environmental experts relying on sound scientific principles have documented the depth and breadth of the threats that deepening the River poses.  Those questioning the project include: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Delaware River Basin Commission, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the University of Delaware’s Sea Grant Program, and more.

Environmentally, deepening the channel changes the movement and balance of fresh and salt water in a way that will move the salt line up river, threatening drinking water supplies and economically important oyster populations.  A multitude of species rely on the Delaware River for spawning; a changing salt line could diminish available freshwater spawning grounds that put at risk species like the Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon already in jeopardy of extinction. A changing salt line also risks the transformation of freshwater marshes, damaging the food and habitat they provide to a variety of fish and wildlife species important both ecologically and economically to the region.

A moving salt line is also a major threat to the oyster populations of the Delaware Estuary. The shifting salt line threatens significant changes, including the reintroduction of parasites and disease to the River’s oysters that in the past decimated these populations.  Oysters are vital to the ecology of the Delaware.  Oysters act as a vital food source for many of the River’s creatures and are important filters for pollution found in Estuary waters. Delaware Estuary oysters represent an important source of commercial value to the Delaware Estuary and Bay region. The annual harvest of oysters from the Delaware Estuary generates up to $80 million of annual economic benefit for the region, much of this in some of the region’s poorest communities that could not tolerate the loss of jobs, revenue and benefit if oyster populations decline.

Home to the largest spawning population of horseshoe crabs in the world

The Delaware Bay is home to the largest spawning population of horseshoe crabs in the world.  Every season, migratory shorebirds descend on Delaware Bay to feast on the eggs of the horseshoe crabs. The deepening project directly threatens the horseshoe crabs and their ability to successfully spawn in key areas in Delaware and, as a result, poses unacceptable threats to migratory birds already in decline because of a lack of needed horseshoe crab eggs. Horseshoe crabs and the migratory birds dependent on them bring a $34 million boost to the region’s ecotourism industry every year. Nationally, horseshoe crabs represent a substantial benefit to the biomedical industry, to which one pint of Horseshoe Crab blood is worth $15,000 for required testing on medical devices, vaccines and intravenous drugs, representing $150 million of annual revenue and social welfare value.

According to experts, the deepening project and associated spoil disposal will introduce heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxins into the River, reintroducing them into the environment and food chain, and putting at risk drinking water aquifers important to communities in New Jersey and Delaware.

Deepening would change water patterns in such a way that it will exacerbate erosion of wetlands. Wetlands are important ecologically, aesthetically and provide important protection during catastrophic storm events. The list of harms goes on.

Already we are hearing noises about deepening the River to 50 feet — so this is a battle that may be dormant for now but is likely to return.


Litigation: Delaware Riverkeeper, et. al. v. US Army Corps of Engineers


Defending & Enhancing Species Protection / Restoration


Photo of large great white heron flying
Picture by Photo Frank

The Delaware River watershed is home to a wide variety of species in the water, in the air, in the trees and across the land.  The Delaware Riverkeeper Network regularly submits comments, crafts action plans and fact sheets, and undertakens other efforts to protect and defend the abundance and diversity of widlife in our watershed.   For some species we have ongoing initiatives, for others it is a matter of submitting critical comment or securing important research to advance or defeat a key decision or project.  Below are some of the many documents we have created, secured and submitted to protect our special species.  


Red Knot and Horseshoe Crabs

Monitoring Horseshoe Crabs, Tagging, and Rescues

Update: February 2024:

Delaware Riverkeeper Network joined Center for Biological Diversity and over 20 conservation allies to draft and submit a petition to urge the US Commerce Dept to list the American Horseshoe Crab as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Horseshoe crab populations crashed due to overharvesting for bait many years ago, and have not recovered to their historic numbers despite efforts underway by conservation groups.  As a keystone species to the Delaware Bay their continued decline is extremely worrisome cuasing cascading impacts to the flor and fauana of the Delaware Bay and beyond.  Their habitat is rapidly disappearing, they continue to be overharvested for both bait and blood, and their spawning beaches are threatened by development, erosion, pollution, and climate change.

Listing American horseshoe crabs under the Endangered Species Act would provide many important protections to this species and their habitats. This horseshoe crab petition will also initiate a federal review of the species that could provide important data, research, funding, and oversight of ASMFC and state management agencies who continue to attempt to eat away at long hard protections that are science based and essential for the horseshoe crab.  Please stay tuned to this important petition effort and we will update you when it is time to write in letters to support this initial petition.


Delaware Riverkeeper Network will be out along the Bay this coming May and June for horseshoe crab monitoring work.  If you would like to possibly join us in this community science based  volunteer monitoring and tagging effort that we have been a part of each year for over two decades on the New Jersey and Delaware beaches, please contact

For decades, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network along with our colleagues from around the region, country and world have struggled to protect the horseshoe crabs of Delaware Bay from their continuing decline and to protect the shorebirds dependent upon them from going extinct as a result of that decline. In 2010 we had a huge success.  New Jersey passed a moratorium on the harvest of horseshoe crabs until such time as the birds dependent upon them could be deemed to have recovered.  

The Delaware Bay is critical habitat to more than 400 species of birds and migrating shorebirds. In fact, the Delaware Bay “is one of the most important stopover sites in North America for long distance migratory shorebirds.”  Each spring, at least 11 species of birds, including the red knot rufa, stop over on the Delaware Bayshore to feed on the eggs of the horseshoe crab and thereby fuel their annual spring migration. 

Available scientific studies clearly indicate large declines in shorebirds that is directly linked to decreasing shorebird weights and their decreased ability to feed themselves with horseshoe crabs eggs when they arrive along Delaware Bay beaches during their spring migration. Horseshoe crab numbers are at historic lows, resulting in low abundance and availability of horseshoe crab eggs for migratory shorebirds. As horseshoe crabs take 7-10 years to mature, we have a long way to go before historic densities of eggs will once again be found on the beaches of the Delaware Bay. The horseshoe crabs are not only vital for the shorebirds, but they currently provide an irreplaceable substance necessary for testing vaccinations and medical devices to ensure they are safe for human use.  Efforts continue to advocate the biomedical industry replaces this horseshoe crab use of blood with artificial alternatives that have been developed to further take pressure off of the struggling horseshoe crab populations.    

Peak counts of red knots on the Delaware Bay stopover have declined by 70% since 1998. Other shorebirds that rely on horseshoe crab eggs, such as ruddy turnstone, semipalmated sandpiper, sanderling, dunlin and short-billed dowitcher have also declined in number on the Delaware Bay migratory stopover. These species, together with red knots, make up 99 percent of the shorebird concentration in the Delaware Bay. All are dependent upon horseshoe crab eggs for all or most of their diet during the stopover, and all have significantly declined in population.  Sea turtles and other animals also feast on horseshoe crab eggs. 

Much of the recreation and culture of the New Jersey Bayshore is linked to the spawning of the horseshoe crabs and the annual arrival of the migratory shorebirds, including the red knot. The arrival, feasting and migration of the shorebirds supports a multi-million dollar ecotourism industry. Birding and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world flock to the Delaware Bay shore to watch the spectacular feeding frenzy. During their visits, they buy recreation-related goods and services, stay in the region’s hotels, visit parks and patronize restaurants and local shops. According to one report, horseshoe crab-dependent ecotourism generates between approximately $7 million and $10 million of annual spending in Cape May, New Jersey alone, and creates 120 to 180 related jobs, providing an additional $3 million to $4 million in social welfare value.  According to a New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife report, the economic value of the horseshoe crab and migratory bird phenomenon seasonally for the Delaware Bay shore area is over $11.8 million with over $15 million of economic value generated if other beneficiaries beyond New Jersey are included. Annually, it provides $25 million in benefits to the Delaware Bay shore region and $34 million regionally. Because most of these expenditures occur in the “off-season”, they are particularly valuable to local economies. 

The continuing existence of the horseshoe crab and migrating shorebird phenomenon is vital for the related ecotourism industry. Of those surveyed, only 6.6% said that the horseshoe crab and shorebird phenomenon was unimportant to their visitor satisfaction. On average those surveyed said they would be willing to pay as much as $212.45 (in decreased annual household income) annually for a program to protect these resources; and that they would “be willing to tolerate no more than 50.7% decline in Horseshoe Crabs and migratory shorebirds before they would cease visiting the Delaware Bay shore area.” 

About the Petition

In 2005, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network led the creation and submission of a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list the red knot (Caladris canutus rufa) as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.  The USFWS finally on September 30, 2013 took steps to list the Red Knot as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in response to our petition.  Delaware Riverkeeper Network continued to push for “Endangered” listing through the public comment process that ended June 2014 to urge for elevation of protections.   A final USFWS listing rule of “Threatened” for the red knot was published December 11, 2014, with an effective date of January 12, 2015, triggering the full Section 7 consultation requirements of the Endangered Species Act. 

Delaware Riverkeeper Network continues to advocate, collaborate, and assist with monitoring  and tagging projects and stakeholder groups for the protection of the horseshoe crabs and shorebirds as threats emerge and continue for these essential animals that are keystone species to the Delaware Bay.   DRN currently sits on a stakeholder group as part of enforcement of the ESA and Published Biological Opinion (PBO) on the Effects of Existing and Expanded Structural Aquaculture of Native Bivalves in the Delaware Bay to watchdog the impacts that oyster aquaculture farming activities could have on red knots and the horseshoe crabs as this farming footprint operates and continues to seek to expand in the Delaware Bay

View a video from May 2014 showing horseshoe crab tagging with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and efforts for volunteers to take part in citizen science to help the crabs and shorebirds.


Bats – Proposed FWS Incidental Take Permit by 9 oil and gas developers for 5 bat species in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia


In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released a proposal to allow nine oil and gas companies to kill bats from five species, including endangered and threatened species, for 50 years in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.  

The Federal register notice of intent is at: 

The endangered Indiana Bat, threatened northern long-eared bat, eastern small-footed bat, little brown bat, and tri-colored bat would be included in the “Incidental Take Permit”. The companies will have to prepare a “Multi-State Habitat Conservation Plan”.  The destruction of these bats and their habitat would include all stages of gas and oil exploration and development in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia including gas well sites, pipelines, access roads, frack pits and holding ponds. 

Action alerts issued by DRN spurred public comment on the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Incidental Take Permit (ITP) and Habitat Conservation Plan (a plan that the nine companies have to get approved to be eligible for an ITP).  DRN submitted extensive comment to FWS opposing the ITP.  DRN also signed on to technical comments submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity. DRN staff also developed comment that was submitted by Pennsylvania’s Clean Water Campaign Exceptional Value Waters work group. 

The nine fracking companies that are developing the Habitat Conservation Plan are: Antero Resources Corporation; Ascent Resources; Chesapeake Energy Corp.; EnLink Midstream, EQT Corporation; MarkWest Energy Partners, MPLX, Marathon Petroleum Corp. (all one group); Rice Energy, Inc.; Southwestern Energy Corp.; and the Williams Companies. 

In the conclusion to DRN’s comment, DRN urged FWS to not approve the ITP based on abundant evidence that the impacts of oil and gas development in the three states will cause harm to the five bat species, which will endanger their presence in the wild. This is prohibited under Section 9 of the ESA and is contrary to FWS regulations, disallowing these proposed actions under Section 10 of the ESA. DRN arrived at this conclusion because of the already imperiled condition of these species (due to white nose syndrome, human interventions such as wind turbines and development, logging, climate change and habitat loss) and the documented statistical evidence in Pennsylvania and the Marcellus shale region of water contamination, environmental pollution, habitat degradation, greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas development, and the reasonable expectation, based on field experience, that implementation and enforcement of the ITP and HCP will not successfully avoid or minimize the taking of animals in the proposed five bat species. Under NEPA, DRN considers the harms that will result from the ITP will significantly affect the human environment as well as the habitat for these imperiled creatures and that these impacts are not mitigatable. If the project progresses, a comprehensive environmental impact statement under NEPA is required that analyzes cumulative and secondary as well as immediate and individual impacts and alternative actions to the proposed action.  

A final Scoping Report was released on February 2017 where all public comments were considered. The FWS will develop a reasonable range of alternatives to the proposed action which will also be carried forward for full analysis in the EIS. For each of the reasonable alternatives carried forward for full analysis, the EIS will identify potentially affected resources and assess potential impacts on each of those resources. If needed, measures to mitigate resource impacts will be included. Following completion of the environmental review process, the FWS will publish a Notice of Availability and a request for comments on the Draft EIS. The Draft O&G HCP will be released for public review and comment concurrent with the Draft EIS. A comment period of no less than 60 days will follow the publication of the Draft EIS and may include meetings to accommodate public participation. The FWS will consider all comments on the Draft EIS in the preparation of the Final EIS, which will include responses to all substantive comments received. Following the comment period, the Draft EIS may be modified based on the substantive comments received. When complete, the Final EIS and responses to substantive comments will be made available to the public for a minimum 30-day review period. A Record of Decision will be issued by the Service following the review period of the Final EIS.

Litigation: Delaware Riverkeeper Network , et al. v. United States Dep’t of Commerce, et al., No. 14-cv-00434 (D.D.C.)


The Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit in federal district court in the District of Columbia challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s failure to take steps required by law to protect the ancient, and endangered, Atlantic Sturgeon. When NMFS listed 5 distinct populations of Atlantic Sturgeon as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in February 2012, it was required by law to designate “critical habitat” important for the species’ survival and recovery that becomes subject to an additional layer of protection. Critical habitat designation will help protect the waters where Atlantic sturgeon feed, seek cover, and reproduce, thereby aiding the species’ survival and recovery. Unfortunately, NMFS  failed to meet the statutory deadlines for designating critical habitat, forcing DRN and NRDC to compel compliance with the law through legal action.

Graphic of the Atlantic sturgeon

In March 2014, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) brought a law suit to compel the federal government to comply with its obligation to designate critical habitat for the Atlantic Sturgeon. December 2014, DRN and NRDC settled our legal action with NMFS agreeing to publish a proposed rule designating critical habitat by November 30, 2015, with a final rule due a year later.


UPDATE: NMFS sought and received an extension to issue the proposed rule designating Atlantic sturgeon critical habitat by May 31, 2016, with a final rule due a year later.

UPDATE 2017-08-17: As a result of litigation brought by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network in partnership with NRDC, the National Marine Fisheries Service has designated critical habitat for the Delaware River and other populations of Atlantic Sturgeon.  NMFS sought multiple extensions of the originally agreed upon deadline (the result of extensive settlement negotiations that were granted by the court despite our opposition).  The National Marine Fisheries Service published its final rule on August 17, 2017 designating critical habitat for endangered distinct population segments of Atlantic Sturgeon. Designating critical habitat requires federal agencies to consult with NOAA before funding or engaging in activities in the designated habitat. The final rule encompasses the Delaware River at the crossing of the Trenton-Morrisville Route 1 Toll Bridge downstream to the Delaware Bay. The Delaware River population is the most at risk in the nation with less than 300 spawning adults of this genetically unique line. This portion of the river, as well as the estuary, is vital to the species’ recovery as it functions as both spawning grounds and as a migration corridor to and from the Atlantic Sturgeon’s spawning grounds. 

DRN will continue to monitor the proposed rule to ensure that activities like dredging and blasting projects – which can destroy benthic feeding areas, disrupt spawning migrations, and harm rock substrates that are necessary for egg adhesion – can longer adversely affect Atlantic sturgeon critical habitat.

Atlantic Sturgeon

UPDATE 2022-07-21:

UPDATE 2022-07-21: Delaware Riverkeeper Network sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for violating the Endangered Species Act. These violations concern the Biological Opinions issued to the Army Corps of Engineers for the New Jersey Wind Port project and the Edgemoor Container Port project. If permitted by the Army Corps, these commercial ports could threaten the continued existence of the Delaware River Estuary’s genetically unique population of Atlantic sturgeon. According to the notice, if these projects move forward, the increase in ship traffic within the estuary will increase sturgeon deaths due to vessel strike, which could threaten the survival of the Delaware River Atlantic Sturgeon. 

UPDATE 2019-08-13:

Once again, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has reached out to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to urge them to take action protect the endangered Atlantic Sturgeon of the Delaware River.  Time and again we have reached out about the excessive takes of sturgeon by both the Army Corps of Engineers and by PSEG’s Salem Nuclear Generating Station. Every time they turn a blind eye. When will it stop? See the letter and horrific photos here.

Update 2019-02-26:

We always knew that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Delaware River Deepening Project, including its rock blasting, was a major threat to the Atlantic and Shortnose Sturgeon of the Delaware River.  It was one of our major arguments against it.  We have less than 300 spawning adults left of our genetically unique line of Atlantic Sturgeon. And we have learned new information that the deepening, as we anticipated, is taking its toll.  See the Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s most recent letter urging the National Marine Fisheries Service to do its job!

AVERTED:  Major Threat to Delaware River Atlantic Sturgeon & All Five Distinct Population Segments Across the Nation:

The morning of February 20, 2018, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network learned of a new, major threat to Atlantic Sturgeon posed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The comment period on the proposal would close at the end of the day on the 20th. In short, the Corps wanted to dump sand and rock into a deep hole in the Delaware Bay that has been identified by scientists as critical for sturgeon foraging, growth and supporting good health that can support species reproduction.  The Delaware River population (a genetically unique line) as well as all five distinct population segments of sturgeon nationwide are known to need this site for habitat and foraging.  All 5 distinct population segments nationwide, as well as our Delaware River population, are listed under the Endangered Species Act.  The Army Corps needed permitting from the state of Delaware. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network headed up the opposition to approval of this project.  In response to the action alert DRN sent out to our members we secured 75 comments urging the state of Delaware to reject the project, or at the very least to extend the public comment period and to hold public hearings.  In response to the strong show of opposition and the facts and information we helped bring to light, the Army Corps withdrew their permit application, stopping the project in its tracks!  Thank you to all of you who responded to our call for help on behalf of the Atlantic Sturgeon.

Background & Information

There Delaware Riverkeeper has long been active in supporting designation of the Delaware River population of Atlantic Sturgeon as endangered and brought legal action to ensure the National Marine Fisheries Serviced prioritized the designation of critical habitat critical for the species’ protection.

When the Atlantic Sturgeon of the U.S. were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2012, Distinct Population Segments (DPS) of Atlantic Sturgeon were identified.  Four DPS’ were listed as endangered (New York Bight which includes the Delaware River population, Chesapeake Bay, Carolina, South Atlantic) and the fifth DPS was been listed as threatened (Gulf of Maine).  (You can learn more about the various DPS listings here.) 

The Atlantic sturgeon has a storied history in the Delaware River watershed. 

This prehistoric fish was once an important resource for local Native American tribes with the Delaware River supporting the largest population of Atlantic Sturgeon in North America. Atlantic sturgeon are a vital part of the River’s ecosystem – past, present and future.

NMFS estimates that historically there were around 180,000 spawning females in the Delaware River population of Atlantic Sturgeon.  As a result, the Delaware River gained the title of “caviar capital of North America”. Seventy five percent of the 1890-1899 sturgeon harvest originated in the watershed and approximately 3,189,555 pounds of sturgeon were harvested over the course of just five years in the 1890’s. (Cobb, J. The Sturgeon Fishery of the Delaware River and Bay, Report of Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries (1899).) This frenzied over-harvesting quickly led to a drastic collapse of the River’s Atlantic Sturgeon population.

Habitat loss from dredging, blasting, and other deepening activities; saltwater intrusion; water pollution and poor water quality; the loss of river bottom habitat needed for spawning from coverage of silt from the coal industry; impingement and entrainment; boat and propeller strikes; and fisheries bycatch have all contributed to the Atlantic sturgeon’s continued decline and inability to recover from the historic overharvesting.  As a result of these devastating and ongoing impacts it is estimated that there are less than 300 spawning adults left in the Delaware River population of Atlantic sturgeon.

All of the above-mentioned harms and threats continue, and some have worsened, with new threats coming on line regularly.

Unique among Atlantic sturgeon

The New York Bight Distinct Population Segment (DPS) is unique among Atlantic sturgeon, and the Delaware River Atlantic sturgeon are unique among the New York Bight. The Delaware River population of Atlantic sturgeon contains a genetically distinct haplotype unique to the Delaware River. Unfortunately, this unique population is also in the worst shape; despite a decades-long moratorium on fishing, the population has been largely unable to recover because of the myriad of harmful activities and circumstances discussed above.

The importance of protecting the ancient species

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network recognizes the importance of protecting this ancient species, and has been intimately involved in its listing and the development of critical habitat. In October of 2010, DRN submitted comments on NMFS’s recommendation for endangered status, and in April and June of 2012 DRN wrote NMFS emphasizing the need to establish critical habitat and to protect the Atlantic sturgeon from the harms of the Delaware deepening project. In March of 2014 DRN filed suit against NMFS in order to secure priority establishment of critical habitat for Atlantic Sturgeon.  As the result of a legal settlement of the case, a critical habitat designation for the Delaware River was proposed and finalized, along with critical habitat for other DPS’, in 2017

The critical habitat designation for the Delaware River population of Atlantic sturgeon includes the Delaware River from the Route 1 Toll Bridge in Trenton downstream 137 river kilometers to Hope Creek, NJ. This portion of the river is vital to the Atlantic sturgeon’s recovery as it functions as both spawning grounds for Atlantic Sturgeon and as a migration corridor to and from the Atlantic sturgeon’s spawning grounds. This section of the Delaware Estuary contains the hard substrate, low salinity, and proper spring and fall temperatures necessary for successful spawning.  This section of River is also under past, present and increasing pressures harmful to Atlantic Sturgeon – including, but not limited to, advancement of the Rivers salt line caused by human activities which reduce the geographic scope of the spawning grounds available, dredging, in-river development, increased and ongoing pollution inputs, ship strikes and more.  The Delaware Riverkeeper Network had urged that the designation include the Delaware Bay, also critical for the species, but the final designation did not include this portion of the Delaware River system.


Litigation: Delaware Riverkeeper Network , et al. v. United States Dep’t of Commerce, et al., No. 14-cv-00434 (D.D.C.)

Edgemoor Port Expansion — Incl 13 fans spinning in the River

Help Oppose the Edgemoor Port Expansion that Includes 13 Fans Operating on the Riverbed Threatening Water Quality and Fish

Diamond State Port Corporation is asking the US Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Delaware to approve their new port expansion at the old Dupont Chemours Edgemoor manufacturing facility along the the Delaware River in New Castle County, DE in order to create a multi-use containerized cargo port to service deep draft vessels.

The project includes dredging and deepening to create a new 45 foot deep access channel from the main navigation channel to the port facility resulting in 3,325,000 cubic yards (cy) of dredged spoils for disposal.  Maintenance dredging will result in an additional 500,000 cy of dredge spoils annually.  10% of the spoils would be used for fill onsite or other purposes, the rest would be disposed of in Army Corps confined disposal facilities (CDFs) including Wilmington Harbor North, Wilmington Harbor South, Reedy Point North and Reedy Point South. 

The project includes construction of a ~2600-foot long, pile-supported wharf and steel sheet pile retaining wall (bulkhead) along the landward side of the wharf structure. Construction of the bulkhead will require the discharge of fill material into 5.5 acres of river bottom. The wharf will be supported by 4500 twenty-inch diameter steel pipe pilings filled with concrete.

About the 13 fans in the River 

The project includes installation and operation of 13 fans in the River that pose a risk to aquatic species including the impingement or entrainment of fish, eggs or larvae, and/or the blowing of sediment that threatens to smother river bottom habitats, sessile species or cause sediment plumes in the water column that could choke or displace fish.  The 13 fans would be placed every 200 feet along the riverfront face of the wharf. Each fan would be used to blow sediment from approximately 160 feet of riverbed  in an effort to reduce the volume of maintenance dredging required for the project. The fans will operate by drawing water into the top of a 48-inch diameter “J-shaped” tube, passed through a hydraulically powered pump impellor, that is then discharged as a jet along the bottom of the River. The fans will rotate at speeds on the order of 275 revolutions per minute. The fans will include a 4-inch screen at their larger intake end and an open space of 1.5 feet between the blades. The fans will direct the discharge jet in the direction of tidal current flow. Each fan will run 4 times a day for 30 minutes (twice during the flood tide and twice during the ebb).

Previous proposals to use similar fans were opposed by fishery experts due to the serious threat to aquatic life and were withdrawn before a final decision was made.  There is particular concern about the federal endangered sturgeon of the River and Striped Bass.

The Concern

Fishery experts, and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network are tremendously concerned about the sediment plume blown out by the fans smothering river bottom habitats, potentially smothering sessile critters laying on the river floor, impinging fish, eggs or larvae on the intake screens or entraining (cutting up) fish, eggs and larvae that will be drawn into and through the fans and their blades.   There are also concerns about the impact of the sediment plume on fish and water quality – potential choking from the plume of sediment or forcing fish to redirect their movements in reaction to the plume in ways that could impact them.

The Army Corps initially only provided 30 days, during a pandemic and the month of August to comment.  Many of you responded to our call to urge the Army Corps to give more time to comment.  While they did so after the original comment period had expired, in the end the Army Corps did give more time to comment.  Delaware Riverkeeper Network is working to secure information and documentation on the project so we can put together informed comments for the Army Corps record.  You can find our initial comment to the Army Corps here.

In addition, on August 23rd, the state of Delaware issued its public notice for the project, providing easily accesible documents online, scheduling a public hearing for the evening of September 29 at 6 pm, and providing a comment period that will extend until November 1.  You can find DNREC’s information online at this link.


And we have already achieved a big success.  While orignally the Delaware River Basin Commission had proposed passage of a resolution that the Commission’s review of the Port of Wilmington Edgemoor Expansion project for consistency with the Comprehensive Plan may be accomplished largely within the context of the coordinated permit processes led by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers” — essentially watering down DRBC’s own decisionmaking authority, its comment process, and the need for a DRBC docket — the Delaware Riverkeeper Network urged the Commissioners at their August 2020 public hearing to vote no on this resolution and instead commit to undertaking its own independent review of this project.  SUCCESS!  On September 10, the DRBC Commissioners pulled the resolution from the proposed agenda for a vote and instead committed to maintaining its full authority, review process and need for a DRBC docket. 

UPDATE 2022-07-21:

Delaware Riverkeeper Network sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for violating the Endangered Species Act. These violations concern the Biological Opinions issued to the Army Corps of Engineers for the New Jersey Wind Port project and the Edgemoor Container Port project. If permitted by the Army Corps, these commercial ports could threaten the continued existence of the Delaware River Estuary’s genetically unique population of Atlantic sturgeon. According to the notice, if these projects move forward, the increase in ship traffic within the estuary will increase sturgeon deaths due to vessel strike, which could threaten the survival of the Delaware River Atlantic Sturgeon.

Upgrade Petition for the Hosensack Creek


On February 3, 2015, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and co-petitioners submitted a petition to the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) to upgrade the Hosensack Basin and all of its tributaries to Exceptional Value status. You can view and download the full petition here

The Hosensack Creek, a tributary to the Perkiomen Creek flows through a rich area of forested and preserved country farms with rolling hills and historical features throughout that make it a unique natural region for Lehigh and Montgomery County residents and visitors alike. Within the Hosensack’s waters, reproducing wild brown and brook trout thrive and help indicate this stream deserves a stronger protection than its existing Cold Water Fishery, Migratory Fishery designation. The stream is also host to a diverse macroinvertebrate community and healthy thriving wetlands where endangered and threatened species reside, which makes it an ever more important watershed to protect. 

Graphic with the map and legend

The petition regulatory process is a lengthy one. Delaware Riverkeeper Network is urging the PA DEP to provide existing use EV designation promptly so this watershed can be protected from future potential threats while the stream works its way through the regulatory process. Organizations and individuals can help garner support for this submitted petition by writing a letter to the PA DEP at:

Honorable Patrick McDonnell
Chairperson, Environmental Quality Board
Secretary of Environmental Protection
16th Floor, Rachel Carson State Office Building
400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101

You can also email  Please be sure to also send a copy of your letter to Delaware Riverkeeper Network as well. 

If you live in the Hosensack Watershed and have photos of the scenic beauty of the watershed, please share them with us. If you have fished the stream and observed trout, let us know that too. You can share photos by sending them to Finally, be sure to contact your elected representatives and urge them to write to PA DEP in support of the redesignation petition to protect the Hosensack Creek and grant it Exceptional Value (EV) status.

Related Issue

Beaver Creek, Delaware County, PA

Geryville Quarry (Dormant)

Tohickon Creek

Whetstone Run

Upper Delaware Regional Upgrade Petition to PA DEP

Upper Perkiomen Regional Stream Upgrade Petition

Dissolved Oxygen Criteria


Photo of a Delaware River
Atlantic Sturgeon
Photo of juvenile Delaware River
Atlantic Sturgeon, taken by Scientist
Matt Fisher

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.

December 2020 report:  Enormous Economic Benefits for Oxygen Restoration

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.