Northeast Times

Study says cash flows from water

A re­cent study sig­nal­ing the re­cov­ery of Phil­adelphia’s wa­ter­ways could mean sig­ni­fic­ant in­vest­ments to the wa­ter­front in Brides­burg.

Brides­burg Out­board Club Com­modore Patrick Mc­Grath wel­comes every­one to last week’s press con­fer­ence. Mc­Grath spoke of see­ing the wa­ter­fronts trans­form­a­tion over his years as a lifelong Brides­burg res­id­ent.

The Schuylkill and Delaware rivers can bring $10 bil­lion in­vest­ment dol­lars in­to the re­gion an­nu­ally, ac­cord­ing to a re­cently re­leased Uni­versity of Delaware study. 

These find­ings were presen­ted dur­ing an af­ter­noon press con­fer­ence held at the Brides­burg Out­board Club, along the club’s lush, green stretch of the Delaware River.

But, the river wasn’t al­ways like that, as Ger­ald J. Kauff­man, dir­ect­or of the Uni­versity of Delaware’s Wa­ter Re­sources Agency, told the gathered crowd.

“The Delaware is back baby!” he said ex­citedly. “The Delaware Es­tu­ary has made one the most re­mark­able re­cov­er­ies of an es­tu­ary in the world.”

In a present­a­tion by the Part­ner­ship for the Delaware Es­tu­ary, Kauff­man dis­cussed some of the find­ings of the study.

Re­call­ing stor­ies of how pol­luted the Delaware River had be­come dur­ing the city’s in­dus­tri­al hey­day, Kauff­man said he’s read re­ports of a man on the river­front who left sil­ver coins out on his dress­er one even­ing and they tar­nished overnight due to fumes from the river.

“Trout couldn’t mi­grate north of here,” he said, look­ing out at the river from the Brides­burg Out­board Club’s dock just north of the not­able Cokies site.

“They can now,” he con­tin­ued. “There are now rain­bow trout in the river … That’s a real sign of the es­tu­ary com­ing back.”

In look­ing at the eco­nom­ic as­pects of the es­tu­ary, the study says that in Pennsylvania alone — the es­tu­ary con­sists of areas in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jer­sey — an im­proved river­front could mean more than 125,000 jobs.

From con­struc­tion to re­cre­ation, tour­ism and fish­ing re­lated ca­reers, Pennsylvania could gain $2.8 bil­lion in eco­nom­ic be­ne­fits, if the wa­ter­shed grows and thrives.

But, how might that be done?

To sup­port and grow the Delaware River wa­ter­shed, the Part­ner­ship for the Delaware River Es­tu­ary presen­ted six “pri­or­ity pro­jects” that the group be­lieves could sig­ni­fic­antly be­ne­fit the river and help res­id­ents re­con­nect with the wa­ter­front.

Jen­nifer Adkins, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the part­ner­ship, noted that or­gan­izers will still need to ob­tain fund­ing for these pro­jects, but the first step is hav­ing a plan in place.

“These pro­jects can be done in pieces,” she said. “Some could take a long time … We are work­ing with what re­sources we have to com­bine that with cor­por­ate part­ners and the loc­al com­munity.”

The six pro­posed ideas would in­clude re­seed­ing the ri­ver­bed with oysters and re­plant­ing aquat­ic ve­get­a­tion. But, of con­cern to Brides­burg, one pro­posed pri­or­ity pro­ject — called Brides­burg Urb­an Wa­ter­front Res­tor­a­tion — would see the area where the 60-acre Phil­adelphia Coke site meets the river in­volved in a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar renov­a­tion pro­ject.

Un­der this pro­ject, which has no start date or source of fund­ing yet, the area at 3101 Or­tho­dox St. could see up to 3 acres of tid­al wet­land and 12.5 acres of urb­an shoreline re­stored.

As presen­ted, the res­tor­a­tion would link up with the Delaware River City Cor­por­a­tion’s on­go­ing green­ing pro­gram along the river north of Al­legheny Av­en­ue.

Jon Ca­pacasa, dir­ect­or of the Wa­ter Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion of the U.S. En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency’s Mid-At­lantic Re­gion, said the time for pro­jects like these is now, be­cause the city is no longer an in­dus­tri­al power­house.

The end of that in­dus­tri­al age could ush­er in a new, nat­ur­al phase of life for the Delaware River, he said.

“This was an in­dus­tri­al city. Well, that’s a fish fact­ory,” he said, point­ing to the wa­ters of the river. “We need to pro­tect it for the value it provides for our eco­nomy.”

“Let’s make these pro­jects a real­ity,” con­tin­ued Ca­pacasa. “How many people who live just two or three blocks from here have nev­er been to the wa­ter­front?”

Over­all, Pat Mc­Grath, com­modore of the Brides­burg Out­board Club and lifelong res­id­ent of the com­munity, said he has no­ticed the eco­sys­tem of the Delaware River im­prov­ing in the last few years.

In fact, he said, he’s seen beavers play­ing in the wa­ters right off the shore of the boat club, something he’s nev­er seen in his life un­til re­cently.

“This area used to be all tex­tile mills,” he re­called. “But, we can really see how the river cleans up. I’ve seen beavers play­ing and all kinds of birds…And, it [the river cur­rent] moves so fast now.”

Asked his thoughts on the pos­sible res­tor­a­tion of the river­front at the va­cant Phil­adelphia Coke site, Mc­Grath said he’d love to see it re­covered, be­cause his club too of­ten has to call for the po­lice to keep kids from swim­ming in the river off the ru­ins of a former in­dus­tri­al struc­ture that stretches out in­to the river there.

“It would really be great if they could get in­volved and get rid of all that,” he said. “It’s a head­ache but it’s not just that, we are wor­ried about the chil­dren’s lives.”

For more in­form­a­tion on the Part­ner­ship for the Delaware Es­tu­ary or to see the find­ings of this re­cent eco­nom­ic study, vis­it www.delawarees­tu­ary.org.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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