The author of a recent Water Policy paper has shared a blog post summarizing the paper. Gerald J. Kauffman's blog post and details of the paper can be found below! 

Benefit-cost analysis of water quality policy and criteria in the Delaware River 

Gerald J. Kauffman 

Water Policy (2020) 22 (3): 313–327

Blog post: The Delaware River is Worth the Investment

At dawn on June 16, 2011, I sped north to the headwaters to join the annual Delaware River sojourn organized by the American Canoe Association.  My mission was to find out where the American shad go after they swim 200 miles from the Atlantic Ocean past Philadelphia and the 7th largest metropolitan economy in the United States to get to their ancestral spawning grounds in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.  As our kayak flotilla floated past the mouth of the sparkling Flatbrook and rounded the bend on a blue sky Chamber of Commerce day, there they were - physical evidence of the river revival.  Schools of two-feet long, aquamarine American shad were swimming like half-submerged submarines in lazy circles near the old Tocks Island dam site just north of the I-80 bridge.  The fish were spent and their scales were sloughed after swimming against the current from the ocean and laying their eggs during the ancient spring ritual.

We were mesmerized.  We were witnessing one of the beautiful synergies in the natural world.  There up on the sycamore trees were flocks of bald eagles that swooped down from their perches on Kittatinny Mountain and grabbed the fat fish and feasted.  The rocks in the middle of the river were covered with half-eaten carcasses as the eagles would take a few bites of the delicious belly and skin and move on to the next fish.  Someone told me the eagles left the rest of the food on the rocks for other animals like the bears and crows and occasional cougar to feed on after a long, snowy winter.

Here at the foot of the Appalachian Trail was incontrovertible evidence of the river revival in the 50 years since the birth of JFK’s 1961 DRBC Compact and Nixon’s EPA and the Clean Water Act during the 1970s.  Billions of dollars in watershed investments had paid off and rising dissolved oxygen levels way downstream in the old 1960s Philadelphia anoxic zone now allows the shad to swim upstream again at exactly the same time that the bald eagle, just off the Federal endangered species list due to the ban on DDT, is looking to fatten up on the fish in the spring.  The Delaware River is recovering and so are the shad, bald eagles, and black bears.  The word is out.  People are traveling to camp, fish, and kayak by the river to see this spectacle of nature and the regional ecotourism economy can’t help but be stimulated.

The question is…are the benefits of the Delaware River revival worth the current and future costs?  Is clean water worth the cost?  This is what I wanted to find out.

Read the full paper here. 


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