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A Battle Brews Over Use of The Delaware River: Recreational vs. Commercial

Updated: Aug 6, 2022

March 29, 2022 |

Taking a trip to the banks of the Delaware River on a warm summer day these past couple of years, you may have seen people paddling kayaks, floating on inflatable pink flamingos, racing by on jet skis, and even swimming. It’s a sign that the river, once known as a “stinky ugly mess,” is now much cleaner and more inviting.

But not everyone is cheering a recreational return to the Delaware. Each year, about 4,000 large cargo ships carry everything from plywood to steel to grapes, delivering material to 30 different marine terminals in the 27-mile stretch between the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge and the Commodore Barry Bridge. Thousands of work boats, including barges and tugs, also travel that stretch each year.

NJ SEED: Long an advocate for intelligent use of the Delaware River, NJ SEED suggests compromise in consideration of both commercial and recreational interests. The 27 miles from the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge to the Delaware Bay are necessary and valuable to the economic interests of the region. It is a small portion of the 301-mile river, 274 miles of which remain to be used for recreation and water supply. Upgrading the river’s status under the federal Clean Water Act would result in tougher restrictions on discharges into the river and would be a positive next step to improve the river’s water quality while not impeding commercial activity. Increased recreational activity in the navigable waters will require efforts to reduce the associated safety hazards.

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