Pilot projects to revitalize Anacostia River

Supporting ongoing efforts to clean up one of the nation's most polluted rivers and revitalize it for public use, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced recently that the Anacostia River is selected as one of eight urban river restoration pilot projects.

April 23, 2003 -- Supporting ongoing efforts to clean up one of the nation's most polluted rivers and revitalize it for public use, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced recently that the Anacostia River is selected as one of eight urban river restoration pilot projects.

The pilots are part of the Urban Rivers Restoration Initiative, designed to promote urban river cleanup and restoration nationwide through the collaborative efforts of these two federal agencies. The pilot was announced today by EPA Administrator Christie Whitman at the Anacostia Community Rowing Center in Washington, DC.

"This river is fortunate to have a great many people from the community interested in its health and future," said Administrator Whitman. "For years, the Anacostia River has been called Washington D.C.'s "Forgotten River."

But today, more and more people are responding to the obligation to be good stewards of our natural treasures and rivers. Today I am pleased to announce that the first of these pilot projects is being awarded right here in our Nation's Capital- to support the cleanup and restoration of the Anacostia River."

"The Anacostia River is one of our city's most important natural resources," said Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who attended the event. "Its designation as an urban river restoration project will help us to realize its incredible potential as the true asset it should be, surrounded by thriving neighborhoods."

"We see this Anacostia project as a step in demonstrating how governments and private non-profit organizations can work together as we continue to restore this contaminated river to a healthy state and bring new economic life to Washington, DC," said Major General Robert Griffin, USACE's Director of Civil Works. "We expect that Washington will grow stronger as this river, from which it draws its identity, is restored."

The Anacostia River, which flows through the District of Columbia and Maryland, is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, heavy metals, and raw sewage discharges from combined sewer overflows (CSOs). Pollution from CSOs poses threats to human health, wildlife, and fish habitat, and also limits recreational fishing. The pilot project being announced today will be the first step in helping to support the cleanup and restoration of the Anacostia.

This project was selected through a competitive process for its plans to restore wetlands; expand forest coverage; redevelop underused brownfields properties, and expand private and public stakeholder involvement. Ongoing partnerships and initiatives on the Anacostia include: (1) efforts to develop a plan for the revitalization of the river's waterfront communities and the creation of a riverwalk tying them together with the rest of the District; (2) a proposed $1.3 billion plan to update the area's combined sewer system and reduce the volume of combined sewer overflows entering the Anacostia by 98 percent; (3) a unique partnership by 25 public and private volunteer stakeholders including EPA to address the wide-spread problem of toxins in the sediment of the Anacostia Watershed and the impacts on human and aquatic health.

In July 2002, EPA and USACE entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in which the two agencies agreed to designate several similar pilot projects over the following year to coordinate the planning and execution of urban river cleanup and restoration. A pilot project, the Elizabeth River in Virginia, is also being announced today. Other pilot projects will be announced later this year. EPA will give each pilot project a $50,000 grant.

In partnership with state and local governments, tribal authorities and private organizations, the projects will focus on water quality improvement, cleanup of contaminated sediments and human and animal habitat restoration.

The projects will demonstrate how coordinated government and private sector efforts can not only restore contaminated rivers, but also revitalize urban environments. The MOU aims to better coordinate hazardous waste cleanup, water quality improvements and environmental restoration activities under the Clean Water Act, Superfund, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the various Water Resources Development Act authorities. Information about the Urban Rivers Restoration Initiative is available at: http://www.epa.gov/oswer/landrevitalization/urbanrivers/

Administrator Whitman and Mayor Williams arrived at the Community Rowing Center on bicycle to show support for the Commuter Choice Leadership Initiative and the upcoming Washington DC area Bike to Work day on May 2, 2003.

The Commuter Choice Leadership Initiative was developed by the EPA and Department of Transportation as a voluntary business-government partnership making it more attractive for employers to provide outstanding commuter benefits to their employees.

Since its inception in 2001, 1349 employers representing over 710,307 have become Commuter Choice Employers including Nike, Walt Disney, Yahoo, IBM, and Apple computer. Information about Commuter Choice Leadership Initiative is available at: http://www.commuterchoice.gov and, information about "Bike to Work Day" is available at: http://www.waba.org

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