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Release Date: 07/10/1996
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office ; (617) 918-1064

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Deputy Administrator Fred Hansen and Regional Administrator John DeVillars joined top officials from Boston-area cities on the Charles River to highlight the importance of healthy water resources to New England's economy. EPA estimates show that a clean Charles River -- the focus of an ambitious protection initiative by EPA, environmentalists and local communities -- contributes over $100 million to the local economy.

"Clean water benefits our nation's economy by supporting tourism, recreation and fishing and by increasing property values from coast to coast," said Deputy Administrator Hansen. "The Charles River is a perfect example of how we can drive a healthy local economy by improving water quality."

The Charles River contributes over $100 million to the region's economy by boosting property values, promoting tourism and supporting recreational activities, according to an EPA analysis. Waterfront property values sell and rent at an average premium of more than $60 million along the lower Charles. More than $40 million in hotel room rentals can be attributed to the Charles River. River-front festivals that draw hundreds of thousands of visitors, such as the recent July 4 celebration and the Head of the Charles Regatta, contribute millions more. The river also supports recreational and athletic activities, such as boat rentals, tours, moorings and collegiate crew programs.

"The fact that it contributes over $100 million to our economy is yet another reason why we need to make the Charles River fishable and swimmable by the year 2005," said DeVillars. "In partnership with communities like Boston, Cambridge and Newton and environmental groups, we are well on our way to achieving that goal. But we have only just begun. As we move forward, we should bear in mind that the Charles is an urban jewel not just because of its environmental, recreational and symbolic value but also because it contributes so much to our economy. Our investment in a clean Charles is time and money well spent. And this river is far from 'clean' -- imagine what its economic impact will be when we've met our goal a decade from now."

EPA's New England regional office has launched a collaborative effort with the cities along the Charles and local environmental organizations, including the Charles River Watershed Association, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, and the Boston Harbor Association, to make the Charles River fishable and swimmable by the year 2005. Earlier this year, EPA gave the Charles River a barely passing grade of "D" for water quality, indicating that although the river is improving, much work remains to be done to protect this important urban environmental resource.

Hansen and DeVillars joined Mayor Sheila Russell of Cambridge, Mayor Thomas Concannon of Newton, Ms. Cathleen Douglas Stone of Boston and environmental advocates on a boat tour of the Charles River. The tour included sites such as Magazine Beach in Cambridge, where swimming is prohibited due to bacterial pollution.

The economic contributions of the Charles include:

    • More than $60 million in increased property value. According to Boston- and Cambridge-area realtors, units with a view of the Charles River command a higher rental or purchase value of between 13 and 18 percent than they would without such views. A five-block stretch of the lower Charles River is home to an estimated 1,500 riverfront units, the value of which are increased by about $60 million thanks to their proximity to the river (using the more conservative 13 percent premium figure). This estimate includes neither riverfront commercial space nor the numerous river-view units not directly on the river;
    • Over $40 million in hotel room rentals. Five major hotels situated on the Charles River average a 78 percent occupancy rate and bring in gross revenues topping $54 million a year. Charles River events, such as the Head of the Charles Regatta and the Fourth of July celebrations, result in occupancy rates of close to 100 percent. Nearly 75 percent of the rooms have river views, for which most hotels charge a premium. The Fourth of July weekend alone accounts for more than $1 million in hotel reservations and dining;
    • Millions of dollars through recreational activities. Throughout the spring, summer and fall, the banks of the Charles River host regattas (including the Head of the Charles), concerts and activities at the Hatch Shell, and the Cambridge River Festival, among numerous other events. Crowds of over 100,000 line the riverbank for some of these events, bringing in millions more in revenues.
A tour boat industry, providing chartered and guided tours of the river, has begun to thrive on the river in the past few years. Last year, tourists spent a total of $250,000 for river sightseeing trips. Also, boat and yacht clubs, as well as canoe and kayak rentals, depend on a clean Charles River, providing services and programs for more than 30,000 people and posting $300,000 in annual earnings.

In addition, the Charles River supports numerous other economically-important activities, either indirectly or directly. Universities lining the river-front, including Harvard, MIT and Boston University, draw tens of thousands of students and visitors each year. Nationally-competitive college crew and sailing programs operate on the Charles. And the Museum of Science, situated above the Charles and boasting river impressive views, brings in tens of millions of dollars each year.

EPA recently issued a national report, titled Liquid Assets: A Summertime Perspective on the Importance of Clean Water to the Nation's Economy, which demonstrates that clean water is worth billions of dollars to the nation's economy. Today's tour of the Charles is one in a series of site visits by EPA Administrator Carol Browner and Deputy Administrator Hansen of the nation's most valuable water resources to highlight their economic impact.