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EPA Honors Norwalk River Watershed Initiative for Clean Water Actions

Release Date: 04/01/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008 Jessica Kaplan, Norwalk River Watershed Initiative (203-834-0033)

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today honored the Norwalk River Watershed Initiative for its work to protect and improve water quality in the Norwalk River watershed. The group, one of 79 winners selected nationally as a ‘Clean Water Partner for the 21st Century,' was honored at a ceremony this morning in Washington by EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.

EPA's Office of Water created the Clean Water Partners Awards as part of the celebration of the Year of Clean Water. The awards are designed to recognize extraordinary actions taken by local governments to protect watersheds over and above the requirements of the Clean Water Act, focusing on the leadership role that local governments are playing in their own organizations and their efforts to mobilize other partners in the watershed. Honorees were reviewed by a panel including EPA, the Water Environment Federation, Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies and the National League of Cities.

"We received about 200 applications from across the U. S. and after careful review 79 were chosen as Clean Water Partners," said G. Tracy Mehan III, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water, who joined Whitman at today's ceremony. "It is our belief that clean water begins at the local level. We applaud the efforts of all Clean Water Partners to improve the environment in the communities they serve."

The Norwalk River Watershed Initiative is a unique partnership among federal and state agencies, watershed towns, local groups, and residents to address local water quality and resource protection problems and opportunities in the Norwalk River Watershed. Municipal partners include New Canaan, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, and Wilton, Conn. and Lewisboro, N.Y.

"The Norwalk River Initiative is a fantastic partnership among state and federal agencies, local governments and environmental groups," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "These groups are demonstrating what can be done when we work together for clean water."

"Our selection as a Clean Water Partner rightly honors the seven watershed towns," said Jessica Kaplan, the initiative's watershed coordinator. "Each town has shown a continuous commitment to the Initiative from its inception in 1996 to now, over six years later. That support provided by local governments has not wavered, despite changes in administration among the seven towns. The Initiative would not be the success it is today without this continuing municipal commitment."

The initiative has developed an action plan to accomplish the following goals: preserve wildlife habitat; promote balanced growth; restore and protect water resources; and educate citizens about the importance of the watershed. Since 1997, towns and member organizations have carried out a number of projects to monitor water quality, restore fish habitat, reduce pollution from stormwater drains, evaluate environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional snow removal processes and improve septic systems in the watershed.

Other award winners in New England were the town of Narragansett, R.I., the Auburn Water District in Auburn, Mass. and the town of Portage Lake, Maine.