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Urban River Restoration Initiative at the Anacostia River, Washington, D.C.

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at the
Anacostia River
Washington, D.C.

April 21, 2003

Thank you, Marianne (Horinko), for that introduction. I want to thank the Capital Rowing Club for hosting us today here at the Anacostia Community Boathouse.

I am delighted that Mayor Williams could be with us today. We had a good ride over here B Washington is a great city to see from the seat of a bike.

I = m also pleased that Colonel (Charles) Fiala of the Army Corps of Engineers is with us today. The Army Corps and the EPA have joined together to help rescue some of America = s most threatened urban rivers. To some, this may seem like an unexpected alliance. But I think the skills and experience we each possess will make for a powerful partnership on behalf of our urban waterways.

For as long as I can remember, rivers and streams have played an important part in my life. Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are of fishing with my father in a small trout stream on our family farm. Whenever I have the chance, I love to be on the water B either fishing, kayaking, or just listening to its sounds and appreciating its beauty.

Charles Kurault once wrote, A Most of what I love about this country is a gift of the rivers. America is a great story, and there is a river on every page of it. @ He was right. Rivers have played an important role in our history B they run through every page of the American story.

Unfortunately, some of those pages tell a sad story B a story of rivers for which proper care has not been shown. We stand on the banks of one of them. For years, the Anacostia River has been called Washington D.C.= s A Forgotten River. @ Polluted, neglected, and ignored, this once-thriving ecological gem lost its luster.

This river is fortunate to have a great many people from the community interested in its health and its future. Today, all across America, more and more people are remembering that we all have an obligation to be good stewards of our natural heritage and that rivers such as this must not be forgotten anymore.

It = s not an overstatement to say that what has happened to the Anacostia over the years is truly disgraceful. As a result of decades of disregard for this river, it is contaminated with such pollutants as PCBs, pesticides and heavy metals, and raw sewage discharges. This has made the river unsafe for swimming and its fish unsafe to eat.

Of course, this sorry situation is not unique to this particular river. Many urban rivers continue to suffer from the affects of practices we no longer tolerate. The legacy of those practices is contaminated sediment, degraded water quality, lost habitat, and restricted recreational opportunities. The health of everything that lives in the waters is compromised. The well-being of all those who live near them is diminished. It = s time to reclaim these rivers and restore them to their natural vitality.

That is why the Army Corps and EPA created the Urban River Restoration Initiative. This initiative will allow us to work together to address these water quality challenges. It will help return our urban waterways to their rightful condition and place in the community. The word A Anacostia @ comes from an Indian word meaning A village trading center. @ It = s time to make this river B and those like it B proud centers of the neighborhood through which they flow.

Between us, the Army Corps and EPA have a great many ways in which we can help bring our threatened urban rivers back from the brink. From decontaminating the sediment on the river bottom to restoring the ecosystems that line its banks, there is much we can do, for there is much to be done.

Over the coming weeks, we will be designating eight demonstration pilot projects to help coordinate the planning and execution of urban river cleanups and restorations. Today, I am pleased to announce that the first of these pilot projects is being awarded right here in our Nation = s Capital B to support the cleanup and restoration of the Anacostia River.

This $50,000 grant is just a down-payment on the work that must be done to correct more than a century of abuse. It is our hope that it will lead to great things for this river and will serve as an example of how we can work together B government at all levels side-by-side with the community B to save our rivers. Together we will write a new chapter, one that tells of how this generation restored America = s urban rivers for their children and grandchildren.

Thank you.

Now, I would like to ask Colonel Fiala, along with Marianne Horinko and Ben Grumbles, to join me in presenting this check toward the cleanup of the Anacostia River.