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Partnership for Narragansett Bay Watershed Grant, Narragansett, Rhode Island

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at the
Sprague Bridge Park
Narragansett, Rhode Island

May 16, 2003

Thank you, Bob (Varney), for that introduction. I am delighted that Governor Carcieri is with us today B it = s an honor to have you here. I have to admit, this is one of the best parts of my job B spending time in the great outdoors and calling it work.

I = m delighted to be in Narragansett. Last month, I had the pleasure of recognizing your town as one of EPA = s Clean Water Partners for the 21st Century. Only 78 other communities nationwide earned this designation. You should be proud of the work you have done to protect this river for your children and grandchildren.

Earlier this month, EPA announced the awarding of $15 million in grants to 20 watersheds around the country. This new grant program B part of President Bush = s landmark Watershed Initiative B is designed to help organizations, such as the Partnership for Narragansett Bay, protect America=s watersheds for future generations and for the wildlife that also depend on them.

I was interested to learn that over this past winter, birders spotted a Rough-legged Hawk right near this spot B something that doesn't happen every day. This bird, which spends the summers in the Arctic, winters in Southern Canada and across the northern part of the United States B looking for places like this to call home during the bleak Arctic winter. By preserving habitats such as this, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren will also be able to observe birds like the Rough-legged Hawk right in their own back yards.

Today, all across America, more and more people are remembering that we all have an obligation to be good stewards of our natural heritage by caring for our watersheds. After all, one of the most important ways we can protect our rivers, lakes, and streams is by better managing what happens in the watersheds in which they are located.

That's because the greatest threat to America's waterways today comes, not from pollution dumped into them directly, but from pollution that runs-off into them B non- point source pollution. Oil from city streets and parking lots, excess fertilizer and herbicides that run-off from suburban lawns, animal waste from farms B all this and more finds its way into our precious rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal waters.

To cite just one illustration, every eight months, as much oil finds its way into America= s coastal waters from non-point source pollution as was spilled from the Exxon Valdez B the largest environmental disaster in American history. If we are going to leave our water purer than we found it, we must redouble our efforts to implement a watershed management approach in every part of our country. That is what is behind President Bush's Watershed Initiative. I am pleased to report that following the President = s announcement of this Initiative last year, the response was overwhelming.

We received 176 applications, flowing in from every corner of the country. There's no doubt that America's watersheds have lots of friends and advocates, and that bodes well for the environmental health of all of our Nation's waters. The $15 million in grants that we awarded will help tackle some of the greatest threats our watersheds face. These include loss of habitat, which threatens wild and marine life and increases run-off; invasive species that throw aquatic ecosystems out of balance; and the affects of nonpoint source pollution on water quality.

The work these grants will make possible will ensure that our children and grandchildren have clean water to drink, fish, and enjoy. These grants will also help strengthen the partnerships between EPA and those who are on the front-lines B or should I say the shorelines and riverbanks B protecting our treasured watersheds. Those who know the challenges best are usually in the best position to find the right solutions. That= s the sort of problem solving we support.

The grant we awarded to the Narragansett Bay Project exemplifies that approach. It was the close cooperation between the state of Rhode Island and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, coupled with the high level of community involvement, that made this project stand out from the crowd. As a result of the work you have all done together, this grant will support the restoration of eelgrass on the Bay, the restoration of herring and shad runs on the Pawtuxet River, the installation of two fish ladders on the Three Mile River, and the improvement of fish habitat and water quality right here on the Narrow River.

Congratulations B you are really making a difference for the Bay. The President's Watershed Initiative is off to a great start B and we hope to build on this strong foundation in the years ahead. That is why the President's proposed budget for the next fiscal year increases funding for this exciting new program by 30 percent, to $20 million. I hope Congress gives us the increased funding the President has requested.

Through this program, President Bush and you are writing a new page in the history of our Nation's watersheds. Together, we will ensure that beautiful spots like this are here for our children and theirs in the years ahead.

Thank you.

Now I would like to ask the Governor and Bob Varney to join me in presenting this check for $800,000 to the Partnership for Narragansett Bay.