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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at Compton Creek Declaring the Los Angeles River Traditional Navigable Waters, As Prepared

As prepared for delivery.

Last week I took my sixth trip to the Gulf Coast since the beginning of the BP oil spill. That has been a deeply challenging experience for that community – and for the many thousands of federal government responders in the area. I mention that because – though there are many differences between what’s going on there and what’s happening here – the fundamental issues are the same. What is at stake is the same. And what people are working for is the same. We all want clean waters and healthy communities – and we want the environmental protections that will actually protect the resources that are invaluable to your way of life.

I’m proud that EPA can be partners in efforts on the Gulf Coast and in the hard work happening here on Compton Creek – and I’m glad to be here today to help strengthen that partnership.

In 2006, a Supreme Court ruling cast doubt about the kinds of waters that are protected under the Clean Water Act. That decision raised the concerns of this community, who worried that this river and its watershed would lose its environmental protections. I’m proud to be here today to put an end to the questions and designate the LA River a “Traditional Navigable Water” – and thus, a river protected under the Clean Water Act.

This designation strengthens our ability to fight pollution throughout this 51-mile watershed. It also ensures that the wetlands and creeks that contribute to the River's health – like Compton Creek – will have the protections of our nation’s clean water laws.

This is an important designation, for a number of reasons. First, it is a perfect example of how we must rethink the definition of environmentalism, and expand our conversation to include places like Compton Creek and the L.A. River.

When we talk about the quote-unquote “environment” it brings to mind sweeping vistas and wide-open landscapes. What doesn’t usually come to mind is a river with a concrete bottom – a river that flows through one of our nation’s largest cities and a bustling urban area. But as we’ve seen from this community, environmental issues are just as important here in the city as they are anywhere else.

Right now EPA is developing a comprehensive and collaborative Urban Waters program to help urban communities reconnect with and revitalize the waters that are an important part of their health and prosperity. Here again, we see another great example of that in the L.A. River – the blue ribbon that runs through highways and high rises.

The people of Compton, and those living throughout the L.A. region, turn to these waters, wetlands and creeks for activities like fishing or canoeing. Because we all know the value of this river and its watershed, we’re working to transform it. We want this to be a place where people can walk, bike or picnic. We want it to be an asset that can help attract new businesses – revitalizing the community and creating local jobs.

I’m pleased to see so many gathered today in partnership – pledging their commitment to this river, bringing new so ideas forward and engaging the children who will enjoy these waters for years to come. I look forward to continuing my work with all of you to tap the potential of this urban waterway, to expand the conversation on environmentalism by reconnecting communities with the L.A. River and to begin a new chapter of community involvement around this precious resource. Thank you.