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California Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, Pittsburg, California

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
California Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership Kick-Off
Pittsburg, California

November 19, 2002

Thank you Arnold (Allemang) for that introduction.

I = m pleased to be here today in this beautiful wetlands preserve that the Dow Chemical Company in partnership with EPA and others has worked hard to restore and protect.

Looking around at what is now a scenic refuge for several endangered species and home to many different kinds of plant and animal life, it = s hard to believe that ten years ago this area was a refuge for garbage and the home to waste and debris.

What a difference ten years makes, and more importantly what a difference the work, dedication, and determination of Dow employees has made.

During October, the Clean Water Act celebrated its 30th anniversary, and in commemoration of that important milestone the President proclaimed this the year of clean water.

The anniversary of the Clean Water Act is an opportunity to renew our commitment to providing Americans with pure, healthy water, while at the same time focusing the nation= s attention on the new water quality challenges we face.

Maintaining the health of our wetlands is one of those challenges and an integral part of making sure our water is clean in the future.

As the students here today have shown us with their exhibits, wetlands are a valuable part of our watersheds.

Not only do wetlands provide critical habitat for plants and animals, wetlands act as sponges absorbing and slowing down flood waters, and they also help to purify our water by capturing sediment and other pollutants before those contaminants reach our rivers, lakes, and streams.

Besides the environmental benefits wetlands provide, they are also a valuable economic source contributing over a billion dollars a year to the economy from fishing and recreation activities.

Unfortunately, for many years wetlands were drained and filled for residential, commercial, and industrial use B now, more than half of our country = s original wetlands in the lower 48 states have been lost.

Right here in California, 90% of this state = s wetlands have been lost.

Though, America still contains over 100 million acres of wetlands, every year we lose about 60,000 of those acres.

It = s time we reverse this dangerous trend and renew our efforts to sustain and protect our wetland areas.

Of course, no one organization can accomplish this alone. We need the help of committed partners B those who are willing to work together across traditional boundaries to achieve improved environmental health and provide a greater quality of life for all Americans.

For over a decade now, EPA has been a member of the Coastal America Partnership that was established to protect our coastal watersheds by integrating federal actions with state and local government, tribes, citizen groups, and industry.

And, as a result of these efforts over 80,000 acres of wetlands and aquatic habitat have been restored or enhanced.

Coastal America created the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership (CWRP) a few years ago to partner more effectively with corporations and enable businesses to contribute directly to coastal restoration and protection.

Since its creation the CWRP has expanded to include over 100 companies and 50 non- governmental organizations.

Today, I = m proud to represent the partners of Coastal America in joining with the Dow Chemical Company and the National Association of Manufacturers to celebrate the expansion of this unique partnership into the state of California.

California is a state of rich and diverse natural resources, resources that have been the foundation of this state = s economic prosperity.

California is also recognized as an environmental leader B enacting progressive environmental legislation and protecting 27 million acres of land for conservation and parks.

By making the restoration of California = s wetlands and watersheds a major focus of this state's conservation legacy, we can go far towards upholding its economic vitality and preserving its environmental heritage.

I = ve heard it said that if you want to make a difference, start by looking in your own backyard. That= s exactly what Dow has done.

They have probably one of the best A backyards @ in the country and they are taking their environmental leadership a step further by leading the effort to raise corporate support for wetlands restoration here in California.

I want to thank them for setting such a positive example of environmental stewardship that other companies can follow.

I would like to ask John Sampson to join me at this time.

On behalf of the Coastal America Partnership and the National Advisory Council of the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, I am pleased to present to you this certificate of recognition for your leadership efforts in establishing the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership here in California.

I look forward to working with you and others here today in achieving our goal of preserving healthy wetlands and providing clean water for this and future generations.

Thank you.