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Commentary By Walter Smith: Cleaning Up The Anacostia River

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Earlier this month, D.C. Appleseed held an event along the banks of the Anacostia to release a new report calling for a cleanup of the river. The report urges the federal government to partner with local jurisdictions, businesses and residents to turn the badly polluted Anacostia into a national model for urban river revitalization.

At the event, federal leaders joined local officials from D.C. and Maryland to voice support for transforming the river into a centerpiece for recreation, economic development and community revitalization.

It's a great step forward for citizens of this region that key leaders from all levels of government came together this way to advance the river’s clean-up. And it's really good news that Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes specifically stated that the Obama administration is making the restoration of the river and the revitalization of communities along its banks a high priority.

As our report points out, there are three key reasons for the federal government to make the Anacostia clean-up a high priority now.

First, because the federal government has heavily contributed to the Anacostia's pollution through its role as historical developer and current tenant, it has a responsibility to contribute its fair share to cleaning up that pollution.

Second, federal investments in a cleaner Anacostia will create jobs, boost property values, reduce energy costs, and improve quality of life for many thousands of people.

And third, the federal government can use the Anacostia Watershed as an ideal test-case for restoring urban rivers. The Army Corps of Engineers and the watershed’s local jurisdictions have already provided a starting point for this test case. Last year, the Corps issued a comprehensive inventory of more than 3,000 restoration projects for the Anacostia.

In addition, the federal government has highlighted green practices for reducing storm water as a key principle of its strategy for the Chesapeake Bay, developed under President Obama's executive order. If these techniques work in the Anacostia Watershed — one of the most polluted and densely-developed areas of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed — they can become a model for revitalizing urban rivers throughout the country.

It's time to get that revitalization going here in the National Capital area.

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