After decades of effort, the voluntary, collaborative approach to restoring the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay— the largest estuary in the United States—has not worked and, in fact, is failing. A diverse group of 57 senior scientists and policymakers have joined forces to save the Bay. This is our plan.

A New Day for the Anacostia River

(Posted by Brooke DeRenzis and Walter Smith.)

Anacostia Watershed

Anacostia Watershed

The Anacostia watershed is one of the most densely populated watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay drainage basin. Like many urban watersheds, it is severely polluted by stormwater which runs off of roofs, roads, driveways and parking lots—picking up trash, oil, and bacteria along the way—and into the river and its streams. Although urban and suburban development accounts for only 9 percent of the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s land use, the Bay watershed is becoming more developed. In fact, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program, stormwater runoff is the Bay’s only major source of pollution that is increasing.

On May 2, 2011, DC Appleseed released a report, a New Day for the Anacostia: A Model for Urban River Revitalization at an event on the banks of the river. The report calls on the federal government to partner with local jurisdictions, businesses, and residents to transform the badly polluted Anacostia River into a centerpiece for recreation, economic development, and community revitalization. The Anacostia River’s clean-up could provide a model for revitalizing urban waterways in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and across the country.

The Chesapeake Bay strategy developed under President Obama’s executive order promotes green infrastructure, such as green roofs, permeable pavements, and rain gardens, as a solution to stormwater pollution. Our report recommends that the federal government implement a pilot program to help local jurisdictions and private property owners install green infrastructure throughout the watershed. If these green techniques work in the Anacostia watershed, they could be held up as a model for solving the Bay’s growing stormwater problem.

Green infrastructure is not just good for the health of the Anacostia and the Bay; it’s also good for the health of our region’s economy. As our report shows, installing and maintaining green infrastructure throughout the Anacostia watershed will enhance economic development, create jobs, boost property values, reduce energy costs, and improve quality of life.

The town of Edmonston, Maryland’s “green street” illustrates these benefits. The working-class town has suffered serious floods, not from the Anacostia River that runs nearby, but from stormwater running off of parking lots, roads, and roofs. Edmonston “greened” its main street by using landscaping, permeable pavers, and trees to reduce stormwater runoff. The project created over 50 jobs; three-quarters of its costs were spent on local businesses; and 60 percent of contractors were minority-owned businesses. The town expects to save money through lower flood control costs, and has earned national recognition as a sustainable community committed to a high quality of life. The U.S. EPA is now partnering with other communities in the Anacostia watershed to replicate Edmonston’s success.

By helping local jurisdictions, businesses, and residents install green practices through the Anacostia watershed, the federal government can refine these techniques so that they can be applied in a cost effective and efficient manner in other urban areas. If the federal government takes an active role in the Anacostia’s green clean-up now, it could create a blueprint for revitalizing urban rivers and communities in the Bay and the nation.

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