Special Supplement to U.S. Mayor - October 15, 1997


First Urban Water Summit Held in New Orleans

By Michael Gagliardo
Over twenty mayors gathered in New Orleans on September 25 - 26 to identify and prioritize key water issues facing cities. The over 100 participants at the U.S. Conference of Mayors first Urban Water Summit discussed strategies for cities to work collaboratively with regional, state and federal agencies and the private sector toward the goal of sustainable watershed management.

Sponsored by the Conference's Urban Water Council and the City of New Orleans, the Urban Water Summit brought together a unique combination of mayors, public sector water managers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Commerce, environmental and non-profit groups and the private sector.

Wilmington Mayor James H. Sills, Jr., co-chair of the Urban Water Council, stressed the importance of the Summit in his opening remarks. He stated that the goal of the Summit is to identify and prioritize urban water issues for a report to the Conference's Energy and Environment Committee at the Winter Meeting in January, 1998. Mayor Sills also stressed the importance of cities sharing the results of their experiences in dealing with water related issues. "Cities are actively implementing effective programs all across the country", he said. "We all benefit when we share models of what has been effective in our communities. By spreading the word about our own 'best management practices', we can assist other cities address their own local issues."

The City of New Orleans represented a most appropriate host city for the Summit. Mayor Marc Morial noted that the City of New Orleans is a city shaped by water. The Mississippi River is the both the city's greatest asset and the city's greatest challenge. The river is critical to commerce, jobs, recreation, fishing and tourism. In addition, it is the source of the City's drinking water. "The river makes the city go", the Mayor said.

Mayors Seek Flexibility and Equity in Water Pollution Control

By Michael Gagliardo
Agricultural runoff, not urban waste discharges, is the leading cause of water pollution across the nation. At a September 25 press conference held in conjunction with the Conference of Mayors Urban Water Summit in New Orleans, mayors stated that the Federal government must take a broader approach to solving water quality problems, and that the upcoming reauthorization of the Clean Water Act is the place to establish a comprehensive watershed management approach as the national practice.

Mayor Morial said it is important that all the states along the Mississippi realize that upriver pollution impacts the City of New Orleans and hurts fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. The 25th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, first enacted in 1972, is an excellent opportunity to increase educational efforts on runoff pollution.

Mayors want the Federal government, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency, to give cities more flexibility in dealing with water pollution problems. The emphasis on a watershed management approach requires more cooperation between cities and counties, and among urban, suburban, rural and agricultural areas.

The Urban Water Summit began an effort by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to establish a plan for achieving future water quality improvements across the nation. The effort will include the regulated community and the regulators. It will also include a partnership between the public and private sectors. Through a better understanding of the problems each stakeholder faces, better solutions can be found. Mayors must be engaged in the process of developing new programs to ensure that they will work in the real world.

Mayor Morial Stresses "Partnership"
as Theme of Urban Water Summit

Mayors, States, Feds, Private Sector and Agricultural Community Must Work Together

By Kimberly Peterson

In his keynote address to the first U.S. Conference of Mayors Urban Water Summit September 25th, New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial emphasized the importance of partnerships in protecting and preserving the historical, cultural, ecological, recreational and economic value of urban water resources.

Partnerships for both watershed management and for helping cities implement regulatory mandates and infrastructure investments were called for. Mayor Morial opened the Summit by saying, "For the U.S. Conference of Mayors and all of you who are interested in water, I am hoping this conversation will lead to an action plan with mayors, regulators, the private and public sectors finding common ground on water and environmental issues _ stormwater, wastewater, beneficial uses of rivers, streams and lakes." Morial also promoted "a better understanding by those who regulate cities to the challenges that cities face and a better understanding by cities of what regulators are trying to accomplish." He called for a place at the table for mayors and local officials as environmental laws are reauthorized and as new partnerships are formed. At the opening press conference, Mayor Morial and others called for a new partnership with the agricultural community in protecting watersheds saying, "We must partner with rural America if we are going to address the environmental problems affecting urban America. It is certainly clear that the issue of agricultural run-off in many parts of the nation is affecting waterways which serve as the primary source of drinking water and recreational areas for many major American cities."

As illustration of how crucial water resources can be to a city, Mayor Morial drew on the Mississippi River's historical role in the development of New Orleans saying, "Water has been for New Orleans our greatest asset but it has also been in many respects our greatest challenge....the Mississippi River is the vine, is the spine, is the aorta that makes this city go. It means that 90,000 jobs are dependent on the Port of New Orleans. We are the gateway for all products coming out of the United States whether it's cars from Detroit, agricultural products from the Midwest, or any sort of finished products from the heartland-they come through the Port of New Orleans and it's a great, great asset. On the other hand this city has struggled for the nearly 280 years of its existence to harness the power of water so that is doesn't literally destroy this city."

Morial further defined the environmental and economic challenges New Orleans faces as the ultimate downstream community on the Mississippi River. "We face the challenge being down here at the bottom of the food chain of all of the good things and bad things that end up in the river from both the industrial heartland and the agricultural heartland and we are thus challenged with specific and special environmental issues related to our water. We drink the Mississippi River water and we have a sophisticated system...which cleans that water so we can drink it and use it. Some of the expenses associated with preparing that water for household usage arise out of the fact that we are down here at the bottom of the proverbial food chain in the Mississippi River system."

Mayor Morial went on to describe the system developed to pump stormwater and wastewater out of the city using nearly 300 pumping stations which are designed to relieve the pressures of water on New Orleans. The city has master plans to upgrade and modernize both its stormwater and wastewater system at a price tag of about $250 million for each system over the next ten years. Morial called on federal and state partners for their help in upgrading this crucial urban water infrastructure saying, "We cannot do that [upgrade] in this community without the support of the feds, without the support of the state and without the support of our own taxpayers and our own ratepayers. We also know that if we don't spend the money, if we don't invest in this system we face a catastrophe of untold proportions because our systems are over 100 years old."

Atlanta Cooperates with Neighbors in Managing Watersheds

By Kimberly Peterson
The City of Atlanta is among the nation's first cities to implement multi-jurisdictional cooperation in managing its watersheds. This was the message delivered by David Peters, newly appointed to serve as Atlanta's Chief Environmental Officer by Mayor Campbell, at the first Conference of Mayors Urban Water Summit.

Atlanta has made great strides in developing intergovernmental cooperation in managing local watersheds. Atlanta's watershed initiative program is a cooperative effort among the city of Atlanta and several governmental jurisdictions as well as business, environmental, and regulatory groups.

According to Mr. Peters, "The ability to sustain development in an urban environment is predicated on the concept that we are each dependent on each other and each other's actions and reactions...Atlanta's environmental challenges as well as its search for solutions make it a perfect model for exploring cooperation across geographic and ideological lines. Atlanta is at the cutting edge of regional cooperation and we are taking a leadership role in these efforts. As a leader, Atlanta has learned and is still learning how to work in cooperation towards healthier communities."

Evidence of Mayor Campbell's environmental vision is the creation within his cabinet of the position of chief environmental officer to help the City of Atlanta tackle cross-cutting environmental challenges. In this role, Mr. Peters will ensure that Atlanta's environmental programs are properly managed and financed and fit within the framework of sustainable development.

Atlanta has undertaken a watershed initiative designed to improve the quality of its watersheds by improving its wastewater treatment process. The city-funded program, started in March 1996 and managed by CH2MHill, is designed to address water quality in the streams surrounding the Atlanta area. The impetus driving the watershed plan is combined sewer overflow treatment technologies to be analyzed with respect to their effect on improving urban stream quality. The watershed initiative also addresses: continued growth and development, increased stormwater flows, continuing bank erosion and water quality.

Input was sought from many stakeholders in developing the watershed initiative including the City of Atlanta, Fulton County, DeKalb County, U.S. EPA, State of Georgia Environmental Protection Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, environmental groups and others. The main goals of Atlanta's watershed initiative are to: reduce litter, meet water quality standards, improve existing water quality, improve stream habitat, pursue and implement cost-effective strategies, reduce flooding of human structures, increase health and diversity of aquatic life, and to increase citizen, business and government awareness of pollution.

Atlanta has also worked with surrounding counties on other issues. Nine of ten regional counties surrounding Atlanta and all the incorporated cities within those counties are developing a standard manual for stormwater management to mitigate effects of urban runoff on the watershed.

According to Mr. Peters, the City of Atlanta supports the Mayors' Action Plan on Sustainable Watershed Management and calls for special attention to funding infrastructure and complianace needs. By working with the federal and state governments on water quality standards required in an urban environment, cities can meet their water needs in a responsible and logical manner.

In closing, Mr. Peters echoed sentiments from Mayor Campbell, "We live in the cities we did not build. Each generation has a responsibility to pass onto its children a better world. Multi-jurisdictional cooperation such as we're doing in the area around the City of Atlanta is an essential element in fostering that responsibility to make our lives as livable and as sustainable as possible."

Mayors Announce Watershed Action Plan

By Michael Gagliardo
A national dialogue on sustainable watershed management was initiated at The U.S. Conference of Mayors Urban Water Summit in New Orleans. "Water pollution does not recognize political boundaries", said Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory, Chair of the Conference of Mayors Energy and Environment Committee. The cross-jurisdictional flow of water and the water quality impacts of varying land uses requires cooperation between cities and counties; cities and states; cities and the Federal government; and between cities and other cities.

The DRAFT Mayors' Action Plan for Sustainable Watershed Management, distributed for review and discussion at the New Orleans Summit, outlines the Conference of Mayors proposal for the development of a national program for the sustainable management of watersheds and their resources. Released in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the original Federal Clean Water Act, the plan calls for a shift in focus for the nation's water pollution control efforts. It recognizes that the protection, preservation and enhancement of water resources is critical to the continued revitalization of the nation's cities.

The dialogue begun in New Orleans was unique in that it brought together, for possibly the first time, cities, the EPA and the U.S. Departments of Agricul-ture and Commerce. Toledo Mayor Carleton Finkbeiner noted that cities are the nation's centers of art, culture, education, and economic activity. "As a nation, we can not continue to move away from the cities", he said. "This continued movement develops more and more land and increase the impacts on rivers and other water bodies."

Mayor Finkbeiner described activities in Toledo aimed at improving the quality of the Maumee River. Control of combined sewer overflows in Toledo began in the 1920's and 1930's. In the 1980's, tunnels were built into the collection system to trap stormwater. Currently, 50 percent to 80 percent of the stormwater is treated prior to discharge, resulting in visible improvements in water quality. A comprehensive stormwater management plan is under development in conjunction with other towns and counties upstream of Toledo. The plan will address water quality and flooding issues. Once completed, the challenge will be to determine how to pay for the necessary protection measures.

EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water, Dana Minerva, noted that the past 25 years of Clean Water Act programs have resulted in great improvements in water quality. The rate of improvement however is slowing. Control of municipal and industrial point sources has been largely implemented. Nonpoint sources are now the major water quality problem. Ms. Minerva commended the Conference of Mayors for developing the Action Plan and beginning the dialogue on the future of water quality programs. She described a variety of administrative programs EPA has and will be implementing to provide easily accessible water quality information and more flexible management programs.

Programs such as the National Conservation Buffer Initiative, administered by the Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service are helping to control runoff from agricultural land. Max Schnepf, the coordinator of the Initiative, noted that water quality is dependent on land use and 70 percent of the land in the United States is privately owned. A renewed commitment to land conservation and shared responsibility is necessary to achieve future water quality objectives.

The Buffer Initiative is designed to provide vegetated areas, which act as filters, between agricultural activities and water bodies. Combined with other upland farm conservation practices, these buffers have been shown to significantly reduce runoff from agricultural lands. USDA has set a goal of installing approximately 2 million miles of buffers by 2002.

The problems of putting regional concepts into practice were discussed by the Director of Sustainable Development at the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, John Bullard. As the former Mayor of New Bedford (MA) Mr. Bullard has had experience in turning abstract concepts in real action.

The President's Council on Sustainable Development has stressed that the creation of jobs and protection of the environment are not exclusive. Major findings of the PCSD conclude that regulatory programs should rely less on "command and control" strategies, that solutions must be developed to fit local situations and that the reality of a sustainable America must come from the local level. The watershed concept and the Mayor's Action Plan support these findings.

In its Resolution on Reauthorization of the Federal Clean Water Act (adopted in June,1997), the Conference of Mayors expressed support for incorporating the watershed approach into all sections of the Clean Water Act. The reauthorized Clean Water Act must provide for flexibility to establish water quality goals and priorities and to develop and implement innovative approaches to solving water quality problems.

Regulatory requirements for urban nonpoint sources (such as municipal stormwater runoff) must be consistent with the management concepts and regulatory requirements for rural and agricultural nonpoint source control programs. Existing programs must be integrated and coordinated to avoid duplication of efforts and for resolving inter-jurisdictional issues.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nonpoint sources now represent the single largest cause of water pollution. Agricultural nonpoint sources are, by far, the most significant category of nonpoint source water pollution. States report that agriculture is the leading cause of water pollution in 60 percent of the waterways not meeting water quality standards. By contrast, municipal point sources - the second leading cause of water pollution - are cited as impacting only 17 percent of waterways not meeting water quality standards.

During the past 25 years, the focus of the nation's clean water programs has been on identifying distinct or point sources of pollution, establishing effluent criteria for major categories of discharges and using permitting programs to ensure compliance with these standards. Most of these point sources of pollution are located in urban areas. The most comprehensive, regulatory nonpoint source control program is designed to control urban stormwater.

Discussion at the Summit focused on Federal initiatives to encourage cooperation and innovative solutions to water polluting problems, regional issues, cross-boundary (U.S./Mexico) issues, availability of technical assistance, anticipated Federal mandates, and availability of financial assistance to local governments.

Cities Take Different Routes
to Achive Cost Savings

Survey Shows Public/Private Partnerships Provide Variety of Water Services

By Michael Gagliardo

Cities across the country are exploring a wide variety of innovative approaches to reduce the cost of providing municipal water and wastewater services. Long and short term management contracts with private companies and private development of new facilities were highlighted through "case study" presentations at the Conference of Mayors' Urban Water Summit in New Orleans.

Wilmington Mayor James H. Sills, Jr. opened the session on financing water infrastructure by stressing the tremendous investment need facing the country in this area. He also stressed that there a number of cities that have taken innovative steps toward meeting those needs. Recent actions at the Federal level, including Presidential Executive Orders and changes to tax regulations, have provided cities with opportunities to develop partnerships, especially long-term partnerships, which are necessary to attract private investment into public infrastructure. Presentation of "case studies" allows many cities to benefit from these experiences.

The City of Seattle will realize a $70 million savings in the development, construction and operation of its new Tolt River Water Filtration Plant. By utilizing a "design-build-operate" or DBO approach, the City was able to select a single partner for all aspects of the plant, simplify the bidding process and consolidate risk. "All these factors lead to a substantial reduction in the overall cost of the project", said Diana Gale, Director of Seattle Public Utilities.

The importance of up-front planning and consideration of implementation, procurement and financing options was stressed by Ms. Gale. The Seattle process took 18 months and cost the City approximately $1.5 million. The result, however, will be a facility which is operational one to two years earlier than if the City had used a more traditional approach, and which will be built and operated at a cost significantly lower than would have been expected.

Cost savings can be achieved even where construction of new facilities is not required. In Bridgeport, the City set a goal of reducing the operating budget of the wastewater system by $2 million annually. This savings would be used, at least in part, to fund a 10 year capital improvement program estimated to cost $300 million.

Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim warned the other mayors in attendance that whatever their initial expectation of the time, money and political effort involved in setting up a public/private partnership for a water or sewer operation, it will be too low. Mayor Ganim described the process he used in Bridgeport and how, due to the variety of stakeholders in the process (the City Council, the State Department of Environmental Protection and Office of the Attorney General, the general public and public employees and their union), it was necessary for him to be personally involved through out the process.

Opposition from the public employee union was initially strong despite provisions prohibiting lay-offs of City workers and requirements that workers hired by the private operator receive comparable wages and benefits being incorporated into the Request for Proposals, the negotiations and the final contract. All issues were eventually resolved and in April 1997, the City entered into a 5-year operating agreement with Professional Services Group.

Yet another approach was illustrated by the experience of the City of Hoboken. In order to overcome a significant operating deficit in its drinking water system, and avoid a projected 40 percent rate increase, the City entered into a 10 year (with three 10 year renewal options) management contract with United Water Services, Inc. The City retains ownership and rate setting authority. United Water manages all other aspects of the system.

The City received a $5.5 million payment up-front, which was used to reduce property taxes. The company will implement a $3 million repair and capital improvement program. Rates are now stable, with minor increases projected over 10 years. New meters were installed and collections improved dramatically. Customer service has improved. New system maps were developed and repair time drastically reduced. Hoboken expects to save $24 million over 10 years.

In 1996, Hoboken negotiated a 10 year extension to the original term of the agreement. Additional payments were made to the City ($3 million in 1996 and $2 million in 1997). The capital improvement fund was increased and a CPI rate adjustor was implemented.

Information on these and other projects can be found in the Urban Water Council's publication "Public/Private Partnerships in Municipal Water and Wastewater Systems - Case Studies of Selected Cities". Call Michael Gagliardo or Kimberly Peterson at 202-293-7330. The document is also available on the World Wide Web at http://www.usmayors.org/uscm/urbanwater.

Cities Find Unique Solutions
to Local Water Challenges

By Kimberly Peterson
Two cities with very different water challenges have come up with innovative strategies for addressing them. On hand to share their solutions with mayors at the Urban Water Summit were Mayor Robert Minsky of Port St. Lucie (FL) and Art Gallucci, City Manager of Cerritos (CA).

Port St. Lucie, FL - A Palatable Approach to Water & Sewer Expansion

Port St. Lucie is a fledgling city born only 36 years ago. Today's population is 76,000 which is about 25 percent of build out potential. The city's current rate of growth combined with its potential for even more rapid growth in the next decade could strain water infrastructure beyond capacity and create an unsustainable situation. According to Mayor Minsky, "The city was built for profit, not people. Utility infrastructure was constructed to enhance the developer's portfolio, not the needs of the community." Because Port St. Lucie is built on a swamp, its 70,000 septic systems are a potential ecological time bomb and a serious obstacle to the solicitation of commercial and industrial development.

Fortunately none of these unsustainable scenarios are likely to happen due to the foresight and planning of Mayor Minsky. By expanding water and sewer services to all areas of the city even before build out - approximately 100,000 sites - the community is assuring itself of a safe and healthy water supply well into the future. By working with the local community and EPA, Port St. Lucie developed the most palatable approach to its water and sewer expansion needs.

Paying for these infrastructure improvements in a community with a large segment of retired, fixed income families presented a challenge. Technology, public education, and government help were part of the solution developed by Mayor Minksy. To minimize the cost of the program, a grinder pump, low pressure system was installed. CDBG funds were dedicated to help the low income portion of the city's population pay assessments and hook up fees. The water and sewer expansion project will increase property values and encourage quality growth in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors of Port St. Lucie thereby increasing the tax base and easing the tax burden on residents.

Cerritos, CA - Water Reclamation & Reuse

In Southern California's semi-arid climate, sufficient water supply is a critical issue. City Manager Art Gallucci told Summit participants that the City of Cerritos has successfully developed a recycled water distribution system that lessens the city's dependence on imported water. This system also ensures an ample water supply for irrigating public and private property, even in drought years.

According to Mr. Gallucci, in order to pump water in Southern California a city must own, rent or buy water rights from other cities. Since the number of water rights is fixed, water is a commodity in Southern California. By using recycled water for some purposes, a city can use its water rights to pump potable water.

Cerritos' recycled water system was developed to use water treated by the County Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County. Recycled water is used throughout the city to irrigate parks, school lawns, cemeteries, golf courses, town home sites, and nurseries. Cerritos also provides recycled water to the City of Lakewood.

Recycled water also saves money. At $96 per acre foot compared to $461 per acre foot for imported potable water, the city saved over $900,000 in fiscal year 1996-97 by using recycled water. Cerritos has realized tremendous ecological and economic benefits over the eight years its recycled water program has been in operation. According to Mr. Gallucci, "Millions of gallons of potable water are saved every year, irrigating expenses are significantly reduced and the water's high nutrient level improves the health of landscaping. And we are assured of a reliable source of water for irrigation purposes, even in drought years."

Author John Barry Addresses Urban Water Summit

Book Traces Impact of 1927 Flood on U.S. Politics

John M. Barry, author of Rising Tide, was the featured guest at Mayor Morial's Environmental Breakfast held in conjunction with the Conference's Urban Water Summit September 26th. Rising Tide tells the story of the great Mississippi flood of 1927 and how it changed America. Mayor Morial hosts the Environmental Breakfast monthly to provide a forum in which the local community and local government can exchange ideas on important environmental issues.

In 1927, the Mississippi River swept across an area roughly equal in size to Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire combined, leaving water as deep as thirty feet on the land stretching from Illinois and Missouri south to the Gulf of Mexico. Rising Tide is the story of how the environment shaped us. According to Barry, the 1927 flood is a classic example of how a single natural disaster changed society. It grew out of man's attempt to control the Mississippi River, a river systems which drains 31 states. The 1927 flood killed thousands of people from Virginia to Oklahoma and left almost 1 million people - nearly one percent of the nation's population - homeless.

Mr. Barry explained, "There were many national results from the flood...it created a dramatic change in how people viewed the role of the government and the relationship between government and individual citizens. [Before 1927] there was a mind set that government was not supposed to help individual citizens, that people were on their own. The flood had a lot to do with changing that." Media pressure was put on the government to help flood victims.

The book examines the policy of the U.S. government in controlling the river. The story focuses on the two engineers who attempted to control the river and the compromise river policy that led to the flood of 1927. It also examines presidential politics, the Great Migration of blacks northward, the creation of wealth and aristocracy, and changing political alliances. Barry shows how the flood changed the face of America, leading to the most comprehensive legislation the government had ever enacted. Thus, the foundation for the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt was laid.

Mr. Barry has covered economic policy and national politics as bureau chief for Dun's Review and has also written for The Washington Post, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire Newsweek and Sports Illustrated. Barry's other books include: The Ambition and the Power: A True Story of Washington and The Transformed Cell which has been published in twelve languages.

New Orleans is Extraordinary
in Stormwater Infrastructure

By Kimberly Peterson
At six feet below sea level, rain is a major event in the City of New Orleans. Every time it rains, there is a potential for flooding. However, due to its precocious position, New Orleans has developed an intricate system of 21 stormwater pumping stations designed to get water off of city streets fast.

Summit participants were treated to a tour of a stormwater pumping station following an overview of New Orleans water resources infrastructure by Harold Gorman, Executive Director of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans.

According to Mr. Gorman, the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans was formed almost 100 years ago as a response to the inability of some private franchises to provide adequate sewer and water services to the city. Today the Board provides sewer, water and drainage to the city's 500,000 residents and businesses.

New Orleans' drainage system is quite unique. The city is surrounded by water including Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River and swamps. To keep all this water from flooding into New Orleans, an extensive system of levees was built. Ironically, when it rains, all the rainwater is trapped behind the levees. The sheer volume of water that needs to be pumped out of the city can be enormous, especially during hurricane season. Water must be moved in huge quantities. Mr. Gorman cited, "In one of the [stormwater] canals, we move about 10,000 cubic feet per second of water through there. To put that in perspective...what 10,000 cubic feet per second means...we put more water through that one canal in 24 hours than the United States pumps oil for all purposes in 24 hours. The total system of 21 pumping stations has a capacity in excess of the capacity of the Ohio River at flood stage."

The City also owns it own power plant for reliability during storms. Power lines are underground so that pumping stations can run even during hurricane conditions. Essentially, the Sewerage and Water Board runs four utilities - water, sewer, drainage, and electricity - which can present quite a challenge. Gorman credits an exceptional staff along with brilliant engineering when the stormwater system was installed with keeping New Orleans dry.

New Federal Assistance for
Community-Led River Revitalization

By Tom Cassidy

The American Heritage Rivers Initiative, announced in President Clinton's State of the Union Address, promises to transform river conservation throughout the nation. On September 11, the President signed an Executive Order formally launching the Initiative.

The Initiative has three objectives: natural resource and environmental protection; economic revitalization; and historic and cultural preservation. It is designed to make the federal government a better partner for communities across the nation as they protect and revitalize their hometown rivers. At its heart, the Initiative is about community revitalization and providing more efficient and effective federal programs and services to assist community-led conservation initiatives. It also celebrates the important role that rivers have played in our nation's history and continue to play in our culture.

The Initiative, unlike many programs, imposes no federal mandates, no new federal regulations and no new funds. Nor are there federal land use regulations or acquisition programs associated with the Initiative.

The President will designate ten American Heritage Rivers in early 1998. Nominations are made by local communities. The selection criteria will include distinctive or unique natural, economic, agricultural, scenic, historic, cultural or recreational resources; effectiveness of the community's plan of action to address the Initiative's objectives; strength and diversity of community support for the nomination; and the willingness and capability of the community to forge partnerships to implement their local plan.

A "River Navigator" will be assigned to assist designated communities with implementing their locally-designed restoration plans. Federal programs, grants and technical expertise from numerous federal agencies will be re-focused to provide support for designated river communities.

Further, all river communities, whether designated or not, will benefit from a "toolbox" of enhanced information tools, including catalogues of federal programs, maps, and data bases that can assist communities in their river revitalization efforts.

The President's Initiative responds to the actions and needs of the many communities across the nation that are working hard to "take back" their rivers.


For example, the City of Denver, led by Mayor Wellington Webb, has revitalized the South Platte River by establishing riverfront parks, expanding opportunities for environmental education and obtaining increased water flows to support wildlife and recreation. The City's Riverfront Park has been a catalyst for adjacent residential, commercial and office space. The City has received funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration. In addition, a consortium of federal agencies has created the Denver Urban Resources Partnership for related projects.


Hartford, Connecticut has turned its stretch of the Connecticut River into an economically important destination point. Once separated from the city by an interstate highway and flood control wall, the river is now easily accessible through its riverfront parks, riverwalks, picnic areas, and boat launches. Funding to revitalize these riverside parks was provided by the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development and also the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Today, the city attracts many national and regional river-based events that have brought $13.5 million to the local economy since 1990.

The response to the President's Initiative has been overwhelming. Mayors, community leaders, and grassroots river activists are organizing to nominate their rivers as American Heritage Rivers and to access federal resources for river conservation. In June, The U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted unanimously Mayor Webb's resolution supporting the initiative. In July, American Rivers and the National Trust for Historic Preservation delivered letters to Congress signed by 220 organizations endorsing the Initiative and opposing legislation introduced by Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-ID) to "terminate" AHRI.

Unfortunately, as Rep. Chenoweth's legislation indicates, there are also groups organizing to block the Initiative. Some are saying, falsely, that the Initiative will result in mandatory satellite surveillance of property owners, that the federal government will exercise land use control throughout a watershed, or that it is part of a plan for the United Nations to take over our rivers.

Just a few weeks ago, Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR) offered an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill that would have effectively killed the Initiative. Fortunately, a resounding bi-partisan majority of the Senate voted 57-42 to approve Senators Christopher Dodd's (D-CT) and Al D'Amato's (R-NY) motion to reject the amendment and allow communities to benefit from the President's Initiative.

Twenty-five years after the passage of the Clean Water Act, communities are increasingly recognizing that their hometown rivers are environmental and economic assets worth reclaiming. The American Heritage Rivers Initiative provides the federal government and communities the opportunity to restore the ecological and economic health of river communities as we enter into the next century. When you restore a river, you revitalize a community. The investment will be repaid many times over.

Tom Cassidy is American Rivers' General Counsel. For more information about American Rivers, please call us at 202 / 547-6900 or visit our web site at www.amrivers.org. Additional information on the American Heritage Rivers Initiative can be found at www.epa.gov/rivers. Nomination forms can be obtained by calling 1-888-40-RIVER.

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