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NOAA Addresses Urban Water Council on Community Environmental Programs

By Madeline Ostrander
February 3, 2003


Mayors learned how programs run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) can help communities respond to environmental contamination and save human lives in the event of natural disasters during a special presentation at the Urban Water Council session of The Conference of Mayors' Winter Meeting, January 22.

"NOAA is already working in your communities," said Tim Keeney, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees NOAA.

NOAA's weather radio and drought and flood prediction capabilities are widely used to respond to severe weather and natural emergencies. NOAA's StormReady program has helped communities develop action plans for severe weather response. In one recent success story, Van Wert County, Ohio drew on its StormReady training to save 50 lives by quickly evacuating a theater before a tornado.

Coastal cities can tap additional resources from NOAA's habitat restoration, coastal development, and brownfields programs, Keeney said. NOAA's Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (DARP) provides redevelopment assistance in contaminated coastal sites. In New Bedford, Massachusetts, NOAA's Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (DARP) has allocated $22 million for restoration and development in a Superfund site, where NOAA's activities complement EPA's cleanup strategies. A local NOAA coordinator supports project activities, including the restoration of fish habitat, creation of beach and shoreline parks, and the construction of a community center.

NOAA's Community-Based Restoration Program works with local governments, schools, citizen groups, and local businesses to restore coastal watersheds, wetlands, and fish habitats. According to Keeney, the projects emphasize partnership to "find creative solutions to address local priorities that don't rely on cash contributions from local governments." In Tampa Bay, NOAA works with nonprofit groups and local schools to restore wetland vegetation and establish mangroves—habitats that support the local economy by revitalizing fisheries and protecting the coastline from storm damage. In the lower Bronx River, NOAA provides resources to scout troops, church groups, and neighborhood associations to install fishways, restore floodplain habitat, and reestablish salt marsh. These projects, Keeney said, not only educate the public, but have unseen environmental benefits: for instance, floodplain vegetation and wetlands capture pollutants and sediments that might otherwise enter waterways and drinking water supplies.

egetation and wetlands capture pollutants and sediments that might otherwise enter waterways and drinking water supplies.

Keeney urged mayors to take advantage of NOAA's programs and opportunities. "I am excited about the possibilities that exist as we in NOAA continue our efforts with you and others," Keeney said.

More information about NOAA programs and services can be found on the Web at www.noaa.gov.