WASHINGTON – The Anacostia will no longer be the region’s “forgotten river” promised D.C. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton as she announced the creation of the $5 million Anacostia River Revitalization Fund.
Fighting to clean up and protect the Anacostia River is difficult because “it’s like representing the District. You’re starting from behind,” said Norton, but, “the notion of having a fund that has the word Anacostia in it is very much a step forward for us.”
The Anacostia River is a nine-mile tributary of the Potomac River that begins near Bladensburg. Its water empties into the Chesapeake Bay. The Anacostia River watershed is home to 800,000 people in Washington, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County.
“This tributary, more than any other, is responsible for the pollution in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Norton.
The fund will invest $800,000 to $1 million toward restoration this year toward a goal of $5 million over the next three years. So far, half of the money has come from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office and the remainder from private donors. Altria, Walmart and FedEx have donated to the fund.
The fund must grow quickly in order to meet its goal.
Norton said “the money that the fund receives today has to be matched by the D.C. government.”
During her speech, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson looked toward Norton and Washington Mayor Vincent Gray and casually asked, “Do we have the whole million or do we need some more?”
Gray responded, “Need some more.”
President Barack Obama has supported cleaning up the Anacostia River, including $11.5 million in his budget toward matching funds for the D.C. Sewer Authority to continue implementation of its sewer overflow plan, said Norton. The budget must be approved by Congress before it becomes law.
The Southwestern Waterfront Redevelopment bill, which recently passed the House of Representatives, will also help develop the waterfront and increase awareness of the river’s environmental and aesthetic benefits, she said. The bill is pending in the Senate.
Gray agreed that more economic development along the waterfront is needed.
“Sadly the Anacostia has so often been used as a dividing point in the District of Columbia,” he said.
Gray also said that the restoration effort will create local jobs through initiatives like the city’s Green Corps program, which provides training in managing urban green spaces.
“The fact that we have the private sector, the federal government and the District government involved here will be a signal to others that this is something we should do,” said Gray, who has a vision “when there are people who routinely swim in the Anacostia.”