Washington, DC – Rivers and communities throughout parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia stand to benefit from a $1.8 million grant announced today by American Rivers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA’s grant program will help protect and restore the Potomac Highlands, the headwaters of the river that flows through our nation’s capital.
EPA has selected American Rivers to implement the new grant program in the Potomac Highlands.
“This grant allows American Rivers to not only have a tremendous impact on the health of the region’s rivers and clean water, but also on economic prosperity and quality of life,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “We look forward to demonstrating how river restoration and protection projects can have significant benefits to community well-being.”
“The Potomac Highlands is a unique area that needs our attention. Many people have contributed their time, energy and ideas in developing a strategic plan for this area including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our state partners and a whole host of organizations,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “Great work has already been accomplished in the Highlands and with American Rivers on board, this awards programs will provide a significant boost in remediating and restoring this valuable ecosystem.”
Congress directed EPA to establish and implement the Mid-Atlantic Highlands Action Program by working with other federal agencies, states, local governments and non-governmental organizations. In 2006, the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia joined the program. Using the best available science, the goal is to improve the natural resources and socio-economic conditions in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands. More recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided support for the state programs.
The Potomac Highlands region hosts some of most diverse and globally important resources on Earth, and supports more than 116 different fish species. The Potomac River provides drinking water to 86 percent of the region’s five million residents and supports recreation opportunities for citizens across the Mid-Atlantic. But rivers and streams in the Highlands suffer from a long history of logging and mining. Hundreds of unused dams choke the Potomac River and its tributaries in the Highlands, harming fish and wildlife, impeding recreation, and even threatening public safety.
To address these challenges and help communities embrace a better future, American Rivers is establishing the Potomac Highlands Implementation Grant Program. The competitive grant program will fund the implementation of a wide variety of restoration and protection projects, from acquiring riverside lands for conservation, to removing harmful dams, to cleaning up pollution from abandoned mines. For more details about this new grant program see www.AmericanRivers.org/PotomacHighlands. The full Request for Proposals will be announced in Spring 2011.
Healthy rivers that are connected to wetlands and floodplains deliver a variety of natural benefits, often referred to as “ecosystem services.” Streamside forests help filter pollution and reduce erosion, which benefits water supplies. Reconnecting rivers with wetlands and floodplains increases floodwater retention, enhances wildlife habitat, and creates recreation opportunities. Enabling nature to provide services like clean water supply and flood protection is vital to public health and safety, and often much cheaper than building a new water treatment plant or building levees.
River restoration and protection projects will support the local economy, which has median income levels far below the national average, and less than $9,500 in some Potomac Highlands counties. As American Rivers selects the projects, it will place a high priority on their benefits to the local community as well as providing training for the next wave of restoration companies, natural resource educators, river guides, and other professions.
“The result of this work will be healthier rivers, cleaner water, new economic opportunities, and tens of thousands of citizens who enjoy better connections to the natural world,” said Wodder. “We hope to build on our success in the Highlands and replicate this program in our regions around the country.”
For more information about this new grant program and to sign up to receive updates, see www.AmericanRivers.org/PotomacHighlands
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.