Mid-Atlantic

Susquehanna River, PA | Howie Hartman

Rivers are the lifeblood of health and the economy across the Mid-Atlantic. The region is shaped by great waterways like the Susquehanna, Delaware, Potomac, James, and Alleghany — rivers that are critical to fish, birds, and wildlife.

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Mid-Atlantic
1101 14th Street, NW, Suite 1400
Washington, DC 20005

More than 46 million people in the Mid-Atlantic get their drinking water from rivers. Agriculture and manufacturing — two of the biggest sectors of the economy — depend on rivers for everything, from watering crops to moving goods.  

And yet the rivers and wildlife of this region are at risk due to climate change, urbanization, and pollution. Extreme precipitation overwhelms local sewers causing sewage and polluted stormwater to flood rivers, which impacts community health and safety. In many urbanized areas, rivers and streams are further stressed by water infrastructure that is outdated and inadequate in the face of climate change, growing economic disparity, and sprawling urban development. The Mid-Atlantic faces a budget shortfall of $44 billion to repair sewage infrastructure, and an additional $3 billion to address stormwater pollution in Maryland alone.  

Our mission to protect and restore rivers and conserve clean water for people and nature has never been more vital to the Mid- Atlantic region. 

Key Issues

Across the Mid-Atlantic, American Rivers is working to:

Restore rivers: We will re-ignite rivers’ natural benefits by removing dams to increase fish and wildlife access to habitat, eliminating safety hazards for local communities, and ensuring more thriving free-flowing rivers that can provide refuge from a changing climate. 

Help communities adapt to the threats of climate change: Build more resilient communities by protecting river corridors and reconnecting floodplains to give rivers room to flood safely, rebuild natural infrastructure, provide habitat, absorb floodwaters, filter pollutants, and recharge groundwater supplies. Increase the use of and funding for climate-resilient water infrastructure in cities to help mitigate the impacts of climate-induced flooding and drought.  

Reconnect people with rivers: Reconnect, reveal, and restore rivers in cities to create healthy rivers with clean water by advocating for innovative approaches to managing urban water, such as green infrastructure and authentic engagement of communities most impacted by urban flooding, polluted water, and other challenges.  

Build authentic relationships: The problems facing rivers and their communities can only be fixed with strong collaboration and a partner-based approach. American Rivers seeks to build strong, authentic relationships with community-based organizations to better understand their challenges, and support, and learn from their work to address river and water-quality challenges. 

TRACK RECORD OF SUCCESS 

Restoring rivers: American Rivers’ staff have removed more than 166 dams and secured more than $30 million in government funding to support states and communities to make rivers safer places to recreate. We brought together federal and state agencies, municipalities, local organizations, community leaders, and others to remove Bloede Dam, which had played a direct role in the deaths of at least nine people on Maryland’s Patapsco River. It is now safer for tens of thousands of people to enjoy the Patapsco River, American eel have experienced a more than 1,200 percent surge in numbers, and alewife has been seen above the dam site for the first time in more than 100 years.  

Creating climate-resilient communities: American Rivers has partnered extensively with organizations and cities throughout the Mid-Atlantic to fund and build natural pollution-control projects. We worked extensively with the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to launch its first Green Infrastructure Plan and identify that it could save more than $120 million in capital costs. Projects installed since the launch of the plan are keeping more than 56 million gallons of polluted stormwater per year from entering local rivers. This work continues alongside partners like Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. 

Investing in clean water: American Rivers strongly advocated for funding in the federal bipartisan infrastructure law that passed in 2021. The law will distribute close to $50 billion in water-infrastructure funding over the next five years, including $800 million for dam removal. In 2022 alone, $443 million will be distributed to the Mid-Atlantic for clean water infrastructure, with over $42 million targeted toward projects such as green roofs, stream buffers, and energy efficiency measures at wastewater treatment plants.  

Preventing flood damage: We align diverse partners to work toward outcomes that support nature-based solutions and seek racial and economic justice in floodplain management. We also foster the Natural Floodplain Functions Alliance, helping 2,200 practitioners across the nation protect and restore natural floodplains. 

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