Obama Administration offers opportunities to advance clean water and river protection

November 7, 2012

Contact: Amy Kober, 503-708-1145, akober@americanrivers.org Washington -- The victory of President Barack Obama presents an opportunity to make significant progress toward protecting and restoring the nation's rivers, and ensuring clean water for all Americans.

“We congratulate President Obama on his election to a second term. President Obama and his Administration took important steps for rivers over the past four years. Now he has a chance to leave a lasting legacy of healthy rivers and revitalized river communities nationwide. President Obama has a historic opportunity to show that protecting and restoring rivers isn’t just about the environment, it’s also about ensuring good jobs, a strong economy, and public health,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers.

Rivers provide roughly 60 percent of our drinking water. They are home to fish and wildlife, and are the places Americans love to fish, swim, and paddle. Healthy rivers are economic engines, supporting local businesses and jobs in recreation, restoration, and other industries.

But threats to rivers and clean water persist. Climate change is bringing more frequent and intense floods and droughts. Many of the nation's dams are aging and unsafe. Every year more than 860 billion gallons of untreated sewage are discharged into the nation's waters -- yet many in Congress are trying to gut essential clean water protections for our communities.

With the election over, American Rivers outlined three priorities for the Administration and Congress:

1) Protect healthy, wild rivers

Free-flowing, wild rivers provide essential fish and wildlife habitat, supply clean water to our communities, and give us unmatched recreation opportunities. The ecosystem services (like clean water supply and flood protection) provided by wild rivers are valued in the billions of dollars. Congress and the Administration should invest in and expand the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and the National Blueways System to encourage conservation of important rivers and landscapes, and increase access to river recreation for all Americans. The Administration should continue to invest in its successful America’s Great Outdoors initiative.

2) Restore damaged rivers

Habitat restoration is good for communities and the economy, creating 17-33 jobs per $1 million invested, according to NOAA. Restoring rivers also improves public safety and lowers the risk of flood damage. Congress and the Administration should boost funding for NOAA’s Community-based Restoration Program, which helps restore rivers, remove unsafe dams, and open up habitat for fish on both coasts.

3) Ensure clean water

Clean water is essential to our economy and public health. Congress and the Administration should act immediately to reaffirm Clean Water Act protections for small streams and wetlands. They should also help communities bring aging water infrastructure into the 21st century, investing in cost-effective solutions like green roofs and rain-catching street designs to reduce polluted runoff, flooding and sewer overflows. The Administration should also continue its work to modernize Clean Water Act rules to reduce polluted runoff to streams and rivers by more fairly targeting pollution sources and incorporating advances in technology.

“We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to ensure clean water and healthy rivers are a priority. It is a matter of economic security and public safety, and we have a moral obligation to safeguard our natural heritage for future generations,” said Irvin.

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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.