February 13th: DC Clean Rivers Action Day
by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network
A Special Invitation to DC Environmentalists to Take Personal Action to Support Clean Rivers:
With the recent firing of an effective District Department of the Environment (DDOE) Director, Christophe Tulou, lack of sustainability principles in Mayor Gray’s 5-year economic development plan and the possible inclusion of a proposal to look at building a dirty, polluting incineration plant in DC neighborhoods, many environmental activists are scratching their heads. Add to these actions aggressive attempts by corporate interests (and other friends of the Gray administration including high paid lobbyists of the local building industry), to attack meaningful, long overdue, stormwater and wetlands regulations, and you start to wonder if Mayor Gray’s Sustainable DC initiative is a real priority in the District.
Up until six months ago the environmental community was feeling good about new stormwater regulations that would finally help cleanse our rivers and move the District towards fishable and swimmable waterways. We even took our lead from our government when it said, “With revised [stormwater] regulations (the District) we will be harnessing development…redeveloping sites that have already been built on…taking existing impervious surfaces in most cases and re-developing them to a higher standard. This without a doubt will be the highest driver ever for improving water quality in the District.” (Jeff Seltzer, Stormwater Administrator, District Department of the Environment, at DCEN Luncheon, February 2, 2012) We were also confident that wetlands regulations, although imperfect, would be finalized and start working to protect our most sensitive natural areas and the humans and wildlife that lived in or near them.
Now we are wondering if all the hard work of the last decade is at risk.
The good news is that when the environmental community has come together and made the case that promoting environmental initiatives is good for the health, economic well-being and overall quality of life of District residents, we have achieved much success. It was the environmental community that worked together and advocated successfully to create DDOE; saved parkland by stopping a prison from being built at Oxen Cove; stopped the District from lowering water quality standards to legalize the dumping of more raw sewage into our rivers and creeks; and passed cutting edge environmental, jobs and housing standards for all new development along the Anacostia River. And that is just a small sample of what we have achieved together over the last decade.
It’s time again for all of us who are tired of having polluted rivers cut through our neighborhoods to tell Mayor Gray and the District of Columbia Council that we want clean rivers now. We cannot have another decade of elected officials standing on the edge of our riverbanks, pretending to prioritize restoration, while at the same time undermining important initiatives that would do just that. We have in our grasp the tools to start making this happen.
We need to urge the Mayor and Council to do the following:
- Finish Promulgating Meaningful, Strong Stormwater Regulations: Last November the Natural Resources Defense Council, joined by the Anacostia Watershed Society, Audubon Naturalist Society, DC Environmental Network and others, submitted comments to Mayor Gray outlining what it would take to have meaningful stormwater regulations and as stated in the comments, “improve the health of District water bodies, provide social and economic benefits to local residents, and green our nation’s capital.” In order to show a true commitment to river restoration and Mayor Gray’s Sustainable DC initiative the District needs to support these comments and finish promulgating meaningful, strong stormwater regulations.
- Finish Promulgating Important and Long Overdue Wetlands Regulations: Last September, Earthjustice and the DC Environmental Network, applauded the District in comments for “the proactive efforts by the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) Water Quality Division to regulate and prevent harm to wetlands in the District of Columbia.” It has taken years, possibly almost a decade, to finally get to the point where meaningful wetlands regulations are possible. These regulations are now threatened by the efforts of high paid lobbyist and business interests who have strong connections to the Gray Administration. The Mayor and Council need to wholeheartedly get behind and finish promulgating these long overdue regulations.
What can I do to convince the Mayor and Council to support clean rivers in our city?
Sign-up to join us on February 13th at 10:00 AM, at the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 504), for the DC Environmental Network’s first Clean Rivers Action Day of 2013. We will meet in the offices of our clean water champion, DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, to present him with our views and urge him to tell the Mayor to finish promulgating meaningful stormwater and wetlands regulations. We will then break up into smaller groups and take our message to the other DC Council offices and finally share our message with a representative of the Gray administration.
Let’s help the Mayor and Council make a real commitment to a sustainable District of Columbia.
All are welcome.