- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2009


Gene Mueller recently wrote about the Anacostia River, “The place is a sewer, not a river” (“EPA faces two lawsuits over the Anacostia,” Sports, Wednesday). While I share the passion and urgency behind Mr. Mueller’s words, I disagree. Despite the pollution, the river is beautiful and full of life. It is worth restoring, but how?

As Mr. Mueller noted, the primary problem is stormwater. Pavement and roofs cover approximately 25 percent or 44 square miles of our watershed. Rain washes bacteria, sediments, toxics and trash into our streams and rivers. Our constructed environment is the “polluter,” so restoring the watershed can seem impossible.

Fortunately, there are solutions. Green roofs, rain gardens and trees can be installed to soak up the rainwater. Rain barrels and cisterns can allow reuse of rainwater for watering landscape and other uses. Greening the watershed also saves energy, provides relief from urban pavement, heat and glare, and creates jobs.

The Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership was chartered by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to restore the Anacostia. It includes local, state and federal agencies, business, advocacy and other representatives, and citizens.

Our work is described in our Action Agenda at www.anacostia.net. We also support the District Water and Sewer Authority’s project, estimated to cost well over $2 billion, to control combined sewer overflows. This project has reduced these by 40 percent already, and will reduce them by 98 percent in 10 years.

The partnership believes in “green infrastructure.” Our members retrofit public facilities, help citizens to retrofit their homes and yards, and in some cases require businesses to retrofit when they replace or rehab their buildings and parking lots. With 70 percent of the watershed developed and chronically underfunded, it is slow going.

What it takes to more quickly restore the Anacostia is far wider consensus on and commitment to the following principle: As buildings, roads and parking lots in our watershed are replaced or rehabbed, they must be retrofitted to control stormwater as much as possible. Like the partnership, The Times can be a forum for pragmatic discussion about the right mix of incentives and regulations needed to move ahead.


Executive director

Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership


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