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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks to Launch the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, Baltimore, MD, As Prepared

06/24/2011
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Learn more about the Urban Waters Federal Partnership

As prepared for delivery.

Thank you all for coming out today to support this initiative and helping us begin the work of strengthening and protecting urban waters in our communities. This is a great place for that work to begin. The Patapsco River watershed touches the lives of people throughout this community – and it is a prime example of how water bodies, particularly those in urban settings, can be so critical to the health and economic vitality of our communities.

This is also a place the bears the mark of someone who involved with today’s initiative. Bob Perciasepe – EPA’s Deputy Administrator and my partner in everything we do – began his career here in Baltimore, working for the city. While he was here, he led the work to plan and build this place – Middle Branch Park. In fact, where we are gathered today was once a two lane highway – which was moved up the hill to open this waterfront space and allow it to be used by the community. We are standing in a perfect example of the benefits of working to restore and protect urban waters. This also serves as first-hand evidence that we have someone working with us who knows a thing or two about urban waters planning. Bob has long been a champion of revitalizing Baltimore’s waters and protecting the Chesapeake Bay and we are truly fortunate to have his expertise and experience at EPA today.

We are here today not just because there are a range of challenges facing clean urban waters. We are also here because we see clean, urban waters and revitalized urban waterfronts as incredible opportunities to strengthen communities across the country.

On the challenges side – we see runoff from urban areas affecting water sources people rely on for their drinking water, as well as for fishing and swimming.

We see overwhelmed sewage systems that often have to release untreated sewage and other pollution into urban waters. And we see un- and under-developed waterfronts, where blight and pollution are standing in the way of healthy, growing community centerpieces. In far too many areas, neglected waterways flow through communities that are already under-served or in economic distress.

But there is another side to this, and that is the opportunities side – distressed urban waters have the potential to be places where the environment is cleaned up and beautified, where businesses want to set up shop and hire workers, and where residents can come together as a community. We have a valuable opportunity to reconnect local residents and young people and community groups with the environmental resources all around them. That is what the Urban Waters Federal Partnership is all about.

And the many moving parts of this effort are exactly why we are collaborating with eleven federal agencies and aligning with state and local governments, community groups and residents. For example, our partners who are with us today from the Department of Housing and Urban Development will help ensure that revitalizing these areas means improving access to affordable housing. Our friends at the Department of Agriculture will be doing their part to promote watershed health so our water resources are protected from the source all the way to the faucet. Secretary Salazar and the Department of the Interior will help in the use and development of trails and the parks and greenspaces that are vital components of a thriving green infrastructure. And of course, the EPA will lead the way in restoring brownfields and monitoring water quality. Other agencies will fill other, critical roles.

Engaging with the communities where we work will be critical to our success as well. We are committed to working closely with residents and community groups every step of the way. To begin with, we’ve announced seven pilot programs spanning the country and in a wide range of communities. Those pilot projects will take place in Los Angeles, California; the Bronx and Harlem River Watersheds in New York City; Denver, Colorado; New Orleans, Louisiana; Northwest Indiana; Washington, D.C., and right here in Baltimore. Here in Baltimore, the Partnership will support the adoption of green infrastructure – the use of urban parks, trails, greenspaces, rain gardens and better storm water management to help improve water quality. Alongside several community groups and local NGO’s, we will help continue ongoing work to restore schoolyards and vacant lots. We’ll also assess Baltimore’s Second Harbor to identify productive landscapes, address water quality issues and promote job growth and education.

This is just one example. Urban waters across our nation are brimming with potential. Potential for new businesses to grow and thrive. Potential for educational, recreational and social opportunities. With this partnership, we can help protect the quality of urban waters and the health of our communities. We can help revitalize these areas and help local businesses grow. With your help, we can transform urban waters into the centerpieces of communities all across our country. I look forward to working with all of you.
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