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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

American Heritage Rivers Event Middletown, Connecticut

09/08/1997
                Carol M. Browner, Administrator
             U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
                               
                Remarks Prepared for Delivery
                American Heritage Rivers Event
                   Middletown, Connecticut
                      September 8, 1997
                               


     Thank you, Congressman Gejdenson.  I am delighted to join you, Senators Dodd and
Lieberman, and Congresswomen Johnson and Kennelly, to talk about one of President Clinton's
important initiatives -- the American Heritage Rivers.
    Our rivers are an integral part of this nation's past, present and future.
    To understand this, all you have to do is look at any U.S. map showing only our major
cities and our major rivers.  No highways, no railroads -- just rivers.  By doing that, you can see
just how our nation developed -- how our rivers served as important routes for commerce,
exploration and migration -- and how they continue to provide important economic and
recreational opportunities for us all.
    Most importantly, healthy rivers are vital to the health of riverfront cities and towns -- the
health of their residents, and their economic health, as well.  
    Across the nation, Americans from all walks of life are recognizing not only the heritage
but the potential of the rivers that flow through their communities.  Despite the past quarter-century of progress in protecting public health and the environment, about 40% of the nation's

surveyed rivers, lakes and estuaries are too polluted for fishing and swimming.
    Many of our rivers are plagued by polluted runoff from urban, suburban and agricultural
lands.  Many communities are being held back by blighted riverfront areas or the existence of old,
abandoned industrial sites along their rivers.
    These are tough, tough challenges -- to be sure.
    But the President's American Heritage Rivers initiative is based on the notion that the
solutions to these problems will come from riverfront communities themselves -- from
businesspeople, farmers and landowners, elected officials, environmentalists and citizens -- all of
them joining together and looking for common ground -- with an eye toward protecting and
restoring their nearby rivers and riverfront neighborhoods.
    Once they do, we believe they will determine that a cleaner river -- and a renovated,
revitalized waterfront -- is in everyone's interest.  It means economic revitalization.  It means
jobs.  It means safer and healthier neighborhoods in which to live.  It means more and better

recreational opportunities.  It means a better overall quality of life.
    This is actually happening right here along the Connecticut River.  People are recognizing
how important this river is to the quality of life in this state.  They are envisioning a new future for
their riverfront communities, and are forming partnerships to pursue their vision.
    I'm talking about partnership-building efforts such as those of the Connecticut River
Watershed Council.  Or the innovative efforts of a group called Riverfront Recapture -- which has
been working for the past ten years to forge a coalition of people who recognize that Hartford's
economic revitalization is closely linked with the health of the Connecticut River.  There's also
Connecticut River Partners and River Stewards, a group that is working to restore the river's
ecosystem.
    And, right here in Middletown, participants Mattabesset River Watershed Initiative are
working to improve the health of this important tributary to the Connecticut River.
    These are the kinds of activities that the American Heritage Rivers initiative is designed to

encourage.
    We want to harness this local enthusiasm.  We want to tap into the energy of local efforts.
And we want to spur the creation of community partnerships that will work to enhance economic
development, environmental protection and historic preservation along the nation's great rivers.
    Here's how the initiative works:
    Beginning next year, after receiving nominations from communities that want to be
designated, the President will name ten rivers as American Heritage Rivers.
    Community-based partnerships to protect and improve those rivers will receive some
federal assistance in identifying historic, environmental and economic resources -- and for
environmental monitoring and educational purposes.  They'll also see better coordination among
existing programs designed to help them reach their goals.
    But, most importantly, these partnerships will become showcases for the nation -- and
models of how economic, environmental and historic preservation goals can be met
simultaneously.  This initiative is simply a mechanism to give visibility to a few excellent examples

of collaborative, community-led efforts and to learn how federal agencies can best support these
kinds of efforts everywhere.  
    We think the American Heritage Rivers initiative is going to go a long way toward helping
communities across the country learn what works best when it comes to restoring and improving
the water quality of their rivers and their waterfront areas.
    That's why we're excited about it.  That's why I'm delighted to see so much enthusiasm
about it here in Connecticut.  And that's why I'm glad to see that you're working so hard to
ensure that the Connecticut River becomes one of the American Heritage Rivers.
    I can't make any promises, mind you.  But it looks to me like you are off to a great start.
    Again, let me thank your Senators and Congressmen for their support of this important
initiative.  I look forward to working with all of you in the months ahead.  Thank you and good
luck.