Congress has funded a new study of the health and sustainability of the Nation’s river, the Potomac. Called the “Middle Potomac Comprehensive Plan,” the project would assess the long-term health of the Potomac River and its ability to provide water for the region’s residents and local wildlife. Congress appropriated $585,000 for the project in the Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water appropriations bill; President Obama signed the measure Friday, October 29th.
The Potomac River provides drinking water for some 5 million people in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region. The river also provides recreational opportunities for thousands of fisherman and boaters and sustains thriving populations of fish and wildlife, even in its urban stretches.
Work on the Middle Potomac Comprehensive Plan represents a multi-agency partnership. The Nature Conservancy will serve as the non-federal sponsor for this project and will contribute 25 percent of the project’s costs to leverage the federal investment from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The National Park Service is also funding a major project component. In addition, the D.C. area’s Potomac water supply utilities (together known as CO-OP) are funding demand forecasts. The Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin serves as a technical partner for the assessment, providing extensive biological and hydrologic analyses.
Ultimately, however, the project required this important federal investment to move forward. The Nature Conservancy appreciates the support of a number of members of Congress whose constituents rely so heavily on the Potomac River.
“The Potomac River is the second largest tributary in the Chesapeake watershed and is critically important to the health of the bay. This funding will allow for the development of an unprecedented, regional watershed assessment focused on defining the region’s water needs for people and nature,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
“This assessment will bring together the watershed’s five jurisdictions of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. in a coordinated effort to ensure that we can meet our water supply needs without degrading the aquatic systems that help provide and sustain that water supply,” said Representative Jim Moran (VA-8).
Representative Gerald Connolly (VA-11) added, “The services provided by a healthy and functioning Potomac River – recreation, drinking water, wildlife habitat – are critical for our quality of life and the economy in the region. This project provides a shared framework for incorporating ecological considerations as the watershed’s jurisdictions undertake their respective water supply planning efforts.”
“The fate of the Potomac is inextricably linked to that of the Chesapeake Bay, as water and living resources flow between the bay and its tributaries,” noted Representative Chris Van Hollen (MD-8). “The health and vitality of one affects the others, and the time is now to gain a more comprehensive, basin-wide perspective on the Potomac River’s water resources.”
Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) also weighed in.
“In Washington, D.C., our history and our future is intertwined with the Potomac and its tributary, the Anacostia River,” said Representative Norton. “This watershed assessment will define environmental flows – the quantity, timing, and quality of water flows required to sustain aquatic ecosystems, and the human livelihoods and well-being that depend on these ecosystems.”
“The millions of people who depend on the Potomac River for their water should be proud of our Congressional representatives for their forward-thinking support of the river’s health,” said Stephanie Flack, director of Chesapeake Strategies for The Nature Conservancy. “Too often a water crisis is the motivation for analysis of this critical resource. This project represents a more proactive approach, which is best way to prevent a crisis in the first place.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.