Restoring the Anacostia

Last Sunday, August 2, Russ Randle and I accepted an award from the American Bar Association for Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy. The award recognizes DC Appleseed’s work over the last 16 years to restore the Anacostia River and watershed.

The award is a testament to the thousands of pro bono hours that both Russ Randle and his law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, as well as four other distinguished DC law firms have devoted to this project: Covington & Burling, Hughes Hubbard & Reed, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and Latham & Watkins.

Their work helped lead to legislation that created the District Department of Environment (DDOE), to city-wide regulations mandating stormwater capture on new developments, to the first-in-the-nation stormwater retention credit program, and to recent legislation that begins clean-up of toxics in the River.

While it is good to celebrate these advances, much work remains.

The D.C. Council legislated deadlines for DDOE to address the toxics in the River. We and other stakeholders are monitoring their progress and working with them to determine the scope of the problem and identify the responsible parties.

DC Water’s massive tunneling project will address the pollution that has entered the River through the combined sewer overflow system (CSO)–the biggest source of new pollution-and we hope to work with them to ensure that D.C. residents benefit from new green jobs that will be created over the course of their project. We will also continue to work with DDOE and area leaders to find innovative ways to address stormwater runoff.

In addition, we are starting to look at the restoration of the River from another critical angle-from the land along the River. Working in partnership with the Federal City Council, Georgetown University, and the Urban Institute, we are examining how land along the River might be used to bring significant benefits to the neighboring communities-especially east of the River. This is an ambitious undertaking, and one that must take place in close collaboration with the neighboring communities themselves; we think such a collaboration has the potential to make the Anacostia River a uniting-rather than dividing-feature of the District.

We are proud of the work that the ABA recognized. We are excited for what is to come. And we are grateful for the opportunity to work with so many pro partners and other community stakeholders who care about the Anacostia River and what its restoration can mean to the city and the region.

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