Our Kansas City Regional office sits at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers. Each River is named for its respective State (or more accurately for the Kansas and Missouria Native American Tribes), and both join at the intersection of two distinct Kansas Cities (one in each state). Two hundred years ago Lewis and Clark sat at this very spot. Anyone who has read their journals must marvel at the awe and wonders that they experienced travelling upriver from the Mississippi to the headwaters of the Missouri, through the Bitterroot Mountains to the Clearwater, and on to the Mouth of the Columbia. Each day on the river was an experience.
These and other great rivers were responsible for the growth of small trading outposts into towns and eventually into bustling cities. Unfortunately water quality suffered with the growth of our nation. Untreated sewage, dangerous chemicals, and destruction of wetlands all degraded the water we depend on for drinking, fishing, recreation, and life. Things have gotten better, but challenges still lay ahead, especially in those waters that were responsible for our growth.
My staff and I pulling trash out of the Kansas & Missouri Rivers
Administrator Jackson has asked us as an Agency to focus on a number of priorities including protecting America’s Waters. Part of this effort is an initiative to focus on rivers and lakes in our own backyards, to experience them in ways that are meaningful to us. The goal of this initiative is to restore and protect urban water bodies by engaging communities in activities that foster increased connection, understanding and ownership of their waters and surrounding land.
A couple of weeks ago I was conducting an interview at a local high school for my alma mater. I trudged into the library and past a statue that looked vaguely like Colonel Sanders of KFC fame. An hour or so later as I walked the prospective Penn Quaker to the door, I let my eyes linger on the statue once again and noticed a small name plate at the base…Samuel Clemens. Like most busy adults I had walked past the statue of Twain without giving it much of a glance, a satirical parallel to my own daily trips across the Missouri River indifferent to the history and wonder that lay beneath the bridge deck. I took it as a sign from the greatest American river man to avoid taking my experiences with urban waters in Kansas City for granted. In the coming months I hope to share them with you.
About the author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation scientist with EPA who started in 1998. He serves as Chief of the Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Branch in Kansas City.