river

Bronx River Greenway Groundbreaking

By Abu Moulta-Ali

“A Tree Grows, A River Flows”

Descending the stairs at the West Farms Sq/E. Tremont Ave stop on the 2 train, I thought I had gotten off at the wrong stop. I was told this was the closest stop to Starlight Park where a groundbreaking event was being held to celebrate a multi-million dollar project to restore the Bronx River. I asked a school crossing guard for directions to Starlight Park but she looked at me like I was crazy, so I asked her “Do you know how I can get to the Bronx River?” She said, “There’s no river around here, but behind the school there’s a stream.” While she didn’t know it, that stream was really a tributary of the Bronx River.

A tree may grow in Brooklyn, but a river flows in the Bronx. The Bronx River is New York City’s only freshwater river.  The Bronx River, once a community amenity and center for recreation, quickly became an open water sewer for industrial and residential wastes as New York City’s population exploded during the 19th and 20th centuries. But, in 1974, a band of community activists formed Bronx River Restoration and began the arduous process of cleaning up and restoring the river. Once a dumping ground for abandoned cars, the Bronx River now attracts 5,000 recreational paddlers and rowers each year and serves as an outdoor laboratory to educate local students and the public about the river, and train volunteers to monitor the river’s conditions.

On October 6, 2016, with over $40 million in planning and building, and significant coordination of federal, state, and city agencies under the Urban Water Federal Partnership, about 75 community members, advocates and elected officials came out to celebrate the groundbreaking of Phase 2 of the Bronx River Greenway. Phase 2 will provide pedestrian access from Starlight Park to Concrete Plant Park in the South Bronx. A pedestrian bridge will be built over the Amtrak Acela line (at 172nd Street and Bronx Avenue) which will provide access to nine acres of improved parkland, as well as the river itself. This will mark the completion of a one-mile bike and pedestrian link in a trail system that will run the full 23 miles of the river from Westchester County to Hunts Point.

After the groundbreaking while walking back to the train station, I ran into the same crossing guard. She asked if I found the “river” (New Yorkers like me can spot sarcasm a mile away).  When I showed her a video of the groundbreaking event I captured on my cell phone, her mouth fell open. In the video you can see kids from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School canoeing down the river collecting water samples, hundreds of bunker fish swimming, and joggers running along the newly built Bronx River National Water Trail.

She said she lived only 10 blocks from Starlight Park but had never been there. She thanked me and said she would check it out when she got off work. Now if we can spread the word to the other 400,000 South Bronx residents who live, work, and play within walking distance of the river, the Bronx River could be the 2nd biggest attraction in the Bronx. Sorry…nothing will ever top the House that Ruth Built.

Special thanks to NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver,Congressman Jose Serrano, Lisa Pelstring from the US Department of Interior who leads the Urban Water Federal Partnership, Amtrak, Bronx River Alliance, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice and the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality.

About the author: Abu Moulta-Ali is an Environmental Scientist in EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds where he works on wetland regulations. When he’s not at work he can be found mountain biking, snowboarding, and camping with his wife and two daughters.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Grand Calumet River – Fighting its Way Back to Life

The Grand Calumet River – Fighting its Way Back to Life

By Cameron Davis

Growing up, my family and I used to drive over the I-90 “Skyway” to Pennsylvania during spring breaks. As acute as my memories are of piling into the back of our yellow Chevrolet Caprice station wagon (complete with fake exterior wood paneling), I also remember my brother, sister and I holding our noses as we reached the Skyway bridge venturing into Northwest Indiana’s airspace. We drove by the sluggish Grand Calumet River, whose flow was then infamous for being comprised mostly of wastewater from nearby manufacturing plants. The river was virtually lifeless.

 

Four decades later, and after even more time of dogged work by legislative, civic and agency leaders, the Grand Cal is fighting to make a comeback. And there are signs it’s winning the fight for its own survival.

Four years ago, on June 11, 2012, we celebrated the completion work at one of the river’s most visible assets: Roxana Marsh.

“Roxana Marsh has become a special place for local schoolchildren, both as an outdoor laboratory and as a peaceful natural area,” said Caitie Nigrelli of IL-IN Sea Grant, who helped rally local community involvement for the site.

A combination of efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Indiana Department of Environmental Management had contributed some $52 million—including funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process—to revive the area in and around Roxana Marsh. The revival involved removing upwards of 730,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment. It also involved replacing invasive, cattail-like Phragmites, with native plantings in some 25 acres of wetlands along 2 ½ miles of the Grand Cal River.

Two months ago, while driving to Kentucky for spring break, I pointed out the area to my own son and daughter. Today, a very different Roxana Marsh can be seen from the highway: budding instead of battered, alive instead of lifeless, “green,” as my kids said early this year, instead of “gross!” as my brother, sister and I uttered four decades ago.

 

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Re-connecting the Two Hearted River

A six-year effort has now been completed—using funds from EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and other sources—to re-connect 35 miles of the Two Hearted River. As a result, this waterway is now one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the Great Lakes.

Though the Two Hearted is the only designated wilderness river in the state, that doesn’t mean the watershed hasn’t been beaten up, much of its bruising from sweeping white pine clear-cutting decades ago. More recently, stream crossings over culverts have collapsed, creating jams and resulting in sediment pouring into the waterway. The stream then fractured, with spawning beds smothering from siltation.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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The L.A. River: A Winding, Twisting Tale of Survival

By Jessica Werber

I spent most of my formative years in Los Angeles, taking walks down a concrete pathway that I didn’t even realize was part of the LA River. I would jump from side to side, run back and forth, and slide along the warm sun-baked cement. I wasn’t splashing in puddles because there was no water that I could see, feel, or hear. It was all concrete.

The story of the LA River began long before I was born. In 1913, the city increased in density and the LA Aqueduct was built. The river’s historic flow pattern led to winter flooding, which resulted in millions of dollars in property damage and dozens of deaths. By the mid-1930s, local municipalities started flood control efforts to abate winter flood flows, and the Army Corps of Engineers was tasked with designing a flood risk management system. The end result was the river that I would later come to know as my concrete playground.

More than 70 years later, in 2007, LA took steps to restore the river to a more natural state. The city drafted the LA River Revitalization Master Plan, with a long-term vision benefiting water quality, flood protection, and community revitalization. Congress directed the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a feasibility study covering different restoration options, which was released for public comment in September 2013. Non-government organizations engaged in local activism and you, the American public, sent in your opinions and ideas.

In 2010, right before I started my fellowship at EPA, the agency took an active role in protecting the LA River by designating all 51 miles a “traditional navigable water” under the Clean Water Act.  In 2013, EPA commented on the Corps’ feasibility study and explained that the principles guiding the effort are part of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which promotes clean urban waters, water conservation, connecting people and their waterways, encouraging community involvement, and promoting economic prosperity. I believe the restoration of the LA River will help to fulfill these goals for the communities in LA, and I hope people in LA recognize how much effort it takes to restore a river as large as this one.

Look at the two pictures below:

Existing view of Taylor Yard in Los Angeles, CA

Existing view of Taylor Yard in Los Angeles, CA

 

Proposed restoration of Taylor Yard in Los Angeles, CA

Proposed restoration of Taylor Yard in Los Angeles, CA

They are of Taylor Yard, a 247 acre former railroad site near downtown LA. They show the difference between the existing site and a proposed alternative, which replaces the old railroad yard with lush vegetation.

Viewing these contrasting images, I’m transported back to my former life in LA. Adjacent to my bedroom window was a concrete channel that echoed the voices of directors screaming “ACTION!” at the studio across the way. It seems as if action will indeed be taken. By the time my future children visit the LA River, I hope they can appreciate it for what it really is: a river full of life and spirit…and, of, course rushing water.

About the author: Jessica Werber is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education Participant in EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds. She is also a licensed attorney.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Clean Up Time for Our Local River

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Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts
By Gina Snyder

Each year for the past 15 years, I’ve celebrated National Trails Day – first Saturday in June – by participating in a river clean up. It gives me a chance to get the winter cobwebs out of my canoe and enjoy the river in the company of hard-working friends.

I live north of Boston near the Ipswich River, once designated as the Third Most Endangered River in America by the advocacy group American Rivers. The Ipswich River was endangered by water withdrawals which have since been reduced, and the river has made a good recovery in the last six years. But this quiet little waterway continues to be plagued by litter.

Every day trash makes its way into the river, and you can see the build-up, particularly around bridges. Why people send their trash sailing out the windows of their cars as they approach and pass over a bridge, I will never understand. So each year, when our local stream team sponsors its clean up, my husband and I dust off our canoe, grab some trash bags and gloves, and set out on the river to help with the clean up.

I also spend one Sunday morning a month monitoring some simple water quality parameters at the river. And I always bring a bag to pick up the monthly accumulation of trash around the bridge.

I find lots of small and some large, liquor bottles, beer and beverage cans, water bottles, and fast food wrappers, cups and bags, and cigarette packs. For several months in a row, I found several pairs of clean, white, sock liners (peds) each month! That might have been the strangest littering I’ve come across.

So, Please, Don’t Litter! Trash is unsightly; it gets into our waterways and presents a danger to the critters that rely on the waterway for food and water. But you can also pitch in, in a good way, by joining in a clean-up.

There are lots of ways to participate in National Trails day next Saturday. The Appalachian Mountain Club and other organizations list opportunities to make the outdoors more accessible and more welcoming on the national trails day website. Take a look and see how you can pitch in.

More EPA information on Trash and Recycling

About the author: Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental and Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and has been a volunteer river monitor on the Ipswich River, where she also picks up trash every time she monitors the water quality.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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It’s All About Connections

By Reginald Parrish

Growing up in Central Virginia, I spent many hours enjoying the natural landscape of the region. A favorite past time was fishing along the banks of the James River just north of Lynchburg. I recall being puzzled about why we were told to under no circumstance eat the fish. Still, the river provided a tranquil and relaxing spot — an integral part of our community.

In 2000, I accepted a position as EPA’s Anacostia River community liaison. The Anacostia River is a heavily polluted river that flows from Maryland and traverses the nation’s capitol, bordering historically disadvantaged neighborhoods. I conducted outreach to “east of the river” communities about how to improve the quality of the river and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. As I met with citizens, it became clear that these communities have more pressing concerns than restoring the Anacostia River–joblessness, housing, schools, public safety and economic development. As on the James River, I met many people on the Anacostia who fish as a pastime and consume the fish regardless of warnings.

EPA’s Urban Waters program reconnects populations with their local urban waters to accelerate the restoration of these waters. Over the past several years, EPA and other federal agencies have promoted citizen engagement in hands-on restoration through grants for education and outreach programs for schools, churches, and communities. The Anacostia is also one of seven pilot locations of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.

EPA’s Urban Waters program supports and advances other community priorities, such as education and jobs through environmental activities. To further this goal, EPA is renewing a Memorandum of Understanding to provide environmental training to at-risk youth with the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC). EPA and ECC are part of a broader local effort by Anacostia Watershed Society, DC Greenworks, Groundwork Anacostia, Living Classrooms, Washington Parks and People to make the restoration of the river relevant to community priorities – by leading youth to green skills and green jobs.

I participated in this program and had a very successful experience with Anthony Gregory who later received an internship with the National Park Service. Anthony is currently still engaged in work on the Anacostia and is excited about working to improve the river. Anthony’s experience is just one of a number of experiences that connect people to their places through ECC and EPA. I am happy to be a part of that experience.

About the author: Reginald Parrish is an urban programs coordinator based in EPA’s Region 3 Chesapeake Bay Program Office

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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We’ll see you in 2012!

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.

image of cows walking in toward a van driving through a fieldThe silly season is finally over for my staff. No more traveling to small towns off the beaten path. No more chatting with folks at the grain elevator or eating chicken-fried steak smothered in gravy. No more coaxing the locals (of the four hoof variety) to shift their stance to the right or to the left. We won’t be back this way for another 4 years.

No I’m not talking about the election; I’m talking about our work supporting the National Rivers and Streams Survey (NRSA). This survey helps citizens and governments measure the health of our waters, take actions to prevent pollution, and evaluate the effectiveness of protection and restoration efforts.

Next year Region 7 will be sampling larger rivers and then take a year off as the survey moves to coastal waters. We won’t see our favorite small streams until we do some recon in 2012 in preparation for visiting them again the following year. I would like to say a special thanks to all of those scientists across the country that helped to “GET OUT THE BOAT,” as part of this survey.

imaage of two men walking in stream with cows watching them from the bankA bit of parting wisdom for all of you future volunteers… I guarantee you getting a cow to change its position is tougher than getting a person. Just look at how distrustful these cows were of Shawn and Bray. They just wanted them to MOOOOOOOve on. Send all requests about the NRSA to riversurvey-ow@epa.gov. Send all complaints about bad puns to robichaud.jeffery@epa.gov.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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