Announcing the Urban Waters Federal Partnership: Helping Communities Revitalize Their Local Waters through Increased Federal Collaboration

For those of us who are city dwellers, it may not be at the forefront of our minds to remember that our cities and towns are filled with tremendous natural resources and amazing natural beauty.  Our rivers, streams and lakes provide not only drinking water but a place for recreation and critical avenues for economic development and growth in our cities and towns. When our waters become unhealthy and polluted -- or we are cut off from local waterways by poorly placed roads, highways and industrial infrastructure -- we cannot take full advantage of the economic, environmental and social assets that our waters provide. President Obama believes that all Americans deserve access to clean rivers, streams and lakes, and that a community’s economy and health benefit from such access. He also believes that it is our job as the federal government to support communities as they develop visions for growth, development and use of natural resources, while coordinating federal investments so that we are getting the most out of every dollar.

That’s why I was so proud today to stand with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as well as other Administration colleagues, Senator Ben Cardin, and local city partners to announce a new federal partnership that will reconnect urban communities, particularly those that are overburdened or economically distressed, with their waterways by improving coordination among federal agencies and collaborating with community-led revitalization efforts.

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership(UWFP) is comprised of 11 federal agencies and represents an innovative union of federal agencies that focus on both natural resources and economic development.  The idea is to increase collaboration across the federal government and with local partners on the ground to revitalize polluted urban waterways in under-served cities across the country, stimulating local economies, creating local jobs, improving communities and protecting American’s health in the process.

Breaking down federal silos and creating stronger collaborations across the federal government and with local communities is not new to this Administration. Led by EPA, DOI, the Departments of Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development, and coordinated by my team in the White House Domestic Policy Council, the UWFP closely aligns with and advances the work of the White House’s other place-based efforts, including the Partnership for Sustainable Communities,in revitalizing communities, creating jobs and improving the quality of life in cities and towns across the nation. These programs deliver on a commitment by the Administration to ensure that federal dollars get invested wisely and strategically to maximize their impact and improve the lives of American citizens.
The UWFP will focus its initial efforts on seven pilot cities – Baltimore, the Bronx, Denver, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Northwest Indiana and Washington – that will each benefit from the interagency approach as they seek to revitalize their urban waters.   This morning, we visited Baltimore, MD and learned how the UWFP will support revitalization efforts of the Patapsco Watershed by planting trees around Baltimore to reduce run-off, repaving alleys and streets leading to the river to limit pollution, and putting together a Green Infrastructure Plan with the city government.  The 375,000-acre Patapsco River Watershed spans four counties, flows to the Baltimore City Harbor, and ultimately into the Chesapeake Bay, one of the most important estuaries in the world, which means this effort will benefit not only Baltimore City but forested areas, rural areas, productive farms, and surrounding suburban, urban, and industrial areas as well.
Ultimately, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership is about more efficient and effective federal investment in American communities. Through strengthened collaborations between local, state and federal governments as well as with businesses, NGOs and citizens, we know we can revitalize economies, protect health, and improve the quality of life of our communities.  

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