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Public Statements

Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CLEAVER. Mr. Chairman, in the committee report for this bill, the appropriations committee included some language expressing concerns in regard to the Environmental Protection Agency's Urban Waters Initiative and provides no funding in the bill for this program for fiscal year 2012.

I understand the committee's reluctance to extend funding for new broad, cross-cutting initiatives, given our economic situation. However, I feel this initiative has immense value to millions of people who live in urban centers and who rely on the government to ensure that they have clean water to drink and use in their daily lives. This amendment would restore partial funding for the Urban Waters Initiative for fiscal year 2012. This amendment does not increase the spending by one single penny.

Cities share one key characteristic: they're full of people, buildings, and businesses. Because everyone shares the same relative space, air and water environmental impacts are concentrated in smaller areas, including waterways. Urban waters take on large amounts of pollution from a variety of sources, including industrial discharges, mobile sources, such as cars and trucks, residential/commercial wastewater, trash and polluted stormwater runoff from urban landscapes. As urban populations often share centralized water sources, this pollution creates public and environmental health hazards like lowered drinking water quality and water bodies that aren't safe for human swimming.

The EPA launched the Urban Waters Program to address water quality challenges in the urban watersheds and build capacity of disadvantaged communities through projects that revitalize these watersheds. If maintained properly, urban waters can also yield positive impacts for populations in both urban and upstream communities. Revitalization of waterways can spur employment and the growth of local businesses and promote improvements in housing, safety, and quality of life in these areas.

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Mr. CLEAVER. Communities across the country are coming together, working with the EPA, State and local agencies, and taking steps to access, restore, and benefit from their urban waters and the surrounding lands. My Missouri 5 District, a large section of which is Kansas City, is one such community. The EPA regional staff are working with Kansas City and local citizen groups to monitor water supply and plan and conduct improvements to the Blue River watershed and Brush Creek.

Covering 270 square miles, the Blue River compromises the largest watershed in the greater Kansas City metropolitan area. Its drainage is divided between the States of Kansas and Missouri and flows through three counties, 12 cities, and 10 school districts. Brush Creek is the most visible tributary to the Blue River and runs completely through an area that we are trying to rebuild called the Green Impact Zone. The EPA is monitoring water quality along the watershed and assisting in local efforts to conduct large-scale watershed planning for Brush Creek and the Blue River.

Whether as a part of a cleanup leading to waterfront development or putting monitoring in place to ensure safe drinking water with the EPA's help, community groups across the country have taken the initiative, engaging volunteers, community organizations, and local and State government to make their waters safe for many uses.

This amendment provides $3 million for urban waters within the EPA's Environmental Programs and Management account, though it is by no means the maximum amount of funds that this program could utilize. It will ensure that this vital, community-driven initiative can continue, and I ask for the approval of this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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