Obama administration officials converged Friday on Baltimore to announce a new initiative to clean up and redevelop blighted urban watersheds — with the ailing Patapsco River one of seven waterways chosen nationwide to test a partnership between federal agencies and local communities.Wow, eleven agencies. That's gonna be a lot of help, right?
"Urban waters across our nation are brimming with potential," Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said at a news conference in Middle Branch Park, as rowers and fishing boats plied the waters behind her. "We can revitalize these areas," she added, saying the initiative sought to return the waterways to the community centerpieces they once were.
Eleven federal agencies, including the EPA and the departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development, have agreed to work with local governments and nonprofit groups to reduce pollution and enhance urban neighborhoods with trees, parks and jobs...
No new funding is attached to the effort, but officials say they intend to make better use of existing money by getting agencies to work together better. Michael Rains of the U.S. Forest Service said his agency — which has had a field station in Baltimore for nearly 20 years — figures it might be able to come up with $500,000 to spend on projects in the Patapsco watershed, such as planting trees and restoring eroded stream banks.Never mind. There's no new money for this effort, and a promise to squeeze more out of eleven other agencies. To say I'm not optimistic would be an understatement of the highest order. The Patapsco has major problems with pollution already in it's sediments, pollutants which aren't going anywhere without a tremendous physical project. Not to mention continuing inputs from the city which the kind of programs they are would hardly make a dent in. Trash is the most visible, but least serious part of the problem, one that might be dealt with without cleaning up the underlying problems.
Jackson said the EPA might be able to help Baltimore save money by adjusting federal regulations to encourage less costly ways of reducing storm-water pollution from city streets and parking lots.
It's not that I don't think that government could provide more for what it spends, but history would suggest that it's not particularly likely.