Chesapeake Bay to Benefit From a $900,000 Elizabeth River Cleanup

CHESAPEAKE, Virginia, August 22, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to award more than $900,000 to the Elizabeth River Project to help clean up 25 acres of sediment contamination in the Money Point section of Chesapeake, Virginia, which lies along the southern branch of the Elizabeth River.

The Elizabeth River Project is a community watershed group instrumental in restoring the Elizabeth River at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in southeast Virginia

"The cooperation and progressive results of the Elizabeth River Project are encouraging to other communities that value and want to do more to protect their watersheds," said Donald Welsh, administrator for EPA's mid-Atlantic region. "EPA's funding can help accelerate the group's restoration efforts, ultimately benefiting the Chesapeake Bay."

A national panel reviewed 100 projects from around the country that were nominated for a share of $13.36 million in funding to restore and protect watersheds. The Elizabeth River Project is one of 16 organizations whose projects have been selected for funding.

The group can apply for a $902,500 grant, expected to be awarded later this year.

"This promises to be a tremendous help for the restoration of one of the great urban rivers of the world," said Marjorie Mayfield Jackson, executive director of the Elizabeth River Project. "This funding would be a major boost to the most critical projects for our watershed."

The funding will support removal of contaminated sediment, create 10 miles of restored habitat, and help reduce toxics and nutrients in stormwater runoff. Funds will also be used to support environmental projects at 10 Money Point industrial facilities.

The Elizabeth River is one of the world's largest natural harbors for military and commercial shipping and a part of the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay. It is an important tidal estuarine habitat for blue crabs, striped bass, and other keystone species.

The Elizabeth River Project is also concerned about a proposal to build the world's largest ethanol facility at Chesapeake, Virginia in view of potential risks to the local environment, human health and the economy.

International Bio Energy Virginia has proposed to construct and operate the $400 million facility. The Elizabeth River Project worries that the distillery will be a major new source of air pollution, including carcinogenic emissions. There are minimal controls for stormwater runoff, and the facility will use more than 1.4 million gallons of freshwater a day, possibly shortchanging the rest of the area's water users, the group warns.

During President George W. Bush's 2002 State of the Union address, he asked the nation's governors and tribal leaders to nominate proposals to support community-based approaches to clean up the nation's watersheds. Congress appropriated $13.36 million for this Targeted Watershed Grant Program, which the EPA says was conceived to encourage community approaches to restore, preserve and protect the nation's watersheds and to promote strong public/private partnerships that lead to measurable environmental results.

Other grants will support water quality work on the Connecticut River, which is New England's longest river; support reducing phosphorus inputs to Lake Champlain; and support cleansing of New York's Saw Mill River.

Oregon's Upper Klamath Watershed has 17 native species of fish, eight of them found nowhere else in the world. The area also supports a concentration of wetland complexes, used by over two million water birds.

Water quality degradation, de-watered streams, loss of wetland and riparian habitats, and hydro dams have diminished the health of the system. Ducks Unlimited proposes to use the grant to improve water quality with nine restoration and enhancement projects.

A proposed project for the Hawaiian island of Maui would purchase 13,166 acres of the West Maui Mountain Watershed, ensuring that forest and four main streams are restored and endangered native species can flourish.

A complete list of the 16 grant awardees is online at: http://epa.gov/twg/implementation.html. The nominations were reviewed by regional and national experts.

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