Restoring and Preserving America's Communities
With the American Heritage Rivers Initiative
September 11, 1997Tonight, I announce that this year I will designate 10 American Heritage Rivers, to help communities alongside them revitalize their waterfronts and clean up pollution.
-- President Clinton,
State of the Union Address,
February 4, 1997
Following up on his pledge in the State of the Union Address, President Clinton signed an executive order establishing the American Heritage Rivers Initiative, a new program to help communities restore and revitalize waters and waterfronts. The President will announce that communities may now begin nominating rivers for this designation. More than ever before, Americans are looking toward our rivers as a source for improving community life. The American Heritage Rivers Initiative will integrate the economic, environmental and historic preservation programs and services of federal agencies to benefit communities engaged in efforts to protect their rivers.
The American Heritage Rivers Initiative Will:
1. Designate ten rivers as American Heritage Rivers by early 1998
Any river community working to improve or protect a river will be eligible to nominate a river or river stretch for Presidential designation. Private citizens, landowners, non-profit organizations, government agencies, Indian tribes and elected officials are examples of the types of groups that will work with other members of their community to nominate a river.
Applications will be due in December. Nominations will be reviewed by a blue ribbon panel of government officials and independent experts. The panel will make recommendations to the President, who will announce the first river designations in early 1998.
2. Support the local community's goals for that river or river stretch
The American Heritage Rivers program will support outstanding community-based efforts designed to ensure the vitality of the river in community life for future generations. It is a locally-driven program: communities know best what they need; and it is the federal government's role to support those efforts. Participation is voluntary and must be initiated by the community. Designation will not impose any new regulations or other new requirements.
3. Help cut red tape and provide focused federal support to designated rivers
Each designated river community will have a vision of how it wants to improve their waters and waterfront. It could include a new waterfront park, more opportunities for fishing and boating, better water quality, or the transformation of abandoned industrial buildings into art galleries and offices.
The federal government's role is to help realize that vision. There are dozens of existing federal programs that could be part of a river community's menu for success.
Once a community is chosen, a full time contact, called a "River Navigator," will be available to help match community needs with available resources from existing programs. Grants and loans could be made available. Federal agencies will also make existing field staff and resources available to each American Heritage River. These experts will work with the River Navigator and the community to attack pollution problems, build greenway and pedestrian paths, protect watersheds, rebuild historic docks, identify native trees and plants, and seek out other economic opportunities.
A "Good Neighbor" policy will ensure that assistance provided by government agencies fulfils community goals and does not add more paperwork or procedure. This coordinated and focused effort will reduce government red tape and the potential overlap of government services.
4. Develop additional information for the use of all river communities
Through the American Heritage Rivers website, valuable information about our nation's rivers will become easily available to everyone. Information organized geographically on flood events, population change, road network, condition of water resources and partnerships already at work in the area will be available. Customized maps and environmental and educational assessment models will also be made available.
The address of the web site is http://www.epa.gov/OWOW/heritage/rivers.html