Environmental Legislation Could Help Potomac

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A few days before the City Council approved the Eco-City Environmental Action Plan 2030, Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) announced an environmental initiative of his own that could help clean up the Potomac River with federal grant money if its passed.

At a press conference last Friday, Moran introduced the National Capital Region Land Conservation Act, which would create a $50 million-a-year grant fund to help localities like Alexandria set aside park space permeable land to hinder rainwater from washing pollutants into the Potomac and watersheds that flow into the river, like Holmes Run.

The natural process is for rainwater to be sopped up by grass, trees and shrubs.

Weve reached the tipping point, Moran said. We have too much impermeable surface right now and once the economy gets back on its feet, development will pick up again, and theres less and less land that we can preserve for permeable surface.

From the phenomenon of male bass with female organs to large fish kills, nature is telling us the time to act is now.

Among other urbanization projects, city government is contemplating redeveloping its waterfront with the help of public forums seeking community input, various organizations, consultants and city staff. There are six park areas included in the waterfront area plan, and the bill could potentially help the city preserve the space of which every square foot is very expensive as Moran put it.

While the waterfront master plan is still in the early planning stages, a poll taken at the initial meeting indicated that about 48 percent of attendants favored going to the parks spread out along the Potomacs coast, including the Mt. Vernon trail, while about the same percentage prefer the permeable surfaces of the marina and the Torpedo Factory. Four percent chose other.

Morans Act would update the Capper-Cramton Act of 1930, authorizing the federal government the National Park Service in this case to appropriate up to $50 million worth of park space a year in the Washington metropolitan region and give it to local governments for a 50 percent match.

While the National Park Service would administer the land, localities would work with the federal government to assure it fit with local open space, land-use plans and zoning laws.

There may be parcels of land that are likely to be very expensive, like around along the Alexandria Waterfront, Moran said. This would require a 50 percent matching but if the fed government was willing to put up half the cost, then it seems to me it might present more options for Alexandria to purchase open space along the Potomac.

If not along the Potomac, then tributaries that flow into the river like the Holmes Run, Cameron Run and Four Mile Run, could be preserved to improve the Potomacs environmental standing.

Mayor Bill Euille was at the bills introduction conference, but Moran said he had not talked with the mayor yet about specific land-use possibilities as the bill was just introduced this week.

The original 1930 Capper-Cramton Act is partly responsible for the current green space in and around Washington. It created the National Capital Planning Commission that authorized purchase the green space along both sides of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the George Washington Parkway and Rock Creek Parkway, and influenced the McMillan Plan, which laid a blueprint for the National Mall and other green spaces in the area.

One of the National Capital Region Land Conservation Acts supporters is former Alexandria mayor and State Sen. Patsy Ticer (D-30), who said she has personal ties to the legislation.

In 1965, my late husband Jack, then a member of the Alexandria City Council, helped develop the National Capital Open Space Program which was implemented through the Capper-Cramton Act, she said. Congressman Morans legislation brings new energy and resources to a program thats responsible for the majority of parks and green space in the Capital region. As Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Conservation and the Environment, I wholeheartedly endorse this bill.

A waterfront walking tour is scheduled for June 24 from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at Windmill Hill Park and a design charrette is scheduled for June 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the T.C. Williams cafeteria for residents interested in participating in the citys waterfront plan.

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