Water: Targeted Watersheds Grants Program
Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association
Pennington, New Jersey
May 2, 2003
Thank you, Jane (Kenny) for that introduction. I'm also pleased to see my good friend Senator Leonard Lance here today. I have to admit, this is one of the best parts of my job – coming home to New Jersey, spending time in the great outdoors, and calling it work.
For as long as I can remember, rivers, streams, and ponds have played an important part in my life. Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are of fishing with my father in a small trout stream on our family farm. Whenever I have the chance, I love to be on or near the water – either fishing, kayaking, or just listening to its sounds and appreciating its beauty.
Here in this beautiful part of the Garden State, we are fortunate to have an outstanding organization that works hard to protect the natural beauty we see around us. The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association does an outstanding job caring for the environment in this part of the world. Today, all across America, more and more people are remembering that we all have an obligation to be good stewards of our natural heritage by caring for our watersheds.
After all, one of the most important ways we can protect our rivers, lakes, and streams is by better managing what happens in the watersheds in which they are located. That's because the greatest threat to America's waterways today comes, not from pollution dumped into them directly, but from pollution that runs-off into them – non-point source pollution.
Oil from city streets and parking lots, excess fertilizer and herbicides that run-off from suburban laws, animal waste from farms – all this and more finds its way into our precious rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal waters. To cite just one illustration, every eight months, as much oil finds its way into America's coastal waters as was spilled from the Exxon Valdez – the largest environmental disaster in American history.
If we are going to leave our water purer than we found it, we must redouble our efforts to implement a watershed management approach in every part of our country. That is what is behind President Bush's Watershed Initiative – a landmark program to help develop new, far-reaching, innovative plans for the protection of 20 of America's most important watersheds.
I am pleased to report that following the President's announcement of this Initiative last year, the response was overwhelming. We received 176 applications, flowing in from every corner of the country. There's no doubt that America's watersheds have lots of friends and advocates, and that bodes well for the environmental health of all of our Nation's waters.
The $15 million grants that we are awarding today to 20 watershed organizations will help tackle some of the greatest threats our watersheds face. These include loss of habitat, which threatens wild and marine life and increases run-off; invasive species that throw aquatic ecosystems out of balance; and the affects of nonpoint source pollution on water quality. The work these grants will make possible will ensure that our children and grandchildren have clean water to drink, fish, and enjoy.
These grants will also help strengthen the partnerships between EPA and those who are on the front-lines – or should I say the shorelines and riverbanks – protecting our treasured watersheds. Those who know the challenges best are usually in the best position to find the right solutions. That's the sort of problem solving we support.
The President's Watershed Initiative is off to a great start – and we hope to build on this strong foundation in the years ahead. That is why the President's proposed budget for the next fiscal year increases funding for this exciting new program by 30 percent, to $20 million. I hope Congress gives us the increased funding the President has requested.
Today, just as we are writing a new page in the history of our Nation's watershed, we are also writing 20 checks that will help make that history happen. The $15 million dollars those checks total will ensure that beautiful spots like this are here for these children and theirs in the years ahead.
Now I would like to ask Jane Kenny to join me in presenting this present this check for $1 million to George Hawkins for the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.