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Tubing The Shenandoah Puts Importance Of Clean Water Into Focus

by Stacey Detwiler

Last weekend, I spent the day tubing down the Shenandoah River by Harper’s Ferry, close to where it meets the Potomac. There are few better ways to beat the heat of a Washington, DC summer than escaping downtown and spending some time on (or in) the water!

Fortunately for me and my fellow tubers, it hadn’t recently rained – which would have washed pollutants from farm fields, highways, roads, and rooftops into the river. Polluted runoff is a significant concern for the health of the Shenandoah and the Potomac River, which we listed this year as America’s Most Endangered River. Unfortunately, the Shenandoah also suffers from other sources of pollution, from point sources to acid rain.

As we floated and swam down the river, I really appreciated why the Clean Water Act and effective infrastructure is so important to try to keep our rivers, lakes, streams, and bays clean.

Unfortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives hasn’t been reflecting that very much lately. The House Appropriations Committee just passed the Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill for FY2013. This bill contains significant cuts to critical programs that help to keep our water clean, so that it’s safe to support tubing or fishing, swimming or boating. Not only is this important for our health, but also for local economies that depend on revenue from recreational activity.

Funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is back to where it was fifteen years ago (accounting for inflation). Under this bill, funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is cut by 21 percent and the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 80 percent!

As I’ve written about previously, the bill also contains significant cuts to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, loan programs that fund water infrastructure, as well as a number of dirty water riders.

If and when this bill moves to the House floor, Congress should stand strong for clean water and oppose such sweeping cuts that put our rivers and streams – and the health of the people who depend upon them – at risk.

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