DALLAS — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Bernalillo County co-led a kick-off celebration at the Albuquerque Balloon Museum’s Fiesta on the Green in Albuquerque, N.M. The event launched the Urban Waters Middle Rio Grande conservation initiative to address water quality issues and environmental justice in the Middle Rio Grande.
“Urban waters are being threatened like never before. Here in New Mexico, we know the importance of water to our daily lives and our economy,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “This resource touches all of us every day — from the water we drink, shower and swim in to the water we use on our plants and crops. This program will bring together agencies, organizations and people in the area to develop ideas to protect the Rio Grande, a precious, limited resource. EPA is proud to be a partner of the Urban Waters Initiative.
The initiative incorporates a restoration project to improve water quality and reconnect the community to the Middle Rio Grande, development of the Southwest’s first urban National Wildlife Refuge and a pilot program for storm water permits in the region.
“Across the country, a family of federal agencies is working with communities to restore their urban rivers and landscapes, and forge stronger connections between cities and their outdoor spaces,” said Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science. “Through the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, we hope to do the same in Albuquerque — building on existing efforts to help restore the cottonwood bosque and creating more access and greenspace for the two-thirds of New Mexico residents who live within an hour’s drive of the Valle de Oro National — the Southwest’s first urban National Wildlife Refuge.”
The partnership also includes a sustainability project with HUD and the U.S. Department of Transportation that has put resources towards the Bridge Boulevard Corridor Redevelopment Plan. This project identifies areas for redevelopment to transform Bridge Boulevard into a mixed-use, pedestrian and transit friendly corridor that honors and maintains the unique history and character of the community.
“By revitalizing the Rio Grande urban waterway in Albuquerque, we will reconnect citizens to stewardship in their own backyards. These partnership projects, including efforts at our new urban National Wildlife Refuge, Valle de Oro, have the potential to make a positive impact for both the environment and the economy in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties,” said Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Regional Director.
EPA awarded $60,000, an Urban Waters Small Grant, to the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District in May 2013. In partnership with Albuquerque area schools, the grant will focus on environmental education and community outreach about storm water management and green infrastructure practices in the Middle Rio Grande Region to promote groundwater infiltration and storage.
“HUD values its role in the Urban Waterways Federal Partnership and the difference it will make in Middle Rio Grande communities,” said Elise McConnell, HUD Field Office Director. “The ingenuity and determination of local governments and partners, combined with Federal resources, can help improve sustainable growth, housing, transportation, and the environment for years to come.”
“The Corps is excited to be a part of this partnership that will raise awareness of the river ecosystem here in Albuquerque,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque District, Lieutenant Colonel Antoinette R. Gant. “This partnership could allow connections between agency efforts that may not have developed otherwise.”
Nationwide, the EPA, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of the Interior, HUD and other federal partners announced 11 new locations for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership to restore waterways, help local economies, create jobs and protect Americans’ health this year. Through the partnership, agencies are working to revitalize urban waterways and communities that surround them, transforming overlooked assets and driving urban revival.
More information on Urban Waters is available at www.urbanwaters.gov.