Our Great Waters: A Call to Action

For Immediate Release

As Congress is poised, for the first time ever, to consider a package of bills aimed at restoring waterways across the nation, Environment America today released "Our Great Waters" - a report highlighting the value of these waters, challenges they face, and how the legislation would address those challenges. Next week, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee will vote a number of the bills referenced in this report. 

“From the Long Island Sound to the Great Lakes to the San Francisco Bay, Americans throughout the country depend on our waters for fishing, recreation, and clean drinking water. But as we continue to allow polluters to release toxic chemicals and nutrients in our water, we are putting their bottom lines before the natural value our great waters provide us,” said Piper Crowell, Clean Water Advocate for Environment America.

“America has proudly protected our treasured landscapes, from Yosemite and Yellowstone to the Great Smokies and Cape Hatteras,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, chairman of the Senate Water and Wildlife subcommittee and author of the Chesapeake Clean Water bill.  “As this remarkable new report makes clear, we desperately need major action now to provide the same level of protection to our Great Water Bodies.  A nation blessed with such natural treasures must provide the stewardship they so richly deserve, and this unprecedented legislative initiative will do just that.”

The Our Great Waters report outlines specifics on the economic importance, environmental value, and the extreme pollution affecting our great waters. A few specifics found in this report:

  • Every year, the revenue generated from the recreation, tourism and fishing industries in the Long Island Sound exceeds $5.5 billion. 
  • The Chesapeake Bay is home to more than 3,600 species of plants, fish and animals, including the bald eagle and blue crab. 
  • Each year, 24 billion gallons of sewage pollution are dumped into the Great Lakes.

“Unlike in the Gulf, we don’t have spill cam footage or front page New York Times photos of pollution for each of our great waters,” added Crowell. “But what we do have is decades of under funding and lax pollution limits, leaving us with growing dead zones in many of our great waters and beach closings during the summer.” 

The report describes legislation that Congress is currently considering, including bills to protect the Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, Puget Sound, Columbia River, San Francisco Bay, and Lake Tahoe. These pieces of legislation, according to Environment America, would finally start to reduce pollution, raise investments in restoration efforts, increase coordination of projects, and repair the damage that has already been done to waters. These bills will be voted on in two days along with similar bills designed to protect the other great waters across the country. 

“Maintaining America’s great waters is going to take new action and stronger measures than are currently in place. We are counting on the Senate to stand up for America's great waters this summer,” concluded Crowell.