WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Anacostia River crosses several jurisdictions, and so it takes a partnership to protect it.
Local officials made that official on Oct. 13 by joining together to sign the Anacostia River Accord, which signifies their commitment to cleaning, protecting and promoting the watershed. District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, III came together to reaffirm the importance of the river and highlight ways their jurisdictions have worked to protect it.
Tommy Wells, director of the D.C. Department of Energy and the Environment, said the jurisdictions have collaborated in the past, but this group of leaders has taken their efforts to new levels.
“There's been leadership over the years, but this recommitment to coming together to show that the Anacostia River is a contributing asset to all of us is extremely important,” he said.
Baker said in Prince George’s County, he formed the county’s department of the environment after taking office six years ago, and the department has led efforts such as Adopt-a-River programs, constructing structural and non-structural trash capture devices, and launching the LitterTrak app to help community group catalogue their trash clean-up efforts.
In Montgomery County, Leggett said more than 9,000 stormwater management facilities have been constructed which have captured more than 11,000 pounds of trash in his county alone.
“Montgomery County is all in and we believe in this and we believe in it strongly,” Leggett said. “Today, as we sign the Anacostia River Accord, we acknowledge our continued commitment.”
And Bowser said the District of Columbia’s efforts have included installing eight trash traps in Ward 7 this summer, banning Styrofoam and instituting a plastic bag fee, which she said has resulted in a 70 percent reduction in plastic bag litter in area waterways.
“We want it to be swimmable, playable and fishable. We know those are all good things for the people who are making their homes and businesses along the river,” Bowser said.
Prince George’s County enacted its own Styrofoam ban, which went into effect this year. Baker said he hopes to implement a plastic bag fee like D.C. and Montgomery County both have done, and even expand the policy across Maryland.
“I think it is necessary and it’s one that we’re committed to supporting. I hope this is something we’ll see statewide,” Baker said.
Previous efforts to implement a bag fee in Prince George’s have been unsuccessful.
The partnership to improve the health of the Anacostia has also included federal partners such as the National Park Service, which owns land on the river, and the Environmental Protection Agency and the help of non-profit groups such as the Prince George’s County-based Alice Ferguson Foundation, which advocates for area waterways and other natural areas and connects residents with the natural world around their homes.
“The Alice Ferguson Foundation has been a gem for us in the county and a true partner,” Baker noted.
Ann Honious, an acting superintendent with the National Park Service, said efforts like the accord help further a regional vision for the Anacostia River and its watershed that can benefit all three jurisdictions.
“We envision the Anacostia as a source of economic, health and community benefits as well as a source of community pride,” Honious said. “Through partnerships, we are protecting the quality and resiliency of this ecosystem.”