|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||July 28, 2011|
|Contact:||Alison Zemanski, Media Relations Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, Cell: 202.384.8762
Heather Lukacs, West Virginia Clean Water Facilitator, National Parks Conservation Association, P: 304.469.4433, C: 304.640.6068
New Report Offers Recommendations for Improving Water Quality at New River Gorge National River
Alliance provides roadmap for protecting and enhancing New River Gorge National River
Glen Jean, W. VA. – The New River Clean Water Alliance, a partnership dedicated to promoting clean water and community efforts in the New River and its tributaries, today released a report titled, Lower New River State of the Watershed Report. The report finds that water quality in the New River is impaired, which means that in some rainy, high-water weather conditions, the river does not meet state clean water standards set by the state of West Virginia. The new report serves as a roadmap to guide citizens on how to get involved and work together to improve water quality in the Lower New River and its tributaries in order to sustain the river’s environmental, cultural, recreational, and economic benefits.
“The New River Gorge National River, part of the National Park System, is a national treasure for West Virginians and visitors, and is home to a diverse array of plants, endangered animals and rare birds. Clean water in the New River requires clean water in the creeks flowing into it,” said Heather Lukacs, Clean Water Facilitator for the National Parks Conservation Association. “By working with active citizen groups and community leaders to target polluted tributaries, we can reduce pollution in the New River so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy the National River and all it has to offer.”
The New River has become one of the busiest whitewater rivers in the country, provides thousands of jobs and millions in economic value to local communities. The New River also provides world class fishing and is home to the New River Birding and Nature Festival--one of the top 10 birding events in the country--and draws birders from near and far. The National Park Service estimates that park visitors contribute about $130 million to the region’s economy annually.
“It’s difficult to overstate the importance of river-based tourism to the local economy,” says Mark Lewis, the Executive Director of the West Virginia Professional River Outfitters, a nonprofit organization that represents the commercial rafting industry. “The New River provides one of America’s truly great whitewater experiences and rafting has become the foundation of a vibrant tourist economy that contributes tens of millions of dollars to the area each year. In 2010, rafting companies directly employed more than 1,000 people in the region,” Lewis added.
Report recommendations include addressing pollution through a holistic strategy that builds community support and community-based programs to monitor the water quality in the Lower New River and its tributaries. Top priorities include funding for repair of leaky sewer pipes and using innovative clean water solutions such as investing in green infrastructure and decentralized wastewater. Recommendations are taken from on-the-ground successes from alliance partners, community members and wastewater professionals.
“We have too long taken clean water for granted and assumed it will always be an easily available and abundant resource,” said Don Striker, Superintendent of the New River Gorge National River. “As a national river, long-term sustainable water quality throughout the watershed is our number one priority, and making smart decisions now to improve and protect the water quality of the New River watershed is an investment that will ensure that this important component of the region continues to protect our recreational and resource values well into the future.”
The New River Clean Water Alliance is encouraging elected officials, community members, and local partners to work together and take action to improve water quality in the Lower New River and its tributaries in order to sustain the river’s environmental, cultural, recreational, and economic benefits. To view the full report, please click here: www.npca.org/newrivercleanwater.
About the New River Clean Water Alliance: The alliance is a partnership dedicated to promoting clean water and community efforts in the New River region and its tributaries in Fayette, Summers, and Raleigh counties. The following organizations are members of the alliance: Mountain Resource Conservation and Development, National Committee for the New River, National Park Service, National Parks Conservation Association, Piney Creek Watershed Association, Plateau Action Network, and West Virginia Professional River Outfitters Association. To learn more, please visit: www.npca.org/newrivercleanwater.