Charles Recognized as Clean in International River Contest


By Cate Lecuyer, Back Bay Patch

In the mid-1990’s, swimming in the Charles River was banned, sewage overflows were common, and rowers who fell into the water routinely received tetanus shots.

Now, the Charles is being honored as one of the world’s cleanest rivers, and was named a top three finalist in the International River Foundation’s 2011 Thiess International Riverprize, an annual environmental contest that recognizes visionary and sustainable river management programs.

“A generation ago, the Charles was a dumping ground for many who failed to realize that protection of this resource was vital to the Boston urban area and our whole region,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Today, thanks to the tireless efforts of CRWA, and the work of local, state and federal agencies, river-side communities and environmental stakeholders, the Charles has made a remarkable recovery. The Charles River renaissance is an inspiration to us all and certainly deserving of this prestigious award.”

Projects from more than 20 countries applied for this year’s Riverprize. Awards will be announced in September at the 14th Annual International Riversymposium in Brisbane, Australia.  The winner receives a $250,000 cash award and a $100,000 grant to share with another river.

The finalists are:

Charles River, Massachusetts. USA Mattole River, California. USA Yarra River, Victoria. Australia

Once immortalized in the Standell’s rock and roll classic as the epitome of “Dirty Water” here’s a look at how far the Charles has come.

Key achievements, highlighted by the International River Foundation, include:

  • Creation of the Charles River Natural Valley Storage Area
  • Implementation of Massachusetts Water Resources Authority Long-Term Combined Sewer Overflows Control Plan
  • Invention of SmartStorm®, a rainwater harvesting system, coupled with creating a stronger regulatory climate for rainwater recycling
  • Fish ladder repair and replacement and Bleachery Dam Fish Passage Improvement Project
  • American shad restoration program
  • Charles River Nutrient TMDL studies
  • Blue CitiesTM Initiative for water-sensitive urban development demonstration projects
  • Issuance of 13 Charles watershed conservation-oriented public water supply permits with mitigation offset feasibility requirements
  • New draft municipal stormwater permits and EPA’s pilot exercise of RDA to control private property runoff in three upstream towns
  • Boston’s Complete Streets Guidelines with goals for “greening” City streets and achieving stormwater targets

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