Annual Progress Report, 2012
Communities & Ecosystems
Photo credit: Heather Heinks, City of Fresno
Strengthening Urban Communities
Cities deal with myriad issues, including economic development, pollution and infrastructure. EPA and other federal programs help bring jobs and lasting improvements.
Fresno, Calif., was selected as one of six pilot cities nationwide for the federal Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative. EPA is leading a team of federal agencies to assist city officials in efforts to revitalize Fresno’s downtown area and grow the local economy.
EPA Community Planner Suzanne Hague, based at Fresno’s City Hall, is integrating the planning for a future high-speed rail station with the city’s downtown revitalization plans. She is part of the Fresno Community Solutions Team, which includes people from 12 federal agencies, including Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Agriculture, and Commerce.
The team works with the city to leverage funds and support local projects to encourage economic growth and community development. SC2 also aims to encourage partnerships among community organizations, anchor institutions, businesses, foundations and government agencies.
“The SC2 team has been a terrific partner in contributing to the development of ‘ground-up’ solutions tailored to our needs, refining lasting partnerships with key local and regional stakeholders, and working to remove roadblocks accompanying federal programs that directly affect our city,” says Mayor Ashley Swearingen.
The SC2 intiative is strengthening local capacity and economic growth in five additional cities: Chester, Pa.; Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Mich.; Memphis, Tenn.; and New Orleans, La.
By integrating government investments and partnering with local communities, SC2 helps empower cities as they implement their visions for economic growth.
In East Palo Alto, Calif., EPA’s Brownfields program provided funding and worked with city officials to clean up toxic contaminants at Cooley Landing, a former dump on San Francisco Bay where trash had been burned more than half a century ago.
Today, the city is transforming the 15-acre peninsula into its first bayside park and a valuable community resource.
In San Jose, the largest city in Silicon Valley, EPA funding helped restore fish and wildlife habitat along Coyote Creek, a perennial stream which runs through the city.
The creek had been plagued with trash coming from stormwater outfalls, as well as homeless encampments. The city’s four-year pilot program is built on engaging neighbors as creek stewards and deterring dumping and litter.
EPA awarded a $300,000 grant to the city of South Tucson, Ariz., to recruit, train and place unemployed, low-income residents in jobs to clean up polluted sites for reuse.
The program will put 39 trainees through a 28-week training cycle with courses on hazardous waste operations, asbestos and lead inspections, underground storage tank operation and cleanup, and green and alternative cleanup practices.
“Our residents, community organizations, and employers look forward to working with the EPA to change lives and substantially improve our city,” said South Tucson Mayor Jennifer Eckstrom.
Since 1998, EPA has awarded more than $35 million under the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Program. By the end of 2011, more than 6,700 people had been trained, and more than 4,400 placed in full-time jobs in the environmental field.
A Hard Look at Bay-Delta Progress
EPA is collaborating with other agencies to revitalize efforts to balance California’s water supply needs with those of fish and wildlife in the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary..
With California’s water resources facing everincreasing demands, state and federal agencies are bringing a new level of attention to the state of the West’s largest estuary. As part of this effort, EPA is reviewing its water quality programs to gauge their success and identify actions needed.
EPA’s review, which was triggered by the plummeting numbers of salmon and other fish species over the last 10 years, has shown that state and federal programs under the Clean Water Act have not stemmed the decline of the estuary’s aquatic resources. One species, the Delta smelt, had declined to such low levels in 2010 that fishery scientists feared it could become extinct at any time.
Seven stressors affecting fish were considered in EPA’s review: ammonia, selenium, pesticides, emerging contaminants, declining estuarine habitat, fragmented migratory corridors for fish, and wetlands loss.
EPA's review highlighted the following priority activities to work on in partnership with California water quality agencies:
- update the state’s water quality standards that protect the Bay-Delta Estuary habitat, consistent with recent science
- advance regional water quality monitoring in the Central Valley
- improve implementation of watershed plans, including Total Maximum Daily Loads
- provide relevant water quality data for EPA’s pesticide registration reviews
- develop methylmercury controls in wetlands
EPA has launched a new website on Bay-Delta issues that includes extensive public comment that was received as part of its review.