Federal and local officials gathered on the shores of the Anacostia River April 21 to announce its selection as one of eight urban river restoration pilot projects that constitute the Bush administration’s Urban Rivers Restoration Initiative.

The initiative is designed as a collaborative effort by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to promote urban river cleanup and restoration nationwide.

The Anacostia River, which flows through the District of Columbia and Maryland, is one of the nation’s most polluted rivers, contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, heavy metals, and raw sewage discharges from combined sewer overflows.

“For years, the Anacostia River has been called Washington D.C.’s forgotten river,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. “But today, more and more people are responding to the obligation to be good stewards of our natural treasures and rivers.”

Each pilot project receives a $50,000 grant from the EPA as well as the commitment of the agency and the Corps to coordinate cleanup efforts.

Virginia’s Elizabeth River was also awarded a pilot project designation, and the other six pilot projects will be announced throughout the year.

According to EPA officials, the pilot projects will use partnerships with state and local governments, tribal authorities and private organizations to focus efforts on water quality improvement, the cleanup of contaminated sediments and habitat restoration.

“We see this Anacostia project as a step in demonstrating how governments and private, nonprofit organizations can work together as we continue to restore this contaminated river to a healthy state and bring new economic life to Washington, D.C.,” said Major General Robert Griffin, the Army Corps director of Civil Works. “We expect that Washington will grow stronger as this river, from which it draws its identity, is restored.”