Clean Rivers Make Cents

Emily Long

Charles River on a sunny day. Photo Credit:

In times of economic woes, environmental concerns are often pitted against fiscal concerns. Take the recent attacks on the EPA’s power to enforce the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, for example. Republicans in Congress argue that the US cannot handle the economic costs necessary to comply with regulations and that the alleged “job-killing” regulations threaten our economic recovery. However, recent studies are testimony to the inaccuracy of these claims.

In one instance, a $2 million one-time investment in a bike path along the Little Miami River in Cincinnati resulted in $6 million – per year – in economic benefits to the local community. In addition, another $2 million per year is generated from canoe and kayak rentals. So in one year alone, all of the initial investment costs are returned and then some!

But what about restoring a river? Do the high costs associated with such projects also make sense? Another study found that restoring Mill Creek, which runs through a heavily industrialized section of Cincinnati, would result in $100 million increase in property values, a $3.5 million annual increase in recreational use and a $5.5 million increase in property tax revenue. There is now a $1 million investment per year to restore Mill Creek. (You can read more about these studies and others here.)

This research confirms what we learned from cleaning up Boston Harbor and other waterways in New England. Clean rivers are essential to a healthy economy and investments in clean waters can drive economic growth. Even if you do not fish, boat, kayak, or swim, local communities stand to benefit tremendously by investing in the preservation or restoration of their waters.

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Charles River

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