Public Speaker on Public Issues



Part 3

Washington, D.C.: Bridges are all about connections of one sort or another. This does not, however, hold true in highly urbanized areas. Areas such as metropolitan Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas of Maryland and Virginia remain unconnected to the rest of this nation if it means being inconvenienced by compliance with environmental laws. In this particular case a bridge, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, represents one of our nation's greatest disconnects----that which exists between urban and rural America.

I spend much of my work focusing on how to reconnect urban and rural America. I prefer to focus on the positive dynamics of how to bring people together and bring out the best in both of these wonderful worlds. On this issue, I don't have that intellectual luxury.

The clear and repeated violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) right in the heart of our nation, Washington, D.C., is, however, a travesty of such magnitude that I find it necessary to speak of the injustices of law and politics which are serving to divide this nation.

The hypocrisy of eleven environmental groups in ignoring repeated violations of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act right in Washington, D.C. comprised part one of this series (Hypocrisy of Democracy). Part two (Protecting Sludge) dealt with the degradation of the Potomac River as the dumping of toxic sludge into the river continues unabated in order to not upset affluent residents who can't imagine having trucks drive through their neighborhood on the way to a landfill. Don't expect these urban folks to put the 'environment' first, save that inconvenience for rural Americans.

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge which connects Maryland and Virginia right at the edge of Washington, D.C.. It is a major transportation link in this nation. More then 200,000 vehicles cross this bridge on a daily basis. This includes 15,000 tractor-trailers. It is in need of replacement and quickly. The plans call for two spans in both directions.

Wanting to exempt this major construction project from the tedious constraints of the National Marine Fisheries regulations, the Federal Highway Administration has had the gall to want this estimated $2.4 billion construction project to be classified as "discountable" and not a major construction project.

As reprehensible as it is, our own Department of Justice (DOJ) is arguing that it is not a violation of the ESA to cause an endangered species to leave or avoid an area by removing its food source----which dredging the clam beds would do. So to paraphrase the DOJ, an endangered species is not being harmed or harassed by removing its food source----tell that to rural Americans who live with grizzly bears, wolves, Coho salmon, Prebles Jumping mice etc., etc., etc..

The DOJ, and I use that term lightly, is also arguing that because there are not very many shortnose sturgeon in the area, that existing plans to detonate the bridge supports is probably not going to kill any sturgeon. I kid you not!

These and other incredibly dishonest efforts by our own government on this issue can be explored by reading and viewing video background material on either, or Express your opinion via these web pages.

The efforts to stop this travesty are being lead by the National Wilderness Institute and Representative Radanovich of California. Their intent is not to subvert the ESA and the CWA. Rather it is to have laws implemented fairly across this land and, where appropriate have reasonableness prevail.

They do not want compliance with environmental laws to be a selective process based on convenience of neighborhood. Presently, this entire picture of dumping sludge and seeking exemption from environmental laws because the project is too big, and the population to numerous to deal with speaks volumes about our government's view that rural Americans are entitled to second class citizenship.

There will be an increasing gap in understanding, respect and appreciation between the urban and rural sectors of this nation as long as our government clearly supports the concept of 'the convenience of law'.

The 'concrete connections' between urban and rural Americans find their origins in fairness and equal treatment under our laws. Our government has some serious rebuilding to do!

~ America's Voice, June 12, 2002

Permission granted to reprint in full or part with full credit given to author.

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