Mass Rivers Gears Up for 2017

As a new administration prepares to move into the Oval Office, Mass Rivers is preparing for what may be one of our most challenging years yet. We’ll be pushing back against new threats to water, and building on our recent accomplishments. Here is a brief summary of the issues in 2016 that threatened our rivers and streams:

When the Baker administration sought to transfer the EPA’s water pollution control to the state, we said no – and legislators listened.  Transferring this multi-million dollar responsibility to the state could weaken water quality protection and harm the Commonwealth’s rivers. Mass Rivers and our allies organized the water and land protection communities to advocate instead for a “fix it first approach” to strengthening existing, underfunded state programs that protect rivers. We stopped this threat to river health…for now.

We moved out in front to demand a better response to the drought. Mass Rivers pulled together a large coalition of groups to advocate for a more proactive strategy to address this year’s devastating drought. Again, legislators and administration officials listened, and we are working with them to ensure that our state responds more quickly and effectively to future droughts, with water conservation measures imposed more uniformly across drought regions.

We spearheaded the effort to increase budgets for important river protection programs within the state agencies, as part of the environmental community’s “green budget” advocacy. FY17 was a tough budget year, yet a growing list of legislators supported our budget amendments as co-signatories. We’ll be back for FY18.

We raised the profile of rivers at the State House. Our two well-attended seminars for legislators this year emphasized the need for flow protection, funding for water infrastructure, and adequate support for state environmental agencies. Legislators and environmental colleagues used the information we provided to advocate for increased funding for river priorities, and to make informed decisions about water policy. Our workshops on stormwater financing for municipal staff were well-attended and provided useful information to help cities and towns clean up stormwater pollution. We also provided workshops for member organizations on topics ranging from effective advocacy to using the new Water Management Act regulations to protect their local rivers.

We had our largest Annual Meeting and dinner to date. Over 140 people joined us in December to celebrate successes and share strategies for the coming few years. Our keynote speaker, Jamie Williams, president of the Wilderness Society, shared stories about overcoming political hurdles to protect wild lands and rivers. Kathy Baskin, former Water Policy Director of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and EkOngKar Singh Khalsa, Mystic River Watershed Association’s recent Executive Director, received our River Friend and River Advocate awards, respectively. A big thank you to all of our attendees for making this our best event yet – and we look forward to seeing you all again in December 2017!

What are Mass Rivers’ goals for the future?

We’re just getting started.  In just a few years, we have grown into one of the largest environmental alliances in the state! Our success has created a huge demand from two main constituencies; river advocates and policy makers. This year we hired a new Policy Specialist to increase our presence at the State House and within the Baker administration, while also deepening the connection to our member organizations who are working hard to protect their local rivers.  

Our priority goals this year include:

  • Improving our state’s drought response, to protect wildlife by keeping more water in our rivers
  • Reducing water pollution by strengthening the state’s water quality programs, and
  • Helping towns clean up stormwater, a major water pollution problem in our state.

We need your help to make this happen!

We know that many environmental challenges lie ahead this year, but with your support, Mass Rivers is preparing for one of our most aggressive campaigns yet to protect and restore streams and rivers across our state. To support our efforts to keep rivers clean, healthy and accessible for all, please click here.