River Budget Spotlights Priorities for Healthy Rivers and Clean Water

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American Rivers recently released its annual community-driven budget and appropriations report, the RIVER BUDGET: NATIONAL PRIORITIES FOR HEALTHY RIVERS AND CLEAN WATER OF FISCAL YEAR 2024 highlighting opportunities to protect healthy rivers and improve access to clean water nationwide.  

The report is endorsed by SYRCL and 150 partner organizations including utility and state agency associations, fishing groups, small businesses, rural communities, public health organizations, environmental justice leaders, and more. Congress must pass a spending bill ahead of the September 30, 2023 funding deadline.  

“Investment in rivers and clean water is an investment in our health, our economy, and our future. American Rivers and our partners urge the government to support funding for these key federal agencies and critical programs that will restore rivers, improve public health and safety, and strengthen communities in the face of climate change,” said Tom Kiernan, President and CEO of American Rivers.  

The River Budget includes priorities in five key categories:  

  1. Promote Climate-Smart Agriculture:  

We can accelerate the pace and scale of innovation by adopting climate-smart practices and technologies in the upcoming Farm Bill and appropriations process. This will enable farmers, ranchers, landowners, and scientists to create enhanced state-federal partnerships. The River Budget calls on the Administration and Congress to support farmers who need better access to conservation programs, improved data and research, and technical assistance to reduce pollution and improve overall water quality.  

  • $550 million – Agricultural Conservation Easement Program  
  • $1.8 billion – Conservation Stewardship Program  
  • $2.27 billion – Environmental Quality Incentives Program  
  • $500 million – Regional Conservation Partnership Program  
  • $750 million – Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program – Subsidies and Grants  
  1. Restore Wetlands:  

Healthy watersheds, which include rivers, wetlands, small streams and tributaries, floodplains and estuaries, build resilience to climate change by providing flood protection, aquifer recharge, habitat for wildlife, water supply and water quality benefits. The River Budget calls on the Administration and Congress to strengthen communities and ecosystems by protecting and restoring rivers in step with the America the Beautiful goal of conserving 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030.  

  • $7.5 million – Wild and Scenic Rivers Program  
  • $5 million – Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program  
  • $15 million – Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance  
  • $100 million – Legacy Roads and Trails Program  
  • $51 million – Threatened and Endangered Species Program  
  1. Modernize Flood Management:  

As floods become more frequent and severe, communities need cost-effective, reliable solutions to protect people and property and safeguard river health. The River Budget calls on the Administration and Congress to fund the following key efforts:  

  • $2 billion – Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program  
  • $20 million – Engineering With Nature  
  • $700 million – Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant Program  
  • $200 million – Flood Plain Management and Flood Mapping  
  1. Improve Water Infrastructure:  

Fortifying our nation’s drinking water and wastewater facilities to be resilient and sustainable requires urgent investment, especially in proven solutions like green stormwater infrastructure. The River Budget calls on the Administration and Congress to support necessary funding requests to address the scale of the drinking and clean water infrastructure crises.  

  • $7.6 billion each for the Clean Water SRF and Drinking Water SRF  
  • $225 million for the Low Income Household Water Assistance Pilot Program  
  • $280 million for the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants Program  
  • $91.5 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program  
  • $425 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative  
  • $54 million for the Puget Sound Program  
  1. Remove and Rehabilitate Dams:  

Dams harm river health and drastically disrupt the ecosystem, often leading to sharp declines in native fish and wildlife. Often the fastest way to restore a river is by removing a dam. The River Budget calls on the Administration and Congress to improve public safety, restore the natural functions of rivers, help endangered fish species, create jobs, protect important environmental and cultural resources, and increase climate resilience.  

  • $100 million – Community-based Restoration Program   
  • $20 million – High Hazard Potential Dam Safety Grant Program   
  • $92 million – National Dam Safety Program   
  • $30 million – National Fish Passage Program   

In the AMERICAN RIVERS 2021 BLUEPRINT FOR ACTION, American Rivers called on Congress to invest over the next 10 years $200 billion to improve water infrastructure, $200 billion to modernize flood management and $100 billion to restore watersheds in our communities. The recent Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provided a significant down payment and infusion of funding that addresses the complex challenges of a changing climate. Now, it is time for the Administration and Congress to fully deliver on solutions for public health and safety in river communities across the country.   

The RIVER BUDGET is a tool to voice the interests and needs of river communities and allies by recommending to Administration and Congress funding priorities and levels for programs that create clean rivers and water nationwide.   

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