The Anacostia River is in a real estate boom, and we need smart development to protect how healthy it has become

By: Jim Foster, AWS President

Nationals Stadium, August 2009

Yesterday's Washington Post reported that the area of the Navy Yard and the Southwest Waterfront, both on the Anacostia River, is the 5th-busiest submarket for rental development in the entire United States. 

Thomas Boswell, writing in the Post sport's section on September 14, was genuinely "stunned" by his experience exploring the Riverwalk near Nats Stadium and Yards Park, and said the following:

When Nationals Park was built, my preconception was that, no matter how well the overall project went, you could never get near the Anacostia without holding your nose.

In reality, after hundreds of millions of dollars spent by D.C. Water on its clean rivers project, the walk by the Anacostia is pretty, panoramic, breezy and odorless. And it’s lovely at sundown. I looked for something ugly — anything. I spotted a floating stick.

This is the new reality for the Anacostia River: Its reclaimed beauty is undeniable - a local treasure - and people want to live there, enjoy it, and be proud of it.

Unlike the last time DC was majorly built up in the 1800s, this time we have modern science on our side to follow development plans that mitigate the effects of construction and human habitation on the natural environment. We have laws and jurisdictional authority to ensure that as communities repopulate the Anacostia Riverside, we don't neglect what is best for the river. 

The Anacostia Watershed Society wants to see our river revitalized to a clean, healthy, world-class urban amentity.  This is why I want to share our position statement on development, reprinted below.

Anacostia Watershed Society Position on Development Projects

The Anacostia watershed, encompassing a 176-square mile area of land in the eastern half of the District of Columbia and large portions of Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in Maryland, is characterized by dense urban development, suburban communities, recreational and open space, as well as industrial, agricultural, and retail land uses. This urban watershed is home to almost 1 million residents.

The restoration and rebirth of the Anacostia River, along with the strong economy of the Greater Washington metropolitan area, has accelerated growth and economic development in the Anacostia Watershed. Many development projects have already converted industrial sites that once generated sediment and polluted runoff into highly sustainable sites that are contributing to the restoration of the Anacostia River.

Large or small, development projects in the watershed all need to consider the Anacostia River in design and in the long-term stewardship of the site. AWS supports projects that have the least overall adverse environmental impact and the greatest improvement to the Anacostia River watershed, while ensuring sustainable economic development for all residents of the watershed.

AWS believes all proposed projects in the Anacostia Watershed must: 

  • Apply current best practices in low impact development (LID) to ensure the project will have the least adverse environmental impact, will manage stormwater, and will prevent water quality decline. We support zero discharge of stormwater from redevelopment projects.
  • Retain and where possible expand open green spaces and restore degraded streams and floodplains to reduce adverse impacts to the Anacostia River and all of its tributaries. Redeveloping existing sites should be pursued rather than developing current open space.
  • Fully comply with the most rigorous state and local environmental standards, and where possible, the even stronger federal requirements of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
  • Employ third party standards and certifications, including, but not limited to, U.S. Green Building Council (LEED standards at least at the Gold level), and for roads, the NACTO and Greenroads standards be utilized for the design and construction of all proposed developments.

We are committed to a clean and healthy Anacostia River that is a destination for our communities and our children and their children.





Browse our newsletter archive to read articles previously published in our quarterly newsletter, Voice of the River!


Stay informed of the latest watershed issues by subscribing to our free email updates & event announcements.