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Street: Recognizing 40 years of progress on the James

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Posted: Monday, October 8, 2012 1:00 am

For its 35th anniversary edition, Outside magazine named Richmond as the winner of its Best River Town Ever contest. The James River Association salutes Richmond for claiming this title and celebrates the tremendous statement this distinction makes about the James River. This type of recognition would not have been possible or even considered 35 years ago when Outside was launched. At that time, the James River was frequently contaminated with raw sewage and toxic chemicals, including kepone, which shut down the entire tidal James River to fishing for 13 years. Today, the river provides extraordinary outdoor activities and lifestyles for Richmond and other communities along its course.

In going from a dumping ground to supporting the "Best River Town Ever," the James River is arguably the most improved river in the nation. This accomplishment has been the result of a diverse, collective effort by many concerned citizens, businesses and governments. However, the single most important factor in this transformation has been the Clean Water Act, which marks its 40th anniversary this month. The Clean Water Act provided a federal mandate for states to enforce the necessary pollution controls to clean up their waters like the James River. Federal mandates are a controversial topic these days, but they have been critical to achieving the benefits we now enjoy from a healthier James River.

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