AWC Adopts New Green Standards

Posted June 1, 2007 at 5:28pm

One of the most polluted rivers in the country will eventually flow past some of the most environmentally friendly condos and office buildings, thanks to the quasi-public agency that oversees development along the Anacostia River.

The Anacostia Waterfront Corp. board of directors unanimously approved environmental standards Friday that require developers to filter storm water, preserve parks and maintain energy-efficient buildings. Stricter than federal or city standards, the plan has been widely praised by residents and won two awards from local organizations.

Approving the standards marks the beginning of waterfront projects coming to life, said Carl Cole, an AWC board member.

“You’re beginning to see projects come off of the paper, and you’ll actually begin to see them move forward,” he said.

But for some Washington, D.C., City Council members, projects haven’t been realized quickly enough, and whether the standards will ever be implemented is uncertain. The council might eliminate the AWC on Tuesday, sticking a more limited quasi-public agency in its place. The motion to do so was slipped into the fiscal 2008 budget by At-Large Councilman Kwame Brown (D) after months of hearings on another bill that would have eliminated the AWC and handed all of its responsibilities to Neil Albert, D.C.’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development.

Albert said Friday he hoped the city kept the standards — perhaps even expanding their scope to other D.C. projects — but he also admitted he didn’t know whether his office would have to automatically accept them if Brown’s bill passes on Tuesday. Albert also is the CEO of the AWC, a position he took after former CEO Adrian Washington stepped down unexpectedly earlier this year.

The agency has been working on the standards for months with the help of environmental experts and city residents. The final version reflected that input, and the committee released a spreadsheet responding to every criticism and suggestion on the plan.

It’s a culmination that represents the cornerstone of the city’s effort to create a welcoming landscape of parks and buildings along the water’s edge. The Anacostia River has suffered decades of pollution, and the AWC’s challenge is to build up neighborhoods such as the Southwest Waterfront and the area around the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium while also cleaning the river.

With the approval of the standards, the AWC will now require developers to adhere to the standards if they build on AWC-controlled properties. The AWC environmental standards development committee has tweaked the standards since first proposing them in February. Using suggestions from residents and a cost analysis, the committee raised the standards for non-residential buildings and affordable housing. AWC officials also lowered the amount of overflow storm water that needs to be treated from about seven inches of rain to about three inches because of high costs and minimal benefits (most contaminants are found in the first few inches of runoff).

“We feel they really show a step forward,” said Nancy Stoner, co-chairwoman of the committee, “and they really show the commitment of the committee and the AWC.”