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The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects less than ¼ of a percent of the United States’ river miles, focusing on free-flowing rivers of good water quality with outstandingly remarkable values for recreation, scenery, and other unique river attributes. It predates the enactment of the Clean Water Act, yet includes a clear anti-degradation principle, that pollution should be reduced and eliminated on designated rivers, in cooperation with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state pollution control agencies. However, the federal Clean Water Act lacks a clear management framework for implementing restoration activities to reduce non-point source pollution, of which bacterial contamination impacts nearly 40% of the Wild and Scenic Rivers. A case study of the Musconetcong River, in rural mountainous New Jersey, indicates that the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act can be utilized to mobilize and align non-governmental, governmental, philanthropic, and private land-owner resources for restoring river water quality. For example, coordinated restoration efforts on one tributary reduced bacterial contamination by 95%, surpassing the TMDL goal of a 93% reduction. Stakeholder interviews and focus groups indicated widespread knowledge and motivation to improve water quality, but resource constraints limited the scale and scope of restoration efforts. The authors postulate that the Partnership framework, enabled in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, facilitated neo-endogenous rural development through improving water quality for recreational usage, whereby bottom-up restoration activities were catalyzed via federal designation and resource provision. However, further efforts to address water quality via voluntary participatory frameworks were ultimately limited by the public sector’s inadequate funding and inaction with regard to water and wildlife resources in the public trust.


Published Citation

Hunt, Alan R., Meiyin Wu, Tsung-Ta David Hsu, Nancy Roberts-Lawler, Jessica Miller, Alessandra Rossi, and Lee H. Lee. "Picking Up Where the TMDL Leaves Off: Using the Partnership Wild and Scenic River Framework for Collaborative River Restoration." Sustainability 13, no. 4 (2021): 1878.