Groups push for federal help with Ohio River cleanup

By Miranda Willson | 05/13/2024 01:39 PM EDT

“The big-picture goal is we want to elevate Ohio River restoration protection as a national issue,” said one of the advocates.

The Ohio River is seen from the Wheeling Suspension Bridge in West Virginia.

The Ohio River is seen from the Wheeling Suspension Bridge in Wheeling, West Virginia, in August 2022. Efforts are underway to secure dedicated funding for restoration of the river. Francis Chung/POLITICO

Environmentalists and local and federal officials are locking arms to push for restoring the Ohio River, one of the most polluted U.S. waterways that they say is overdue for federal funding.

“The Ohio River is the largest body of water in the entire country that doesn’t receive a dollar in federal funds,” said Rep. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville and co-chair of the Ohio River Basin Congressional Caucus.

Congress has allocated billions over the years to the Great Lakes, Everglades, Chesapeake Bay and other bodies of water. This week, environmental advocates, local officials and allies in Congress are convening in Washington to make their case for adding the Ohio River to that list of nationally significant waterways.


Advocates involved in the Ohio River Basin Alliance have spent the past year holding listening sessions in the region and are preparing to release a restoration plan. Their blueprint will address water infrastructure; legacy contaminants like PCBs; and waste from mining, farms and chemical plants, among other issues, said Jordan Lubetkin, director of Ohio River restoration at the National Wildlife Federation.