In our Environmental Planning class, we speak of the need to utilize the “watershed approach”–recognizing that, despite differing political and cultural boundaries, our environmental uses and abuses affect everyone within the same drainage basin.

My awakening to the fact that River des Peres was a real river did not include an accompanying realization that it would have its own watershed.

But, of course, it does.

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And it’s large! If you recall my previous post explicating St. Louis geography, you might notice that the RDP watershed covers almost the entire City of St. Louis and a sizeable chunk of its suburbs as well.

Watershed planning often complicates matters. The City of St. Louis is wholly separate from St. Louis County (remember?), where the headwaters of the River des Peres are located. Planning for the River des Peres includes not just the City of St. Louis and the County, but also the many municipalities covered in the watershed.

There are 92 cities within St. Louis County–some of the highest levels of governmental fragmentation you’ll find anywhere in the country. Large and suburban Jefferson Parish (a very rough metropolitan equivalent to St. Louis County) has just six, for comparison purposes. At least 20 of those towns and cities are touched by the RDP watershed. Many are home rule cities that cannot be coerced into adopting a watershed-wide planning process.

The problems ahead for a full-scale restoration for the River are plenty. More on that in the upcoming history post.

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