Ohio River Basin Alliance (ORBA)
The Ohio River Basin Alliance (ORBA) is a collaborative, unified voice of stakeholders for water resource priorities of the Ohio River Basin striving to sustain healthy ecosystems and river communities and vibrant water-dependent economies. ORBA provides a forum for addressing water resource issues in the Ohio River Basin in today’s changing environment.
ORBA began in 2009 as an outgrowth of the Ohio River Basin Summit co-led by Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Today, ORBA includes members from over 200 organizations including local, state, and federal agencies, as well as commissions, industry, academia, and non-profit organizations.
ORBA is governed by an 18-member Steering Committee. This committee includes ORBA Working Group leaders who oversee six key goal areas in the Ohio River Basin Strategic Plan.
The Ohio River Basin Strategic Plan
In 2019 and 2020, ORBA worked with ORSANCO and the US Army Corps of Engineers to develop a Strategic Plan for the Ohio River Basin. This document provides six Ohio River Basin-wide priorities (goals), and lays out objectives and strategic actions for meeting those goals:
- Abundant Clean Water: Ensure the quality and quantity of water in the Ohio River Basin is adequate to support the economic, social, and environmental functions that are dependent on it.
- Healthy and Productive Ecosystems: Conserve, enhance, and restore ecosystems within the Ohio River Basin to support natural habitats and the fish and wildlife resources that depend upon them.
- Knowledge and Education to Inform Decisions: Ensure that research and education adequately inform Ohio River Basin-wide economic, social, and environmental decisions; enhance the profile of education organizations in the Basin that synergize efforts to garner effective public involvement in the stewardship and management of the Basin’s resources.
- Nation’s Most Valuable River Transportation and Commerce Corridor: Provide for safe, efficient, and dependable commercial navigation within the Ohio River Basin to ensure a competitive advantage for our goods in global and regional markets; sustain a water use system to efficiently and effectively support agricultural, industrial, and energy productivity.
- Reliable Flood Risk Management: Provide reliable flood risk management through well-managed and maintained infrastructure, including appropriate floodplain connections for water conveyance and ecosystem benefits, and management of surface and storm water runoff to better protect life, property, and economies.
- World-class Nature-based Recreation Opportunities: Enrich the quality of life for people and recreation-based economies by maintaining and enhancing riverine, lake, and wetland-associated recreation within the Basin.
Ohio River Restoration
As part of the “Healthy and Productive Ecosystems Goal”, ORBA leaders from the National Wildlife Federation and ORSANCO are drafting an Ohio River Restoration Plan that will secure federal funding from Congress to restore, protect, and enhance ecosystems within the Ohio River Basin. This is significant because, unlike other key water systems, like the Great Lakes, the Ohio River Basin does not receive any such funding from the federal government. The plan will offer a “blueprint” for federal action, including the designation of the Ohio River as a protected water system that receives significant, sustained federal investment.
Each of the six ORBA workgroups, as well as ORBA subcommittees, contributed to the Ohio River Restoration Plan. Public input was also gathered for the plan through a series of virtual and in-person listening sessions that took place throughout the Ohio River Basin in 2022 and 2023. The draft Plan will be shared with the Ohio River Basin Caucus and members of Congress in the spring and summer of 2023.