The Willamette River has won the Thiess International Riverprize, an annual award given by the International River Foundation based in Brisbane, Australia. Riverprize recognizes outstanding, visionary and sustainable programs in river basin management and is the most prestigious environmental prize in the world.
Meyer Memorial Trust entered the competition on behalf of the many groups and individuals involved in efforts to improve watershed health across the Willamette Basin, including grantees and other partners involved in the Trust’s Willamette River Initiative.
The North Santiam Watershed Council is a participant in the model watershed component of Portland-based Meyer Memorial Trust’s Willamette River Initiative.
The award speaks to the progress of Willamette River restoration over the past two decades. Dozens of grassroots organizations, government agencies, scientists, businesses and landowners are working to protect and restore the Willamette. Through its Willamette River Initiative, the Meyer Memorial Trust has invested over $6 million in these efforts since 2008. In cooperation with four partners – the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation — the initiative also provides technical assistance and coordination services to grantees and other groups working to improve the health of the river. Through these efforts, Meyer Memorial Trust and its partners aim to make meaningful and measurable improvements in the Willamette River by 2018.
“Riverprize validates the thoughtful and tireless efforts of the many organizations and individuals working on behalf of the Willamette River,” said Meyer Memorial Trust CEO Doug Stamm. “While improving river conditions across a basin as large as the Willamette is a daunting challenge, the right partners working together, using strong science and sharing a common agenda, is making a real difference. Meyer Memorial Trust is extremely honored to play a role in bringing this recognition to the Willamette, and hopes it inspires continued collaborative efforts to improve the river’s health.”
In the mid-1900s the Willamette River was so polluted in some stretches that fish immersed in river water died within seconds. The river has been straightened and simplified, and bottomland forests have been replaced by agricultural and urban development. Flood control efforts have dramatically altered natural river processes and habitats. In spite of these ongoing challenges, great strides have been made to improve Willamette water quality, protect key lands, and restore habitat for salmon and other native species.
“The Willamette River is a true American turn-around story and richly deserving of the world’s most valuable environmental award,” said Matthew Reddy, CEO of the International River Foundation. “The Meyer Memorial Trust has partnered with universities, NGOs and watershed councils as part of a concerted effort to restore the river and all organizations should be congratulated for their team effort.”