Willamette River Restoration Efforts win 2012 Thiess International Riverprize

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.

Willamette River wins River Prize

Oregon’s Willamette River

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.”


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