2015 River Heroes Award Winners
Five leaders from the river and water conservation community have been recognized by River Network for their exceptional personal and professional achievements in support of healthy rivers. The accomplishments being recognized include safeguarding Idaho’s rivers, improving the health of Seattle’s Duwamish River, protecting endangered Atlantic salmon, creating water management solutions for the Colorado River, and restoring Maine’s Penobscot River. The River Hero award is an acknowledgement of the significant contribution of each of the individuals to protecting our most vital natural resource—water.
Since 2002, River Network has recognized sixty-seven individuals from the U.S. and beyond with the prestigious River Hero award. This award is unique within the conservation community given its focus on water, local champions, and peer recognition. Each candidate must be nominated by those they work with who attest to their transformative work at a particular river or geography.
The 2015 River Heroes are:
Bill Sedivy, Executive Director, Idaho Rivers United (ID): Bill has dedicated more than 15 years of his life to river conservation. As the leader of Idaho Rivers United, he has crafted alliances with unlikely partners to realize nationally important river conservation success. In 2009, Bill’s strategic work secured Congress’ designation of 328 miles of the Owyhee and Bruneau Rivers to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. His accomplishments extend to helping stop more than 18 proposed dams on Idaho’s rivers; safeguarding rivers with existing National Wild & Scenic Rivers System status, including the Clearwater, Lochsa and Middle Fork Salmon Rivers; and protecting Columbia and Snake River salmon.
BJ Cummings, Founder, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition / Technical Advisory Group (WA): Over the past 20 years, BJ has provided invaluable leadership in securing the cleanup of Seattle’s damaged Duwamish River. BJ founded the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group (DRCC/TAG), which subsequently led to the naming of Seattle’s only river as a Superfund site and set in motion 13 years of advocacy work. In 2014, BJ led a public involvement campaign called “River For All”, which resulted in thousands of formal comments on EPA’s cleanup plan with testimony in 10 languages; more than 43,000 letters written to the City of Seattle and King County backing the initiative, and celebrity support from Grammy Award winner, Macklemore. Today, the EPA has a final Record of Decision for the Duwamish that commits more than $300 million to its cleanup, in large part due to BJ’s efforts.
Dwayne Shaw, Executive Director, Downeast Salmon Federation (ME): For over 30 years, Dwayne has been a leader in river and fisheries conservation in the northeastern U.S. His work began with the removal of the Pleasant River dam and the renovation of the facility as a hatchery and fisheries research center, which in turn became the first non-governmental hatchery in the U.S. to be permitted to raise endangered Atlantic salmon for stocking the rivers of Maine. In 2000, Dwayne led the removal of the East Machias River dam and received the National Coastal American Partnership Award from President George W. Bush. His work in dam removal, watershed conservation center development, land conservation and river protection advocacy has had a lasting and significant impact in an underserved region dependent upon healthy rivers.
Jennifer Pitt, Colorado River Project Director, Environmental Defense Fund (CO): Jennifer has spent more than 15 years working to protect and restore the Colorado River Delta. Her efforts include her recent central role in the development and implementation of the internationally recognized agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, “Minute 319”, which guides future management of the Colorado River through 2017. The agreement included a provision for a “pulse flow”, a large-scale experimental release of water in the Delta by the U.S. and Mexico that has since been globally recognized by scientific communities and international governments. Her expertise in legal and policy framework has facilitated the development of practical programs to restore Colorado River habitats and has resulted in strong water policy solutions that benefit both water users and the environment.
Laura Rose Day, Executive Director, Penobscot River Restoration Trust (ME): For more than 15 years, Laura has actively and effectively worked to bring restorative change to the Penobscot River. In her past role as Rivers Coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Laura organized, initiated and guided negotiations for the Penobscot River Restoration Project, which began in 1999. Laura then facilitated the completion and signing of a Multiparty Settlement Agreement and oversaw the creation of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust in 2004, the acquisition of three dams on the river in 2010, the removal of two of those dams in 2012 and 2013, and the expected completion of an innovative fish bypass in 2015. The bypass will improve fish access to some 1,000 miles of quality habitat in the river and its tributaries that Laura has helped restore and protect.
“We are so impressed by this year’s River Heroes. These are people who go far beyond what we expect and even what we imagine is possible for our rivers,” said Nicole Silk, River Network President. “Local champions like these are a critical ingredient to a future where healthy rivers and thriving communities are the rule rather than the exception. By elevating their accomplishments, we hope that they inspire others to do more for our most precious resource, water.”
River Network’s 2015 River Heroes award banquet honoring the winners will be held on May 4, 2015 as part of the organization’s annual conference. This year’s event is in New Mexico and will include over 400 river advocates and enthusiasts from across the U.S. and around the world.
For details about the River Hero program, visit www.riverheroes.org. Nominations are now open for 2016 River Heroes.