October 22, 2012
On Saturday, October 20, the White River Partnership received the National Fish Passage Program’s Partner of the Year Award from the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Today, the USFWS released the following press release about the award:
For Release: October 22, 2012 Contact: Catherine Hibbard 413-531-4276
Vermont’s White River Partnership received the 2012 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Fish Passage Program’s Partner of the Year Award at the partnership’s annual meeting in Rochester, VT.
The partnership, a small community-based non-profit organization, was recognized for its professionalism, dedication, and leadership in response to Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The storm damaged thousands of culverts and caused widespread flooding, stranding residents and isolating towns in the White River basin.
Mary and Greg Russ, Executive Director and Project Manager of the Oartnership respectively, acted quickly following the storm to identify failed road culverts and notify local, state, and federal authorities. Their efforts triggered the deployment of Service fish passage engineers and stream restoration experts to ensure that road crossing repairs promoted fish passage.
Fish-friendly crossings not only protect fish, they protect communities and are more economical in the long run because they can withstand flood events.
“Restoring waterways to reconnect habitats for fish is a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Northeast. We are honored to work with the White River Partnership to meet our mutual goals in Vermont. The efforts of Mary and Greg Russ will improve conditions for fish and also for people for generations to come,” said Wendi Weber, northeast regional director for the Service.
Based on their experience responding to the 2011 storm, the Russes have continued to advocate for fish-friendly culverts and their environmental, social and economic benefits.
As a result of the on-the-ground response following Irene, FEMA’s Public Assistance Program provided nearly $3 million in funding to rebuild storm-damaged infrastructure in the Town of Rochester alone. The funds also supported the purchase of land in floodplains for permanent restoration efforts.
“We are very grateful for all the help provided to us by the White River Partnership and Mary and Greg Russ,” said Rochester Selectman Larry Straus. “This led directly to a partnership between the Town, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fish Passage Program, U.S. Forest Service, and White River Partnership for funding to build improved, fish friendly projects for at least five damaged structures. They are the catalyst that made this joint project happen.”
The Partnership’s efforts also “helped spur a national discussion on road crossing standards,” said Susan Wells, the Service’s national fish passage program coordinator.
Initiated in 1999, the Service’s national fish passage program works with local communities to restore river systems. More than 700 partners nationwide collaborate with the program to rebuild infrastructure for long term resiliency and health of fisheries. Each year the program recognizes the accomplishments of one of these partners.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit our website, connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.