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 partnership 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.
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 City of Rochester alone. The funds also supported the purchase of land in floodplains for permanent restoration efforts.
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.
USFWS-National Fish Passage Program: http://www.fws.gov/fisheries/facilities/nfpp.html
USFWS-National Fish Passage Program/Northeast: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/fisheries/help/nfpp.html
White River Partnership: http://www.whiteriverpartnership.org/