First Annual Healthy Headwaters Innovation Award
Commissioner Steve Mital, President of Eugene Water & Electric Board, accepts the award for Outstanding Innovation in Watershed Investment and Source Water Protection presented by Kimery Wiltshire of Carpe Diem West and Dan Whelan, Natural Resources Liaison and Field Representative for Senator Jeff Merkley.
Last Friday we held our 10th Healthy Headwaters Leadership Convening in Eugene, Oregon. Each of our convenings is an opportunity to highlight some of the great watershed investment work going on around the American West.
We took that opportunity a step further in Eugene with our first annual Healthy Headwaters Innovation Award. This inaugural award went to Karl Morgenstern and Eugene Water & Electric Board for outstanding leadership and innovation in watershed investment and source water protection for their McKenzie Watershed Voluntary Incentives Program.
The program, better known around EWEB as the VIP, is a drinking water source protection strategy that rewards rural landowners who maintain high quality land along the McKenzie River. The VIP is particularly innovative, because while paying landowners to help mitigate water quality impairments is not new, doing so without a regulatory driver such as a TMDL restriction is truly forward-thinking. The VIP is helping Eugene’s residents realize that protecting the excellent water quality in the McKenzie River is worth investing in now, before costly water treatment infrastructure and large-scale watershed restoration becomes necessary.
Karl has worked tirelessly over the last few years, shepherding this project from concept, through pilot testing, and on to full program roll out in 2016. His contributions to the McKenzie Watershed and to the entire field of western water management make Karl an obvious choice for our first-ever Healthy Headwaters Innovation Award for Outstanding Leadership. We’re delighted that we could present this award to Karl on his home turf to let his colleagues know that Karl is kind of a big deal. Not that they didn’t already know that – the McKenzie Watershed Collaborative group jokes that Karl has been so essential to the VIP that the program’s logo should be a picture of his face. We think that’s an excellent idea!
Congratulations again to Karl and EWEB for their well-deserved recognition. We can’t wait to see the full VIP in action next year.
Kristiana Teige Witherill
October 19, 2015