Willamette River wins 2012 Thiess International Riverprize

News & Media

Melbourne, 9 October 2012. The Willamette River Initiative of Oregon, USA, was awarded the 2012 Thiess International Riverprize for excellence in river management by the International River Foundation (IRF).

2012 Riverprize winners pose with prize check

The award was presented at the Riverprize Gala Dinner, in Melbourne Australia, on Tuesday 9 October. The Thiess International Riverprize is worth 300,000 Australian Dollars (approximately 240,000 Euros)  and is the most prestigious environmental prize in the world. 

The Willamette River Initiative is implemented by the Meyer Memorial Trust, an organisation made up of dozens of stakeholders who are jointly involved in the planning, management and regulation of activities that affect the river. 

Pam Wiley from the Meyer Memorial Trust thanked all of the stakeholders who are involved in the project and said that receiving the Thiess International Riverprize and attending the Internatonal Riversymposium was very encouraging and a great experience.

“Someone once said to me that in this line of work, there is no final victory, but there is progress. The last couple of days have been a lesson to me in progress and have made me very hopeful for my children’s generation”.

The Willamette River Initiative was chosen for their effective, collaborative approach that has resulted in marked improvements to the health of the river over the past decade.  The project has tackled a range of challenges including toxic chemical threat, high water temperatures, a confined channel, dam-altered flows, loss of floodplain forests, population growth and climate change. 

Matthew Reddy, CEO of the International RiverFoundation, said “the Willamette River is a true American turn-around story and richly deserving of the world’s most valuable environmental award.  The Meyer Memorial Trust has partnered with universities, NGOs and Watershed Councils as part of a concerted effort to restore the river and all organisations should be congratulated for their team effort.”

The Meyer Memorial Trust now has the opportunity to develop a twinning programme with another river basin in a different country to share their award winning knowledge and encourage others.  The twinning programme will receive support from the International RiverFoundation and its global community of river practitioners.

The other finalists in the 2012 Thiess International Riverprize were the Okavango River Basin (Angola, Botswana and Namibia) Prespa Lakes (Greece) and the Nushagak River (Alaska, USA) - which was declared Highly Commended by the judges. The Nushagak River is a unique example of the need to engage in protection activities for rivers of ecological significance.

“With three other worthy international finalists, 2012 stands out as a highly competitive year so we pay tribute to all finalists on making the event such a tightly fought encounter”, said Mr Reddy.

The ICPDR won the International Riverprize in 2007 and has recently formed a partnership with the IRF and the European Centre for River Restoration to establish a European Riverprize. The Thiess International Riverprize is awarded annually along with the Australian Riverprize, the European Riverprize will be awarded for the first time in 2013.