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Willamette Partnership Project ReceivesTargeted Watershed Grant

Release Date: 11/9/2005
Contact Information: Bevin Reid
(206) 553-1566

November 9, 2005

To help protect and restore America’s waterways, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the third round of Targeted Watershed Grants. The "Willamette Partnership" in Oregon was identified among 12 projects nationwide to receive funding under this program this year. The Partnership has been identified for $779,000 for an innovative water quality trading program to reduce stream temperatures and support salmon recovery.

According to M. Socorro Rodriguez, EPA's Oregon Operations Director, the best watershed protection efforts are those that include everyone in the process. “This grant not only recognizes the importance of the Willamette River Basin to our region, but it also recognizes the innovative efforts of the dedicated people who formed the Willamette Partnership," Rodriguez said. "This diverse group is working together toward a common environmental goal. The Partnership's water quality trading project is an excellent example of how much can be accomplished when all of the stakeholders in a watershed come together and work collaboratively.”

The Willamette Partnership Project

The Willamette Partnership will create an innovative "trading" approach to significantly improve water quality in the Willamette River watershed. Under the program, water quality trading will first be used to reduce water temperatures to support salmon recovery. The trading program will use "conservation credits" whereby entities that either discharge water directly to the river or contribute run-off can invest in conservation measures such as planting trees or restoring floodplains to reduce stream temperatures instead of using higher cost, higher energy consuming methods to cool their discharge water.

This initiative in the Willamette follows the successful example set by Clean Water Services on the Tualatin River. In the Tualatin, Clean Water Services is allowed to invest in habitat restoration higher in the watershed which accomplishes the same goal as installing equipment to cool the temperature of the water they discharge.

Although water quality trading is also being implemented in other areas in the U.S., the Willamette Partnership’s project will be the largest one of its kind. It will also set a precedent in establishing a “bank” of restoration and conservation projects that are ready to implement. These projects will attract stakeholders in the watershed who will use the temperature reduction “credits” generated by the projects to meet their reductions required under the Willamette’s water quality improvement plan.

In addition to establishing a dynamic marketplace for temperature reduction credits, the Willamette Partnership plans to create credits for the environmental benefits these projects will also provide, such as flood plain or habitat restoration. Various protection and restoration projects throughout the watershed will be evaluated by how many temperature credits and environmental benefit credits they generate. Dischargers that need to meet a temperature reduction target will be able to purchase the credits, with the price determined by the cost of the projects. This marketplace will drive investment in projects that provide the greatest environmental return to the watershed at the lowest possible cost.

Targeted Watershed Grants Protect Water Quality

The EPA Targeted Watersheds Grant Program began in 2002 to protect America's waterways. In its first two years, EPA awarded $30 million in grants to 34 watershed organizations across the country. For fiscal year 2005, Congress approved $10 million for grants to support community-based approaches and activities to help local water resources.

Targeted Watershed Grants are delivered to encourage successful community-based approaches and management techniques to protect and restore the nation's waters. The watershed organizations receiving grants this year exhibited strong partnerships with a wide variety of support; creative, socio-economic approaches to water restoration and protection; and explicit monitoring and environmentally-based performance measures.

The 34 watersheds already in the program cover more than 110,000 square miles of the nation's lakes, rivers, and streams. They represent varied landscapes from the forests of Maine to the tropics of Hawaii, from the sparsely populated areas in Alaska to highly urbanized watersheds of the East Coast. Funds are already going toward restoration and protection projects such as stream stabilization and habitat enhancement, implementing agricultural and storm water best management practices, and working with local municipalities and homeowners to promote sustainable practices and strategies. The selected organizations were chosen to receive the awards because their projects were the most likely to achieve environmental results quickly.

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