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Release Date: 04/25/1997
Contact Information: Kathleen Bogie, (617)918-1976

BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized 38 New England environmental champions, including two from Vermont, with Environmental Merit Awards during an Earth Day celebration today at Faneuil Hall in Boston.

"New Englanders have a long tradition of being acutely aware of their environment and taking action to protect it. We are pleased to honor just a few of those that truly deserve recognition for their actions," said EPA Regional Administrator John DeVillars. "The winners, in fact all of the nominees, set an example for all of us to follow."

The Merit Awards, presented annually since 1970, recognize demonstrated commitment and significant contributions to the environment. The winners were selected from nearly 100 nominees received this year from businesses, media, local and state government officials, environmental organizations, and citizen activists.

The Vermont winners and basis for recognition are:

Karen Coffey has emerged as a leading advocate for watershed protection in northern Vermont, working tirelessly to improve water quality in the Lake Memphremagog Basin. Ms. Coffey has served as Executive Director of the Lake Memphremagog Watershed Association and almost single-handedly maintains this relatively new organization. During this past year, she organized the March River Walk and the Wonderful Water Celebration in May, coordinated the Watershed 96 downlink site that allowed area residents to participate in a national conference sponsored by the Water Environment Federation, and initiated several watershed restoration projects on Lake Memphremagog tributary streams, including the use of bioengineering techniques for streambank and aquatic habitat restoration. Additionally, Ms. Coffey served on the Board of Directors of the Northeast Kingdom Trout Unlimited Chapter in 1996 as an integral part of the leadership, as she has for several years.

As Science Coordinator for the River Watch Network (RWN) and current chair of the Water Quality Committee of the Connecticut River Joint Commission, Geoff Dates makes river monitoring an accessible, rewarding, and enjoyable experience for river watch groups. He has been instrumental throughout New England in establishing the credibility of volunteer monitoring groups that measure the effectiveness of non-point source controls in improving water quality. Mr. Dates vision is for volunteer and school monitoring groups across the country to provide decision makers at all levels with information to restore and protect river ecosystems. In his own words, "I want [volunteers] to collect the highest quality information they can, develop the best understanding that our current state of knowledge allows, and then make clear decisions in the face of scientific uncertainty. I want them to err on the side of sustainability."