Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

Moving the needle on climate adaptation

naf-mississippiriver-panelAfter four days with climate change adaptation professionals from throughout the U.S. it was clear that efforts to prepare both people and ecosystems for the impacts of increasingly altered climate systems have only amplified as the Federal Administration tries to cast doubt and roll back progress. This is heartening at a time in our society where good news is harder to come by.

Over 1000 people convened in May at the third National Adaptation Forum in St. Paul, Minnesota on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. Over the 6 years this biennial conference has occurred, I have watched the field of climate adaptation advance at a lightning pace. Cities are upgrading stormwater systems to handle more rain. Coastal towns are utilizing natural shorelines to protect people from rising sea levels. Natural resource managers are considering a new paradigm—transforming ecosystems rather than restoring them. Front line communities are demanding environmental and climate justice and bringing innovative community-based solutions to the task at hand.

I wanafpresentations proud to represent HRWC and the progress we have made to prepare both the river and our towns for a changing climate. I presented our Preparing the Huron River for Climate Change work (that you can learn about in this short film) along with a stellar group of organizations finding climate solutions that benefit both nature and people. Our work was featured in a report by the Wildlife Conservation Society released during the conference.  And we were honored as a finalist for our Climate Resilient Communities work by the American Association of Adaptation Professionals.

HRWC has the history, relationships, knowledge and trust necessary to help Huron River communities become more prepared. Organizations like HRWC all over the planet are moving the needle on adaptation.  But we need your help. Preparation will only help to a degree. What we need is to rapidly and significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for our warming planet.

Here are two immediate opportunities. If you live in Washtenaw County, come to our Solar Power Hour June 6th to determine if your home is a good candidate for solar and get access to discounts. And, no matter where you reside, consider joining HRWC and the Michigan Climate Action Network to help elevate this important issue in our state. It will take all of us.


2016 Stewardship Awardees

Last night, HRWC’s Annual Meeting featured highlights from 2016: progress on the Huron River Water Trail, green infrastructure projects and plans, updates on pollution prevention initiatives like coal tar and dioxane, and efforts to ready the watershed for climate change. Our work would not be possible without the amazing support given by our donors, funders, volunteers, and peer organizations. Please join us in celebrating a few who went above and beyond in recent years. You can read more about these folks in our summer newsletter, the Huron River Report, coming out in June.

HRWC Stewardship Awardees 2017

Janet Kahan, Melissa Damaschke, John M. Erb, Sally Rutzky and Wendy Schultz

Janet Kahan
Volunteer of the Year
Janet leads HRWC’s youth streamside education program, working with volunteers of all sorts to teach stream ecology and water quality to over 1000 students per year.

Sally Rutzky
Herb Munzel Achievement Award
Sally has been a stalwart supporter of the Huron, HRWC, and local communities as she’s advocated for better zoning and planning, gotten in the way of sand mining, and used her expert plant identification skills on behalf of the watershed.

Wendy Schultz
Extraordinary Partner Award
A key ally of HRWC’s water quality monitoring program, Wendy and her staff test our samples from Washtenaw County, identify and solve programmatic problems, and graciously greet our volunteers throughout the season offering tips and encouragement for collecting much needed water samples from our streams.

Erb Family Foundation
Big Splash Award
The Erb Family Foundation has been a forerunner in funding organizational growth and new programmatic initiatives including our RiverUp! program. Long-term support like theirs is key to nonprofit organizational health.

Join us in congratulating these watershed champions!


At 50 years, HRWC is looking back and forward

MEC award

An award (vase) honoring our 50 years of work from the Michigan Environmental Council

This year, HRWC is developing a new strategic plan in 2015 coinciding with the organization’s 50th year.  As part of that process, we held a focus group of staff and board members and a core group of advisers to review and provide input into a new organizational mission, vision and core values earlier this year and at the recent annual meeting the HRWC Board of Director’s approved the new missives.


The Huron River Watershed Council protects and restores the river for healthy and vibrant communities.

Vision Statement

We envision a future of clean and plentiful water for people and nature where citizens and government are effective and courageous champions for the Huron River and the watershed.

Core Values

To achieve that, we do the following:

We work with a collaborative and inclusive spirit to give all partners the opportunity to become stewards;
We generate science-based, trustworthy information for decision makers to ensure reliable supplies of clean water and resilient natural systems; and
We passionately advocate for the health of the river and the lands around it.


Please let me know your thoughts or comments (

Next, we will engage in a visioning process with the staff this summer that will define and document a vision of success for the organization. With common vision in hand, the staff and board will have the foundation for identifying strategic goals, outcomes, and metrics. A proposed strategic plan will be presented for review to this Board at the October 2015/January 2016 meeting.

Huron River Water Trail receives national designation

Uncork the champagne! The Huron River Water Trail is the newest National Water Trail.

Huron River Water Trail is 18th national water trailSecretary of the Interior Sally Jewell designated the Huron River Water Trail as the 18th trail of the National Water Trails System this week. The Huron River Water Trail joins a network of national exemplary water trails from Puget Sound to the Hudson River. The National Water Trails System is an inter-agency collaborative effort administrated by the National Park Service.

In the press release issued by the National Parks Service, Secretary Jewell recognized the achievements of local, state, and federal partners in the ever-growing water trail community. “Expanding water trails nationwide improves the environment and adds value to local economies”, said Secretary Jewell. “The National Water Trail System helps people discover the natural beauty and history of local places and provides fun opportunities for families to explore the world around them.”

The Huron River Water Trail will reap many benefits of designation into the National Water Trails System including:

* national promotion and visibility

* mutual support and knowledge sharing as part of a national network

* opportunities to obtain technical assistance and funding for planning and implementing water trail projects

As a result of designation, the partners to the Water Trail may gain positive economic impact from increased tourism, assistance with stewardship and sustainability projects, assistance with recognition and special events highlighting the trail, and more.

To be considered for designation, HRWC completed a rigorous application to demonstrate that the trail met criteria in seven management practice areas. The application was reviewed at multiple levels including a federal inter-agency panel review and final review by Secretary Jewell.

logo-hrwtThe Huron River Water Trail is a 104-mile inland paddling trail connecting people to the river’s natural environment, its history, and the communities it touches in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It is a consortium of interested groups and communities committed to providing residents and visitors with a safe, accessible, and enjoyable experience on the Huron River and in the Trail Towns. The Huron River Water Trail is a project of the Huron River Watershed Council and RiverUp!.


Laura Rubin, River Hero

River Network recognizes HRWC executive director for inspirational leadership.

Laura Rubin has been recognized as a 2013 River Hero by River Network, site a national association of watershed protection groups. The award celebrates rivers and watersheds, recognizes victories, and honors those who provide leadership that inspires the work of others and uses innovative strategies and techniques to achieve significant results.

Laura Rubin

Laura with her River Hero award, a hand-carved paddle symbolizing how River Heroes work with and are guided by rivers.

Laura, who is celebrating 15 years at HRWC’s helm, has been instrumental in establishing HRWC’s reputation as a regional and national leader in river protection work. Her leadership makes it possible to undertake innovative new initiatives like RiverUp!, a million dollar campaign for a river renaissance of the Huron River.

HRWC is known for its outstanding citizen scientist programs like Adopt-A-Stream and the Bioreserve Project, its stormwater and pollution management services for regulated communities, and programs that address natural areas protection, climate resiliency and water efficiency.  Laura’s efforts have shaped HRWC into an organization that provides a framework for local governments, citizens, non-profits, industries and regulators to partner for the benefit of the Huron River and its watershed.

Rubin and HRWC have made a difference.  A few notable achievements include:

  1. Implementing the first phosphorus reduction strategy in the state and seeing phosphorus numbers falling;
  2. Seeing the Village of Dexter embrace the river and build a vibrant downtown around the river through the successful removal of Dexter Dam;
  3. Protecting over 6,000 acres of high quality natural area and farmland with our partners in the watershed;
  4. Tackling climate issues making local communities more climate resilient and residents aware that saving waters, saves energy; and
  5. Developing a sound financial foundation for the organization, with a diverse source of funding. HRWC’s budget and ability to implement water quality programs has increased more than tenfold in her tenure, with an annual budget of $1,200,000 for fiscal year 2014.

“Laura has exceeded our expectations in building and leading team success–success in achieving measurable water quality results while creating programs designed to measure and accelerate further improvement of water quality throughout the watershed,” Evan Pratt, Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner and HRWC Board Chair.

Laura Rubin and Matt Naud

Laura Rubin and Matt Naud, City of Ann Arbor Environmental Coordinator.

Laura and four others were named River Heroes at River Network’s national conference, River Rally, in May. Long time colleague and friend Matt Naud, Environmental Coordinator for the City of Ann Arbor traveled to St. Louis to introduce Laura at the award ceremony.  “She has enthusiastically led our communities to the river . . . and we are better for it. Neither the Huron River nor the watershed communities who enjoy her will ever be the same thanks to our River Hero, Laura Rubin,” stated Matt.

Laura has also been recognized for her outstanding public service with a “Special Tribute” from the State of Michigan and a “Proclamation” from the City of Ann Arbor declaring May 20, 2013 “Laura Rubin Day”.

Congratulations Laura!

Catch the video of the award ceremony at River Rally.

HRWC to be inducted into state hall of fame

MI Env Hall of Fame logo

The Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame logo

The Huron River Watershed Council has been selected as the first Non-Profit Organization to be inducted in to the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame, announced officials with the Muskegon Environmental Research & Education Society on Tuesday. The Society’s press release stated that HRWC is known for “building partnerships between and among communities, community leaders, residents and commercial enterprises.” Executive Director Laura Rubin will represent HRWC at the inaugural induction ceremony for the Hall of Fame on May 2, 2012 at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids.

The Society’s Chairman Ron Brown commended HRWC on making “a significant difference in improving the environment of the Huron River. It is time that we bring honor to those non-profits that have worked tirelessly to make sure we can always have a safe and nurturing environment to live in, not just for ourselves, but for the generations to come.” HRWC is honored by this recognition.

The first class of inductees also includes five impressive individuals from around the state for their roles in promoting environmental causes.

HRWC Volunteers Recognized for Dedication

HRWC honored several volunteers at its 45th annual meeting on Thursday April 29, recognizing their dedication to the Huron River. This year’s Volunteer Award recipients were: Rochelle Breitenbach for the Herb Munzel Zebra Mussel Award, John Knott for the That’s Using Your Headwaters Award, Lee Green for the Laminar Flow Award and Alex Bajcz for the Vanishing Species Award.

HRWC Volunteer Award Recipients 2010.

We also thanked Eric Sweeney, a volunteer graduate intern who spent the winter with us working on the Bioreserve Project. His computer programming skills reduced a half day report-writing process to a half an hour task and he set up field assessments on natural area properties for the entire spring portion of this year’s field season! We are very happy Eric will re-join us in a couple of weeks to help out in the field.

Watershed gets Recovery Funds for Projects

Rain water infiltration projects like this rain garden will be among those considered to treat stormwater.

HRWC secured two grants in 2010 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The funding is going to mapping storm drain connections across the watershed, sick identifying potential “hot spots” for pollution, monitoring to confirm and find pollution sources, and developing high priority projects for reducing pollution from stormwater sources.

One grant is being awarded to the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner on behalf of local governments and other partners in the middle Huron River watershed.  That project is worth nearly $172,000, with $135,000 in grant funds.  The second grant is being awarded to the Livingston County Drain Commissioner on behalf of partners in the Chain of Lakes subwatershed.  That project is worth $111,000, of which $99,000 is from grant funds.  The grants are being awarded through a competitive bid process administered by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (now the Department of Natural Resources and Environment).  HRWC will be working with local government partners in both projects to help identify and eliminate pollution sources from the watershed.

Stormwater Innovations at Doyle Park Win Award

Stormwater treatment wetland at Doyle Park (credit: CDM)

Mary Beth Doyle Park and Wetland Preserve has been selected for an award “for innovation and excellence” at this Winter’s Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners conference.

Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner Janis Bobrin worked closely with the City of Ann Arbor, buy viagra Pittsfield Township, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to obtain grants to assist with the design and construction of the 15-acre Wetland Preserve.   The Wetland Preserve is designed to help reduce flooding and improve water quality within Malletts Creek and provides opportunities for wildlife viewing throughout the year.

The Park and Wetland Preserve includes a maintainable sediment capture pool, low flow channel, extended detention wetland, and a higher quality mitigation wetland. It provides first flush water quality treatment for eight square miles of upstream urban runoff, reduces downstream velocities and maintains the pre-existing flood control function need to protect downstream properties. Construction included removal and disposal of 33,000 cubic yd of contaminated sediment. These innovations are expected to reduce 980 lbs/yr of phosphorus from Malletts Creek to the Huron River.

This Ann Arbor park encompasses 80 acres of parkland with many recreational opportunities including boardwalk trails along Malletts Creek and through wooded areas. Be sure to check out the park soon!

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