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Tri-State Water Quality Council Receives National Watershed Award

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SANDPOINT, Idaho – Imagine the complexities of trying to improve the quality of water in an area that covers 26,000 square miles inhabited by almost a quarter of a million people in three states, nearly a dozen counties and dozens of large and small communities. The task is a monumental one, but for eight years it has been successfully addressed by a small group of dedicated people committed to seeing clean water becomes a reality throughout the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille watershed.

    The Tri-State Water Quality Council based in Sandpoint, Idaho has won the 2001 CF Industries National Watershed Award for the Council’s effective non-regulatory approaches to improve water quality in the basin. The Council was one of four national winners announced by the Conservation Fund.

    The Council’s efforts span from Butte, Montana and the Continental Divide to the northern Idaho Panhandle and northeastern Washington. A diverse group of stakeholders – including citizens, tribes, companies, environmental groups and public agencies – have united to protect the 26,000 square-mile Clark Fork – Pend Oreille Watershed. Included are the Clark Fork, Flathead and Pend Oreille rivers, and two gems of the northern Rockies – Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi; and Lake Pend Oreille, one of the deepest lakes on the continent.

    Partnerships, nutrient reduction agreements, water monitoring and public education are some of the model programs that placed the group in the winner’s circle.

    “The Council is delighted to receive this award because it underscores the successes that can be won when a group works together to achieve a common goal,” said Ruth Watkins, Executive Director of the Tri-State Water Quality Council. “Through collaboration and consensus, and often working behind the scenes, Council members and subcommittee volunteers have been dedicated to reaching a goal of clean water across the watershed.”

    “Members of the Council, its subcommittees and volunteers typify the leadership, commitment and innovative ideas necessary to improve our communities, farmland and watersheds,” said CF Industries President and Chief Executive Officer Robert C. Liuzzi. “We hope that by showcasing resourceful solutions, other watershed organizations can benefit from the success of similar groups.”

    The Tri-State Water Quality Council was formed in 1993 following a study that identified excessive nutrients as the primary water quality issue affecting the basin. Communities involved in the effort include the Idaho city of Sandpoint and the Montana cities of Butte, Deer Lodge and Missoula.

    Highlights of the Tri-State Water Quality Council efforts include:

-A voluntary Nutrient Reduction Plan to reduce “nutrient loading” by 80 percent among major municipal and industrial sources and by 20 percent from non-point sources along 200 miles of the Clark Fork River in Montana.

-A precedent-setting agreement between Montana and Idaho to protect the water quality in Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille.

-A watershed-wide monitoring program to provide comprehensive information on long-term water quality trends.

-Water quality education and outreach programs throughout the thee-state region.

-Technical and financial assistance for communities to develop wastewater treatment and discharge alternatives.

-Leveraging more then $100,000 worth of in-kind goods and services annually for water quality programs.

    The goal of the CF Industries Watershed Award is to recognize model programs that protect the nation’s watersheds. Other 2001 award winners included the Champlain Basin Program in New York and Vermont, the Duck Creek Watershed Management Project in Alaska and the Alliant Energy Riverland Conservancy in Wisconsin.

    CF Industries is one of North America’s largest interregional cooperatives, owned by and serving nine regional cooperatives. The company distributes its nitrogen and phosphate products to farmers and ranchers in 48 states and two Canadian provinces. CF is headquartered in Long Grove, IL.

    The award is administered by The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit organization based in Arlington, VA, that acts to protect the nation’s land and water resources.  The Conservation Fund works in partnership with other organizations, public agencies, foundations, corporations and individuals. Since its establishment in 1985, the organization has helped its partners safeguard wildlife habitat, greenways, community “greenspace” and historic sites totaling three million acres throughout the United States.

    For more information about Tri-State Water Quality Council contact Ruth Watkins at 208-265-9092.


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Dennis Nicholls Dennis Nicholls was the founder, publisher, janitor and paperboy of the River Journal from 1993 to 2001. He passed away in 2009.

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