Yuba Water Agency’s Watershed Resilience Program Wins 2021 Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters Award
Forest Resilience Bonds are First of Their Kind
Atlanta, GA (October 22, 2021) – The National Hydropower Association (NHA) today announced Yuba Water Agency’s Watershed Resilience Program received the 2021 Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters (OSAW) Award in the category of Recreational, Environmental & Historical Enhancement.
The category of Recreational, Environmental & Historical Enhancement recognizes hydropower projects that provide enhanced recreational opportunities for the general public, offer measurable benefits that mitigate, conserve, preserve, or enhance the natural resources, or conserve historical aspects of hydropower facilities and their integration with the surrounding community.
Leveraging Forest Resilience Bonds, Yuba Water Agency partnered with local agencies to establish the Watershed Resilience Program to aid in reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire as a result of overly- dense forests that are more susceptible to high-severity wildfire, insects, disease and drought. The changing climate mixed with an unsustainable forest management history has increased the number and severity of wildfires endangering forests and headwaters vital to California’s waterways, water agencies, and communities.
In addition to the avoided costs in the millions of dollars from reduced risk of catastrophic fire, the program has reduced the associated risk to water infrastructure, water quality and post- fire cleanup of sediment and woody debris inflows. To date, over 1,325 acres of fuel reduction has been completed.
“NHA is thrilled to present Yuba Water Agency with the OSAW Award for Recreational, Environmental & Historical Enhancement,” said LeRoy Coleman, Director of Communications, NHA. “Yuba Water Agency’s innovative approach to financing forest resilience and collaboration with regional partners shows they are outstanding stewards of their waterway and environment. Healthy forests are a vital component to healthy waterways and being able to generate affordable, reliable clean energy for the area through hydroelectric production.”
”We are honored to receive this award and grateful for the recognition of our Watershed Resilience Program,” said Willie Whittlesey, general manager of Yuba Water Agency. “As a forester by trade, I’m extremely passionate about the topic, and Yuba Water is committed to growing the incredible collaboration taking place to increase the pace and scale of these efforts and to reduce the risk of a catastrophic wildfire in the Yuba River watershed. This critical work will make our forest more resilient and ensure that our communities and our facilities are protected from the threat of a megafire.”
The financing strategy provides up-front implementation funding and eliminates the long delay in payments associated with grants. This approach is facilitating an unprecedented pace of implementation of forest health thinning treatments at a faster pace than would usually be seen.
About the Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters Awards
In 1994, the National Hydropower Association (NHA) created the Hydro Achievement Awards to recognize organizations and projects committed to excellence in the development and operation of hydropower. In 1999, NHA added the Outstanding Stewardship of America’s Rivers (OSAR) Report to profile the best examples of hydropower’s ability to generate clean, renewable, reliable and affordable electricity while protecting the riverine ecosystem. Beginning in 2007, these two recognition programs were merged to more effectively provide recognition to deserving organizations and to reflect the changing nature of the hydropower industry, particularly the fact that hydropower can be used in various waterways. The new award program is called the Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters (OSAW).
OSAW Awards are given out in three distinct categories:
- Operational Excellence: projects that add value to the hydropower industry through technical contributions, innovation, engineering, upgrades and improvements or technology breakthroughs for new hydropower technologies
- Recreational, Environmental & Historical Enhancement: projects that provide enhanced recreational opportunities for the general public, offer measurable benefits that mitigate, conserve, preserve, or enhance the natural resources, or conserve historical aspects of hydropower facilities and their integration with the surrounding community.
- Public Education: programs that effectively communicate and promote the benefits of hydropower through mediums such as curriculum, learning centers, videos or outreach programs.
NHA invites you to learn more about these outstanding endeavors, both past and present, at www.hydro.org/osaw.