2019 National Wetlands Awards Winners

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2019 National Wetlands Awards!

30th Anniversary Lifetime Achievement
Richard Grant
Narrow River Preservation Association (Kingston, Rhode Island)

Business Leadership
Greg Sutter
Westervelt Ecological Services (Sacramento, California)

Conservation & Restoration
Joel Gerwein
California State Coastal Conservancy (Oakland, California)

Education & Outreach
Robert Thomas
Loyola University of New Orleans (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Landowner Stewardship
Tom and Mary Beth Magenau
Tri State Marine (Edgewater, Maryland)

Science Research
Robert Gearheart
Humboldt State University/Arcata Marsh Research Institute (Arcata, California)

State, Tribal, and Local Program Development
Angela Waupochick
Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans (Keshena, Wisconsin)

 

 

Richard Grant – 30th Anniversary Lifetime Achievement
Narrow River Preservation Association
Kingston, Rhode Island

Before emptying into Narragansett Bay, the Narrow River meanders through the towns of North Kingstown, South Kingstown and Narragansett, Rhode Island. The Narrow River Preservation Association (NRPA) was founded in 1970 in order to Preserve, Protect and Restore the natural environment of the Narrow River Watershed. Richard Grant joined the Board of Directors in 1972.  His willingness to devote himself to every task that would strengthen the integrity and conservation of Narrow River has been appreciated from the outset of his involvement.  In 1996, he became president of the NRPA Board and continues in that role today with unanimous support from Board members throughout the years. During his tenure and with the help of many volunteers interested in the Environment, several projects were initiated.  It was agreed that every member of the Board would chair at least one major improvement project each year.  Richard is an important link and an active participant within each project. The all-encompassing aspects of Water, Land and Education are the guiding themes for the NRPA.  The focus on Water, without question the key issue, was where Richard worked with volunteers and the Board of Directors to install the “NRPA River Watch Program,” an endeavor where many volunteers collect monthly samples from the river for study and evaluation. At this time, “River Watch Program is in its 28th year and validates the improvement of the river’s water quality. The data has been a basis for best management practices in the three watershed towns.  The information is used in coordination with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management in its Watershed report and for the restoration of the Chafee Wildlife Refuge. Another extremely successful volunteer project was the recent planting of 35,000 seedlings by 225 Narrow River residents for the US Fish and Wildlife program. Attention to the development of the Land adjacent to the river became a natural link to water quality.  Richard’s active involvement with new building practices and the renovation of existing properties created firm connections with Town Management.  He is a familiar figure at the Town Hall and an inspiration at Town Council meetings. The third element is Education.  Richard has learned a great deal from the many scientists who teach at the University of Rhode Island and who offer their expertise to NRPA as Board Members and as speakers at Annual meetings.  To inspire a connection to scientific research involving Narrow River, the Lisa Meng College Scholarship program was created as an incentive for student involvement that melded with Science Fair Awards programs. The education format has been strengthened by seminars at the river’s edge with the creation of “What is in the River” designed for elementary school children and “Art on the River” for all ages.  Richard attends these events as a facilitator and participant.  Among his favorite volunteer efforts are his visits to elementary and middle school classrooms to offer presentations to the students about the river and its ‘inhabitants.’ Richard’s initial involvement with NRPA was related to raising funds.  He continues that work with the ongoing fundraising programs today.  They are the Membership Drive, Kayak Raffle, Road Race, Mile Swim, Pettaquamscutt River Paddle and the newly added Fishing Tournament.  The exhaustive volunteer efforts required to plan and manage these events has always included Richard’s enthusiastic participation. The essence of Richard’s guiding spirit and his dedication to improving the environment has been accompanied by contributions from the considerable number of residents who continue to volunteer with the Board of Directors to create an impressive watershed team. Richard’s ‘other life’ as an artist and entrepreneur includes his graduation from Brown University where he studied Art History and played Hockey.  In the first years of his business career, he created a nationally recognized Art Program in association with celebrated artists throughout the United States. Shortly thereafter, Richard purchased the Cambridge Paper Box Company and also founded R. B. Grant & Associates; a packaging firm providing structural packaging design that catered to major educational publishers nationwide.

 

Greg Sutter – Business Leadership
Westervelt Ecological Services
Sacramento, California

Greg Sutter joined The Westervelt Company in 2006 and serves as a Vice President and General Manager of Westervelt Ecological Services (WES). He has worked on mitigation and restoration planning and implementation throughout Northern California for over 40 years.  Mr. Sutter has particular technical experience in brackish, tidal marsh, riparian, and riverine systems. He is an acknowledged leader in mitigation planning, design, and implementation. He oversees all WES’s business planning and budgeting, including capital expenditures, labor, and materials costs, and operations and maintenance expenditures. Mr. Sutter has a B.S. degree in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning from Cornell University and an M.S. degree in Ecology from the University of California, Davis.  He is also a past president and board member of the California Society for Ecological Restoration (SERCAL) and has lectured at the University of California, Davis, University of California, Berkeley, and numerous technical conferences on habitat restoration.  Mr. Sutter is also a regular presenter on the mitigation banking process at the annual National Mitigation Banking Conference.  Prior to joining Westervelt, Mr. Sutter was President of another west coast mitigation banking company; previous to entering the mitigation banking field, Mr. Sutter was a principal at Jones & Stokes Associates, a prominent environmental consulting firm based out of Sacramento, California.

 

Joel Gerwein – Conservation & Restoration
California State Coastal Conservancy
Oakland, California

 Joel has been a lover of the outdoors and an environmentalist since his youth hiking, camping, backpacking, and canoeing with his parents all around the U.S.  Joel studied biology at Harvard College, and went on to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts-Boston studying old-growth red oak forests in New England.  He has spent the last eleven years working for the California State Coastal Conservancy on projects to protect and restore coastal ecosystems, especially wetlands, on the Northern California Coast, with a focus on Humboldt Bay. Joel’s dedication to restoring wetlands for fish, wildlife and public access to the rich diversity of ecosystems in Humboldt Bay has been exemplary and provides a model for restoring wetland habitats across the nation. Joel has been the impetus in developing projects and acquiring significant funding for seven landscape-scale wetland restoration projects in Humboldt Bay, resulting in significant areas of key habitats in the Humboldt Bay ecosystem restored. Humboldt Bay has lost 90% of its historic tidelands to agriculture, residential, commercial, or industrial uses. The restoration of wetlands in the project area is critical for the recovery of multiple listed species and species of concern including resident and migrating songbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds; and several species of fish, including federally threatened coho salmon, Chinook salmon, steelhead trout and endangered tidewater goby. Joel has leveraged SCC funds and authored grant proposals to provide $1,730,000 for the Martin Slough Enhancement Project which was implemented in 2018 and restores 3 acres of salt marsh along the Martin Slough mainstem channel, 1.7 acres of off channel salt marsh, 2,400 ft of mainstem Martin Slough, 3,400 ft of tidal channels, and restores riparian, brackish wetlands and salt marsh vegetation. Joel worked diligently to provide funding for the acquisition of a portion of the project area, prepared the environmental compliance document and authored grants to raise additional funding for the project ($1.4 million). Joel has leveraged SCC funds and authored grant proposals to provide $436,800 for the Wood Creek Enhancement Project which completed implementation in 2017 and restored approximately 5 acres of interconnected, shallow, seasonal brackish and freshwater wetlands to create habitat for shorebirds, migratory birds, and a wide diversity of native plants and wildlife. This project has also restored 2.5 acres of marsh and riparian vegetation and monitoring has shown that threatened coho have immediately recolonized this area and are thriving in these new habitats. Joel has provided leadership and authored grant proposals to provide $540,074 for the South Jacoby Creek Enhancement Project which completed implementation in 2018 and restored a 29-acre complex of wetlands associated with Jacoby Creek in Humboldt Bay. The project restored a 2.21-acre marsh channel network that is permanently flooded, 1.5 acres of freshwater marsh plain, marsh planting islands, a 1.66 acre guide berm to reduce juvenile salmonid stranding, 2 acres of seasonally flooded shallow depressional wetlands, 2,000 feet of freshwater channels and, 3.7 acres of riparian and marsh riparian restoration to provide habitat for threatened salmonids. Joel has authored the environmental compliance documents and secured funding to provide $1,950,000 for the White Slough Enhancement Project which began implementation in 2018 and restores 40 acres of salt marsh in Humboldt Bay. The White Slough Restoration Project involves importing ~250,000 cubic yards of sediment to raise the elevation of subsided diked historic tidelands to salt marsh elevations. Since 2013, Joel has led the effort to secure $1,900,000 for the Humboldt Bay Regional Invasive Spartina Project, worked with partners to conduct research on Spartina removal methodologies, organized symposia on the ecology of invasive Spartina and the effects of removal efforts, and authored environmental compliance documents for the regional effort. Invasive dense-flowered Spartina has infested over 90% of salt marshes in the three adjacent estuaries of Humboldt Bay, the Eel River Delta, and the Mad River Estuary. It is known to displace native vegetation, reducing the biodiversity of the salt marsh dramatically. Joel’s leadership on this project has significantly reduced spartina occurrences in Humboldt Bay, completing 350 of 1,030 mapped acres of Spartina infestation in Humboldt Bay and has provided a model for other west coast estuaries to treat their spartina infestations. Joel provided leadership and secured $950,000 to acquire and protect 116 acres coastal wetlands in Ryan Slough and Ryan Creek as part of the larger McKay Community Forest Project. Ryan Creek is a tributary to Humboldt Bay that supports important habitat for resident and migrating songbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds; and critical spawning, rearing, and migration habitat for anadromous fish, including federally threatened coho salmon and steelhead trout. Of the 192-acre project area for this protection effort, approximately 50 percent is comprised of nationally decreasing types of freshwater and brackish marsh and riparian forest, which are imperiled in California. Finally, Joel has led an effort to enhance wetlands and adjacent uplands at PALCO Marsh, a 39 acre tidal marsh utilized by over 90 bird species and over 100 plant species in Humboldt Bay. The project, implemented in 2014, replaced a collapsed culvert currently connecting PALCO Marsh with the bay that resulted in an approximately 0.6-foot increase in tidal range within the marsh, improving the water quality and providing passage for salmonids and other aquatic species. Joel’s dedication to restoring significant acres of freshwater, brackish and saltwater wetlands throughout Humboldt Bay has been inspirational and has had a significant impact on the ecosystem thus far.

 

Robert Thomas – Education & Outreach
Loyola University of New Orleans 
New Orleans, Louisiana 

Dr. Robert A. Thomas is an academician, a business/environmental community liaison, a media source for environmental news, and a family man. He was Founding Director of the Louisiana Nature Center, where he served as the liaison for the community in information pertaining to science education, environmental issues, and natural history. Dr. Thomas is professor of Mass Communication, holds the Loyola Distinguished Scholar Chair in Environmental Communication, is adjunct professor of Biological Sciences, sits on The Environment Program Faculty, and is the Founding Director of the Center for Environmental Communication at Loyola University New Orleans.  He is the recipient of the 2011 Dux Academicus award at Loyola. He received his Ph.D. in Evolutionary & Tropical Biology from Texas A&M University and has held adjunct professorships at the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, and Louisiana State University.  Bob's activities at Loyola include an active teaching program in environmental communication and biology, many activities relating to coastal issues communication, working in the realm of environmental intervention where industry and communities collide, environmental communication programs in tropical areas (principally Belize, Trinidad, Guatemala, and the eastern Caribbean), tropical biology, nature-based tourism, and environmental education and landscaping. He has published many papers in the fields of herpetology (reptiles and amphibians; specializing in the Neotropical snake fauna), environmental communication, and nature center administration.  As mentioned, his most avid interests are in environmental communication, restoring America’s WETLAND (Louisiana’s coastal wetlands), tropical natural history/interpretation, and nature center-based environmental education. Bob fervently believes that environmental solutions will be the result of open and honest communication, coupled with trust and integrity, among stakeholders.

 

Tom and Mary Beth Magenau – Landowner Stewardship
Tri State Marine
Edgewater, Maryland

For more than 50 years, Tom and Mary Beth Magenau, founders of Tri State Marine, Inc. (TSM) in Deale, Anne Arundel County, MD have combined business goals with sustainable practices to protect the Chesapeake Bay.  From humble beginnings in 1965, TSM has grown into a successful, full service marine business that sells and services power boats up to 37ft. 

 The Magenaus believe that preserving and protecting the Bay makes both good business and environmental sense. The company has worked closely with the Corps, Maryland Department of the Environment and Anne Arundel County, to balance preservation and utilization of land as the company continues to grow.  Since 1999 TSM has reforested 20+ acres of an abandoned golf course with wetland trees and plants as well as protecting more than 50 acres under conservation easements to the County and to the Maryland Environmental Trust (MET).  During this period, TSM has substantially reduced its own energy consumption, utilizing solar energy, LED lighting, and roof and insulation upgrades to modernize its 40,000 sq. ft. indoor facility.

 In the early 1990’s, low water quality and a declining fish population indicated that Chesapeake Bay conditions were at a critical point.  A temporary ban on striped bass fishing provided a serious “wake-up call” for all Bay-related business interests. In 1999, Tom Magenau recognized that topographical conditions adjacent to the location of his business presented a unique opportunity for a “regional approach” to manage runoff.  Precipitation was consolidated to the north and west along MD #256 before continuing southward in consolidated drainage paths that were established in 1920.  The pre-established drainage pattern traveled directly in to Parker Creek without any treatment.   It was estimated that this drainage path carried approximately 12,000 lbs. of sediment in to Parker Creek each year. 

 Since drainage from the highway passed through the Tri-State Marine site, it was possible to proactively address solutions that reached beyond the company’s boundaries.  The company’s acreage was fortuitously located on the “low end” of a 30+ acre drainage area, which included 14 upstream impervious acres and Rte. 256 pavement with drainage ditches on both sides of the highway.  Beginning in the early 2000’s, TSM engaged a permit process that included the USACE, Maryland’s Department of the Environment and Anne Arundel County.  The final step in this permit process was completed in 2010, in a Variance Hearing for impacting Critical Area.  Approval was granted with praise from the hearing officer to Mr. Magenau “for donating his time and money to improve water quality in the area.” This project also received support from South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development (SACRED).

 In 2016, as business recovered from the 2008-2012 recession, TSM partnered with the South River Federation, an established watershed restoration organization now known as the Arundel Rivers Federation, to obtain a grant of over $200,000 from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the County Watershed restoration program.  With this financial support and considerable funds from Tri-State Marine, construction of a 60,625 sq. ft. stormwater wetland is now complete. This system will treat existing sediment and is expected to reduce over 70% of the sediment flowing untreated into the Bay. This new  wetland will also provide significant habitat for a variety of species.

 The Magenaus have received strong letters of support for this project, which took 19 years to grow from concept to reality. The Executive Director of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay notes that the project exemplifies the kind of landowner stewardship that is critical to the Alliance’s mission of restoring the Bay. The Maryland Environmental Trust recognized the Magenaus generous for donation of a 23- acre conservation easement on their wetlands tract near Deale, noting that “the easement is a demonstration of ……. commitment to the conservation and stewardship of privately owned land.”  The Anne Arundel County Director of Publish Works commended on the Magenaus on the TSM stormwater wetlands project as representing a model “collaboration among local government, a watershed protection organization, and a private developer in order to improve water quality.” The Executive Director of the Arundel Rivers Federation wrote that the TSM Storm Water wetlands project “is the first public private partnership for storm water management in South Anne Arundel County and will prevent nearly 10,000 pounds of sediment to annually flow in to the nearby creek.” The Federation particularly noted the Magenaus tremendous financial contribution that “sets them apart from other landowners.”   Tri-State Marine, Inc., its employees and owners have demonstrated that business and landowners can work closely with federal, state and county agencies, nonprofits and the community to benefit the environment while pursuing sustainable business practices.

A more detailed history of this project will be available on Tri-State Marine’s website www.tristatemarine.com after mid-June.

 

Robert Gearheart – Science Research
Humboldt State University/Arcata Marsh Research Institute 
Arcata, California

Robert Gearheart is an exceptional biologist, engineer, and educator who has dedicated his 40-year career to understanding biogeochemical cycles of wetland systems and how those processes can be leveraged to transform waste to a resource. Throughout his career, Dr. Gearheart served as: 1) an educator, 2) a researcher, 3) a scientific communicator and advocate for appropriate development, and 4) a design engineer implementing full-scale projects. Robert Gearheart is an emeritus professor of environmental engineering at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA. Dr. Gearheart taught courses in water quality and chemistry, environmental impact, and wastewater and drinking water treatment for 35 years. He has inspired 100’s of students through his teaching and research on the use of wetlands for wastewater treatment and pollution abatement and the ancillary benefits that this sustainable technology brings to communities. He brought a unique perspective and knowledge on the design of engineered natural treatment systems (specifically constructed wetlands) to the engineering program – infusing a biological perspective that became a program strength and continues today. His teaching and mentorship has influenced 100’s of engineering graduates to consider wetland systems in their design for water treatment. For the past 40 years, Dr. Gearheart has spearheaded groundbreaking research on the use of constructed wetlands for stormwater and wastewater treatment. In 1975, the State and regional government of California proposed a new wastewater treatment plant to serve the three largest populated communities in Humboldt County. Gearheart and his colleagues countered with an innovative solution of a constructed wetland to treat the wastewater, followed by a discharge to Humboldt Bay. Dr. Gearheart argued this alternative had a lower capital and operating cost, was more reliable, used less energy, provided numerous educational and recreational opportunities for Arcata, and enhanced the beneficial uses of Humboldt Bay. He played a pioneering role in interfacing between state and regional politicians and regulators with water quality control boards, and wastewater professionals to pave the way for 40 acres of degraded wetlands to be restored and used as a natural treatment system. He is a founding designer of the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary (AM&WS) in Arcata, California that now serves as a wastewater treatment plant, a recreation area, and a wildlife sanctuary. The AM&WS includes 307 acres of freshwater marshes, salt marsh with tidal slough, grassy uplands, tidal mudflats, brackish marsh, 5.4 miles of walking and biking paths and an Interpretive Center that serve over 200,000 visitors every year. The AM&WS is an international model of successful wastewater reuse and wetland restoration and Dr. Gearheart hosts dozens of scientific visitors each year who come to learn more about the system. As the director of the Arcata Marsh Research Institute (AMRI), Dr. Gearheart has continued his research efforts, focusing on understanding the biogeochemical cycles and hydraulics of wetland systems, quantifying the ecosystem benefits of our wetlands, and exploring operational management strategies to improve both BOD reduction and nutrient removal while dealing with the internal load resulting from 35 years of full scale operation of the system. Dr. Gearheart has always been concerned about passing on the knowledge he has learned from his research activities to others. With over 100 technical reports, presentations, and guest lectures, he has freely shared his experience with others, promoting the value of wetlands. He has been the advisor for dozens of senior and graduate projects and theses, and continues his mentoring of students even after retiring from the university. Dr. Gearheart developed and taught a constructed wetland short course for seven years that was attended by several hundred professionals. The course provided ~30 hours of training on the use of free surface constructed wetlands for treatment of wastewater. The course was intended for design engineers and wetland scientists who were interested in the planning, design and management of wetlands for wastewater treatment and pollution abatement. He has consulted on treatment wetland systems world-wide including systems in Mexico, Sierra Leone, Ghana, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Gaza and systems throughout the western US. In Arizona, Robert Gearheart has led the design of an innovative wetland to treat excess nitrogen for Apache Nitrogen Products and has been actively working in the Klamath River watershed for 25 years. Robert Gearheart has spent his 40 plus year career dedicated to understanding wetland systems and sharing his unique perspective and passion with a multitude of students and practitioners. He inspires a commitment to sustainability and a scientific approach to understand our natural wetlands systems based on integrity. He has been incredibly generous with sharing his knowledge, and has inspired two generations of engineers, scientists, and decision makers to appreciate the ecological value of wetlands, and how their multitude of layered beneficial uses can provide low-cost, reliable treatment of stormwater and wastewater, wildlife habitat, and a myriad of active and passive recreational activities for communities worldwide.

 

Angela Waupochick – State, Tribal, and Local Program Development
Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans
Keshena, Wisconsin

Angela has been with the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians for almost 9 years. She began her tenure with the Tribe as a GIS specialist, contributing to the Tribe’s first wetland functions mapping project “A Landscape-Scale Wetland Functional Assessment and Identification of Potential Wetland Restoration Sites for the Stockbridge-Munsee Community”. She became further immersed in 2011 when she was hired as a wetland specialist to manage US EPA Wetland Program Development Grant (WPDG) the tribe had been awarded. During the first project period, she completed the Tribe’s wetland program plan. The five-year plan provides a strategy for planning and implementing a sustainable wetland program, communicating the intent and need of the program to EPA, and providing valuable water resource information to the tribal leadership.

In 2015, she became the Tribe’s hydrologist, adding the management of the Tribe’s Clean Water Act Section 106 program to her duties. In 2016, she completed all the necessary planning and drafting of documents, establishing the Tribe’s Nonpoint Source 319 program, while continuing to oversee the wetland program. She is a driving force behind the implementation of stream and wetland restoration activities on the reservation.

Angela developed project plans, secured funding and effectively managed 3 recent projects on tribal lands which supported restoration of both wetlands and streams.

The Miller Creek project involved removal of abandoned rail bed sections and culvert installation that effectively restored hydrologic connectivity to the stream and adjacent wetlands, returned Miller Creek to its original channel, recreated stable habitat for native species and restored wetland functions to adjacent wetlands. The restoration positively impacted a mile of stream and its adjacent wetlands within 7 mile, 52-acre parcel.

The Cemetery Scrape project focused on improvement of wetland function, increased wetland acreage and diversity and manage undesirable species. This site was identified as a potential restoration site through the GIS landscape level functional assessment created previously. Angela and program staff re-assessed the area to confirm hydric soils, historical wetland boundary, species composition and functional assessment. The work included grading of the site, removal of invasive species and planting of tamarack seedlings, all of which were collected from the reservation to keep costs low. The project restored approximately 5 acres of wetland. Most recently, another project underway, located near the tribe’s golf course, is focused at restoring a 4-acre site, impacted from development.

During her tenure, Angela has applied for and successfully received four WPDG’s: Development of Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program for SMC (2013), Advancing SMC Wetland Program through Research, Training and Watershed Planning (2015), Improving Outreach and Program Capacity for the SMC (2016), and Establishing and Implementing a Long-term Monitoring Network to document the hydrology of tribal wetlands pre- and post- Emerald Ash Borer invasion (2018). While also securing several project funding proposals from other agencies.

Angela most recently orchestrated the creation of a web-based story map. The story map showcases successful water-related projects across the reservation and highlights the history of the tribe and their connection to water resources (https://www.stockbridge-munsee-water-resources-program.org/). Angela partnered with St. Mary’s University of Minnesota GeoSpatial Services on this project to create one of the first tribal water resources story map nationally.

The story map has facilitated communication of all Tribal water resources program goals, informed Tribal members and the public about the importance of wetlands and overall watershed health, facilitated the initiation of partnerships and combined efforts with landowners and local agencies to improve water quality, and allowed for the summation of water quality and wetland data. It has proven to be an extremely effective education and outreach tool.

Angela has presented her work at US EPA Region 5 State and Tribal Wetland Program meetings and participated in a wide range of national webinars, eager to share the story map as well as gather feedback from other states and tribes on ways to enhance this successful tool. As such, Angela's work on the story map has prompted interest from numerous state's and tribes nationally. She has laid the groundwork for other tribes to enhance education and outreach of wetland resources and projects on tribal lands.

Angela is deserving of recognition because she has worked hard to accomplish an incredible amount of work in a relatively short period of time; including development of new programs for the Tribe, planning and managing restoration projects and continually sharing her work at regional and national meetings. Angela has tirelessly devoted her time to securing funding and advancing the Tribe’s wetland program she initiated in 2011.

Her work and vision on the story map has set an example to other tribal programs in the Region, and nationally, about creative and effective ways of providing education and outreach to Tribal members, the public, and state and federal environmental agencies.

 

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To read more out about past NWA Winners, click here.