Sunday, May 6, 2012

National River Rally 2012 Ramblings - Part I

The largest gathering ever of river advocates convened in Portland Oregon on May 3rd for a 4-day conference. For the first time, River Network partners and Waterkeeper Alliance members jointly sponsored the 2012 National River Rally.

The first 2 days have been quite energizing, with more than 700 'river keepers' from throughout the globe learning, sharing, networking and relaxing at the very 'green' Doubletree Hotel, which even has compost bins!

Here are some of the highlights so far:

~Friday night's opening reception featured US EPA Head Lisa Jackson talking about the importance of clean water for all Americans and the agency's efforts to support green infrastructure.

~Saturday breakfast with River Network's Diana Toledo resulted in great synergy and possible collaboration between the Urban Rivers Institute and their Urban Waters Program.

~Saturday's morning's keynote showcased an energetic talk by Alexandra Cousteau, Jacques granddaughter, talking passionately about her film work to showcase the challenges to drinking water supply worldwide. Her presentation included the screening of her National Geographic Explorer film on the drying up of the Colorado River.

~My one-on-one chat with Charles River Watershed Association Executive Director Robert Zimmerman opened my eyes to new 'grey infrastructure' opportunities (It's the sewers, stupid!) to support urban river restoration.

~WORKSHOP:  Alabama Power's leadership and mission change from consumption to efficiency showcased how the unlikely partners of utilities and river advocates can partner to save water and energy.

~WORKSHOP:  The Wisconsin 'Sweet Water' collaboration shed light on how to create successful regional watershed decision-making that gets things done right.

~The exhibitor hall, silent auction and 'recess' activities helped bring a welcome break from sitting and eating (good healthy food options from the hotel, though). I had an insightful chat with USGS on their new research linking hydraulic fracturing with seimicity and met a Rutgers graduate student who is currently mapping fracking/seismic correlations in Oklahoma and Ohio.

~Saturday's events ended with the Keynote Speech by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, who spoke about his 40 year water warrior efforts to bring clean water to everyone. He emphasized that sound environmental restoration equals economic opportunity and jobs. A sweet video of 93 year old Pete Seeger emotionally told the story of why he, too, is a river keeper.

Two down and two more days to go! Look for my Part II Ramblings. In the meantime, I'm tweeting live @ArroyoLover.

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