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June 27, 2011 - The Charles River, once immortalized in the Standell’s rock and roll classic as the epitome of “Dirty Water,” is a finalist for the International Riverprize, the world’s most prestigious environmental award, the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) announced today.  The Thiess International Riverprize, awarded annually by International RiverFoundation (IRF), recognizes the development and implementation of the most visionary and sustainable program in river management. See http://www.riverfoundation.org.au/. Projects from more than 20 countries applied for this year’s Riverprize, to be awarded in Brisbane, Australia at the 14th Annual International Riversymposium in September.  The Charles has been chosen as one of three finalists for the prize.  The winner receives a $250,000 cash award and a $100,000 grant to share its river restoration expertise with another river.

IRF CEO Matthew Reddy says "Charles River should be congratulated for their achievement as a finalist for best river basin manager, vying for the world's largest environmental prize creates a lot of competitive tension, with winners to join the ranks of iconic rivers like the Thames, Danube and Mekong.”

In 1965, when CRWA was founded, the Charles commonly ran in colors, depending on the paint being manufactured on it banks.  Swimming was banned, sewage overflows were common, and outfalls discharged industrial waste.  Rowers who fell into the river routinely received tetanus shots and antibiotics as late as the middle 1990s.  Today, the Charles is heralded as the cleanest urban river in the United States by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “To be chosen as a finalist is a tremendous honor, recognizing the power of cooperation, creativity, good science, occasional lawsuits, and, most importantly, a critical look at what we thought we knew about urban rivers,” said Robert Zimmerman, CRWA’s Executive Director. 

The Charles, which is the heart of Boston and the pulse of the 23 cities and towns it flows through, as CRWA highlighted in its application, would not have been possible without the
engagement of watershed towns, concerned citizens, river users, businesses, land trusts, the Conservation Law Foundation, and the dedication of EPA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game, the City of Boston, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, and area universities.   

"CRWA has fought for decades to bring the Charles back to life.  This urban river is well on the path to recovery, and CRWA deserves great credit for raising awareness of the river's problems; for pushing, pulling, and prodding governments at all levels; and for building the tools communities need to clean up sources of pollution,"  according to Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator EPA New England.  “A generation ago, the Charles was a dumping ground for many who failed to realize that protection of this resource was vital to the Boston urban area and our whole region,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Today, thanks to the tireless efforts of CRWA, and the work of local, state and federal agencies, river-side communities and environmental stakeholders, the Charles has made a remarkable recovery. The Charles River renaissance is an inspiration to us all and certainly deserving of this prestigious award.”

CRWA’s mission is to use science, advocacy and the law to protect and enhance the health of the Charles River and its watershed. One of the country’s first watershed organizations, CRWA was formed in 1965 in response to public concern about the declining condition of the Charles River.  Since its earliest days, CRWA has figured prominently in major clean-up and watershed protection efforts that have dramatically improved the health of the Charles and its parklands.  

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