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Press Release

For immediate release

For more information, please contact:

Bobby Cochran, Willamette Partnership

503 334 6872 (mobile)


Adrian McCarthy, The Freshwater Trust

503 222 9091 x 30 (office)

503 730 9721 (mobile)


Willamette Partnership, The Freshwater Trust receive $1.5 million Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA.

Funds to develop a three-state regional agreement on
water quality trading

August 24, 2012– Portland, Ore. – Willamette Partnership, along with The Freshwater Trust, received a $1.5 million grant from the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program run by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Funding from the CIG grant will develop a Joint Regional Water Quality Trading Agreement between Oregon, Washington and Idaho that provides clear and consistent guidance on water quality trading to achieve real water quality improvements throughout the Pacific Northwest. Willamette Partnership will lead the effort, and The Freshwater Trust will match USDA’s financial commitment. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Washington Department of Ecology and U.S. EPA Region 10 will also play pivotal roles in the project.

“With clear and consistent guidance from state regulatory agencies in place, regulated entities like wastewater treatment facilities will be confidently able to participate as buyers in water quality trading programs just as farmers and ranchers will be confidently able to participate as voluntary sellers of water quality credits,” said Bobby Cochran, executive director of Willamette Partnership.

The grant builds on a $1 million CIG grant the two organizations received last year to operationalize water quality trading in Oregon and The Freshwater Trust’s subsequent $8 million contract with the City of Medford’s wastewater treatment facility to meet their regulatory compliance obligation while benefitting the watershed’s rivers and streams and providing additional revenue for agricultural producers.

“We believe there are states around the nation that are on the cusp of having thriving water quality trading markets,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “These grant awards will help develop projects that create new revenue streams for farmers and ranchers while they are helping to improve water quality.”

Over the last seven years, Willamette Partnership and The Freshwater Trust have worked with numerous organizations, agencies and regulators to build the science and credibility standards necessary to calculate and quantify the services restoration of our rivers provides. The amount by which a tree’s shade reduces the sun’s impact on a river or stream – an ecosystem service – can now be measured and quantified into a credit that can be generated by planting streamside vegetation on private land and purchased by entities that need to gain regulatory compliance.

“The Freshwater Trust and Willamette Partnership have developed the fundamental elements of a functional water quality trading program here in Oregon and the City of Medford was the first in line to sign on along with three others in the state,” said Joe Whitworth, president of The Freshwater Trust. “Establishing a Joint Regional Agreement enables us to assemble elements into a complete, scalable and replicable package that can be rapidly applied and implemented not just city-by-city in a single state, but rather throughout the Pacific Northwest.”

Work between project partners will begin this fall. 



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