Environmental Leaders Honored at 2017 WPEA Dinner

Contact: Josh Raulerson

Date: May 25, 2017

Phone: (412) 481-9400

Email: jraulerson@pecpa.org


Pittsburgh – The Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Dominion welcomed friends, colleagues, partners, and supporters to the 2017 Western Pennsylvania Environmental Awards last night at the Westin Hotel and Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

Held every spring, the event honors individuals, groups, and companies that are working to improve the region’s environmental health and quality of life through innovation, vision, and collaboration.

An independent panel of judges chose four projects to receive 2017 honors:

  • Center for Watershed Research and Service (Cambria County)
  • Little Juniata River Association (Blair County)
  • Millvale EcoDistrict Collaborative (Allegheny County)
  • Rosebud Mining Ehrenfeld Restoration (Cambria County)

In addition, Lifetime Achievement honors were presented to two long-serving leaders whose efforts have had a lasting impact on the region.

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to John Dawes, who has served as Executive Director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds since its inception in 1994.

“He’s a convener and a coalition-builder,” Dunn said of Dawes. “John will sit with people – young people, old people, grassroots people, wealthy people, not-so-wealthy people – and engage with them in cleaning up the stream they care about.”

Former Executive Director John Schombert also received a Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of 3 Rivers Wet Weather, which he led from its founding in 1998 until his retirement in January 2017.

“This is really an award to the organization, [which] has been a joy to work with over the years, and to all the partners that have been involved in making sure that we are successful,” Schombert said.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Chief Counsel Alexandra Chiaruttini gave the keynote address, highlighting the challenges the agency faces and urging Pennsylvanians to practice “varsity citizenship” in engaging with the regulatory process.

“If small business, individuals, and environmental groups participate fully, and truly in a material way, we will make better decisions,” Chiaruttini said. “We want public input, we need your input.”


2017 Award Winners


Center for Watershed Research & Service

Loretto, Cambria County

The Center for Watershed Research & Service (CWRS) is a nonprofit organization that actively incorporates faculty and student resources at St. Francis University to aid in watershed restoration in the surrounding area.

Much-needed engineering assistance is provided and students in the Environmental Engineering program at SFU provide countless hours of volunteering and service. Over the last four years, work-study students have been funded by SFU to provide water quality sampling assistance to the Blair County Conservation District.

The expertise accessible through the CWRS has helped foster a public-private partnership that resulted in fee-for-service consultations. And the CWRS works to provide service learning opportunities for students through curriculum enrichment and volunteering opportunities. Through the work study program at the CWRS, students can learn about and experience an array of jobs in their field of study.


Little Juniata River Association

Altoona, Blair County

Years of industrial and sewage pollution took a great toll on the water quality of the Little Juniata River, a Class A wild brown trout fishery known for excellent recreation. To protect the fishery from future degradation, the Little Juniata River Association was formed.

Since 2010, the LJRA has constructed over 1400 linear feet of stream bank stabilization structures and planted more than 28,000 square feet of riparian buffers. LJRA members teamed with Juniata College to study the migration patterns of brown trout throughout the river system and target conservation work in those areas where trout seek refuge.

The LJRA organizes an annual cleanup along the entire 32 miles of river. Over 200 volunteers participate in the event each year and help to remove many tons of trash and hundreds of tires from the “Little J” and its tributaries. The LJRA has also purchased permanent public access easements along 4.5 miles of the river to protect it from privatization.


Millvale EcoDistrict Collaborative

Millvale, Allegheny County

The Millvale EcoDistrict Collaborative is working with residents and businesses to address sustainable community development through the lens of food, water, energy, air, mobility, and equity.

Today, Millvale maintains over 91 solar panels on community-owned buildings, which generate over 27,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year–the equivalent to preventing over 21 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Rain gardens at the library and municipal parking lot have been capturing stormwater through natural design for over four years, preventing stormwater from entering Girty’s Run and demonstrating the effectiveness of green infrastructure in local stormwater management. Meanwhile, newly installed bioswales have effectively captured and slowed down impacts from over 80% of rainfall events.

The Gardens of Millvale have increased the production of fresh food within Millvale each year as part of a resident-driven initiative to reverse food insecurity. These gardens now have over 50 raised beds, along with a greenhouse for extended seasonal food production and an orchard.


Rosebud Mining

Ehrenfeld, Cambria County

For nearly four decades, a 60-acre refuse pile loomed over the town of Ehrenfeld in Cambria County near Johnstown. The site was a significant health and safety problem with steep, unstable and erosive outslopes. Over the years, large scale reclamation proved too costly.

But Rosebud Mining presented a solution that would treat not just the acres of refuse from the mines, but also an additional 80 acres of near-by pits and highwalls.

Rosebud moved material from the refuse piles into 80 acres of pre-regulated mine features—eliminating a need for hauling and landfilling the material at a permitted facility. Since Rosebud owned the adjacent lands, there was no longer a need for transporting the refuse over public roads.

Additionally, seven mine water discharges from throughout the region required treatment in order to restore the Little Conemaugh. The Rosebud Mining reclamation project singlehandedly achieved an overall discharge load reduction of nearly 56 percent.


Lifetime Achievement Awards


dawesR. John Dawes

Executive Director, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds


As Executive Director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds since 1994, John Dawes has supervised the distribution of over $110 million in small grants to over 150 environmental and watershed associations throughout the state, mostly in the area of abandoned mine reclamation.

A longtime leader in the region’s watershed repair and conservation efforts, Dawes was instrumental in securing more than $1 billion in federal funding to address Pennsylvania’s critical AMD problem and is a powerful voice in environmental protection and conservation throughout the Commonwealth.

Mr. Dawes is chairman of the Citizens Advisory Council for the Chesapeake Bay Commission and received a Conservation Leadership Award from the Pennsylvania Conservation Commission.


John W. Schombert

Former Executive Director, 3 Rivers Wet Weather


John Schombert has dedicated his long and distinguished career to addressing one of the most daunting environmental challenges facing the Pittsburgh region – the control and management of stormwater. He has been the Executive Director of 3 Rivers Wet Weather since its founding in 1998 and worked for nearly three decades in the Allegheny County Health Department’s (ACHD) water pollution, public drinking water and waste management programs.

He is the chairman of the Coraopolis Water and Sewer Authority, member of the Riverview Sanitary Authority and a member the Pennsylvania State Board for the Certification of Sewage Treatment Plant and Waterworks Operators and the Pennsylvania Water Resource Advisory Board.