The first ever Clean Water Gala recognized individuals who have made lasting contributions to clean water. The event, held Sept. 18 at the Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., reflected on the progress made in cleaning America’s waterways since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972.
Awards were given for two categories – Federal Service and Local Service. The honorees were:
• Howard H. Baker Jr. — Baker became the first Republican popularly elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee in 1966. As a member of the Senate Public Works Committee, he was instrumental in developing the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972. He memorably urged his colleagues to override President Nixon’s veto of the bill, calling it “the most significant and promising piece of legislation ever passed by Congress.” He concluded his Senate career in 1985 after two terms as majority leader (1981-85) and two terms as minority leader (1977-1981). He was President Reagan’s Chief of Staff from February 1987 to July 1988 and was appointed in 2001 by President George W. Bush to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan. He currently is senior counsel at the law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC.
• Eddie Bernice Johnson — Johnson represents Texas’s 30th Congressional District, which is entirely within Dallas County. Johnson is widely recognized as one of the most effective legislators in Congress. She is credited with originally authoring and co-authoring more than 120 bills that were passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by the President. In 2007, Johnson has been appointed by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) to serve as chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment during the 110th Congress. The Subcommittee has jurisdiction over water conservation, pollution control, infrastructure, and hazardous waste cleanup. Among other laws, this Subcommittee is also responsible for reauthorizing the Clean Water Act.
• Barbara Boxer — Boxer was one of six women elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 after serving 10 years in the House. Her entrance into politics was inspired in part by her commitment to important causes, including the environment. As the new chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Boxer has pushed for the restoration of wetlands in California and has also worked hard to achieve national water quality progress. Her background addressing California’s distinct water quality and quantity issues has given her a powerful voice to help protect America’s critical water resources.
• William D. Ruckelshaus — Ruckelshaus served as the first Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from December 1970 to April 1973. During EPA’s formative years, Ruckelshaus led the push to improve America’s water quality by developing the new agency’s organizational structure and initiating enforcement actions against severely polluted cities and industries. During President Reagan’s term, Ruckelshaus was asked to return to EPA. In his 1983-85 term as administrator, Ruckelshaus reaffirmed EPA’s commitment to federal-state-local partnerships to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay and national water quality. Ruckelshaus currently chairs the Puget Sound Partnership, exemplifying his continued commitment to watershed protection.
• Shirley Franklin — Elected in 2001, Shirley Franklin is the first woman to serve as Mayor of Atlanta. Since her inauguration, Franklin has undertaken sweeping changes to address her aging city’s needs and has made repairing the sewer system a major focus of her office. In 2002, on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Franklin introduced “Clean Water Atlanta,” a comprehensive, long-term plan to reduce stormwater flows by creating a utility and implementing preventative maintenance of the entire system. Mayor Franklin in proud to be known as “the Sewer Mayor” and has been an outstanding leader throughout Atlanta’s environmental and monetary crisis.
Additionally, awards were given for Key Initiatives. The awards were given for Blue Planet Run, World Water Monitoring Day and ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.
Ken Kirk, executive director of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, served as the master of ceremonies, while presenters included former congressman Sherwood L. Boehlert and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).