River Alliance History
In the early 1990s a university professor, his graduate student, and some dedicated river folk – a motley mix of trout anglers, paddlers, and conservationists and educators -- hatched an idea that would grow into one of the largest and strongest statewide river conservation organizations in the nation and is recognized as one of Wisconsin's leading conservation groups.
From its humble beginnings in 1993, with the help and advice of national groups such as River Network and the hard work and commitment of lovers of rivers from Racine to Spooner, the River Alliance of Wisconsin is now a strong, effective voice for the flowing waters of the state.
A Brief History of River Alliance Accomplishments...
Every year, the River Alliance recognizes river and watershed protection work above and beyond the call of duty through our River Champion Awards.
October 1, 1993 – first meeting of the board of directors of the River Alliance of Wisconsin (known briefly as “Wisconsin’s Rivers Alliance”) Sara Johnson is first executive director.
April 1995 – River Alliance’s first newsletter is published. Animal waste and small dams named as “greatest threats to Wisconsin’s rivers.”
June 1996 – River Alliance joins the battle against the proposed metallic mine near Crandon and the Wolf River. The mining plan was eventually abandoned.
February 1997 – historic Wilderness Shores Settlement Agreement is signed to balance river conservation and hydro dam management on the Menominee River system.
November 1997 – River Alliance’s first annual awards dinner honors “River Champions” John Schwartzman, Bob Boucher, Vernon County Land Conservation Department, and Wisconsin Electric Power Co.
Spring 1998 – Waterworks Dam is the first of 4 dams to be removed from the Baraboo River, eventually restoring the 120-mile river to free-flowing status by 2001.
Winter 2000 – River Alliance joins the fight against Perrier water bottling proposal in central Wisconsin.
Spring 2002 – After years of deliberation involving the River Alliance, other conservation groups, farmers and agencies, new rules regulating polluted runoff from farms are passed.
September 2003 – Denny Caneff replaces Todd Ambs as executive director.
July 2004 – “Caught in A Cross Current” is published, a major study and critique of DNR’s management of Wisconsin’s rivers.
Fall 2005 – River Alliance launches three new initiatives: urban river restoration, a focus on polluted runoff and shoreline development on the Wisconsin River, and a statewide citizen stream monitoring network
August 2006 – agreement is reached with DNR over management of St.Croix Falls hydro dam, operated by Xcel Energy. Flows, monitoring and accountability are all improved.
October 2006 – Over 1,200 miles of northern rivers are protected by state designation as “Outstanding” or “Exceptional Resource Waters,” resulting from a “Healthy Hundred Rivers” campaign organized by the River Alliance and over 40 organizations.
May 2007 – Over 500 people join the River Alliance at a gala sponsored by Sundance Cinemas in its new movie house/restaurant in Madison.
October 2007 – first increase in the state biennial budget in years for state funds paid to farmers to reduce farm pollution.
June 2008 A consortium conservation groups, including River Alliance, get the Great Lakes Compact passed, a bi-national and eight-state agreement that will keep Great Lakes water from being exported.
August 2008 – River Alliance launches a new project to track and help eradicate invasive plants and animals –from Japanese knotweed to Asian carp -- doing harm to the state's rivers.
May and August 2009—Two new Wild Rivers are added to Wisconsin's inventory of state-designated Wild Rivers: the Brunsweiler, in Ashland County, and the Totogatic, in Sawyer County.
March 2010 – River Alliance leads the push for legislation to protect groundwater – one to protect it from contamination by land-spread wastes, the other to protect it from overuse.
May 2010 – River Alliance and its partners secure $3 million in federal funding to build ways for the ancient and venerable lake sturgeon to move around hydroelectric dams on the Menominee River.