GRDA’s “Rush For Brush” receives national hydropower award

GRDA Vice President of Ecosystems and Lake Management Dr. Darrell Townsend (left) accepts the National Hydropower Association (NHA) “Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters” award from NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci (center) and NHA Executive Committee President Herbie Johnson. GRDA received the award for its “Rush For Brush” program, during NHA’s “Water Power Week” activities in Washington, D.C. on May 1 (photo courtesy NHA).

Washington, D.C. – The Grand River Dam Authority’s innovative “Rush For Brush” program, which has been a key factor in enhancing the fisheries of GRDA lake waters for over a decade, is a 2018 recipient of the National Hydropower Association (NHA) “Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters” award. GRDA Vice President of Ecosystems and Lake Management Dr. Darrell Townsend, accepted the award on behalf of GRDA during the NHA’s “Water Power Week” activities in Washington, D.C. on May 1.

According to the NHA, the award is given annually to “recognize projects that have provided extraordinary recreational, historical, environmental or educational value.” GRDA’s program was one of two recipients in the public education category. “Rush For Brush” was recognized for its value in effectively communicating and promoting the benefits of hydropower.

“The key to our success is the ability to recruit and maintain volunteers year-after-year,” said Townsend. “This practice not only benefits the fish by reducing fishing pressure as their locations remain relatively unknown to other fisherman, but is also a win for the volunteer angler who receives many years of quality fishing over these structures.”

First established in 2007, “Rush For Brush” has grown to become one of the GRDA Ecosystem Management Department’s most successful enhancement and outreach efforts. At annual program workshops (typically held twice a year), GRDA supplies the materials and volunteers supply the labor to help construct artificial fish habitats from concrete blocks and PVC pipe. Designed to protect fry and fingerlings in the water, the artificial habitats will stay in place longer than a natural brush pile in the lake. After construction, volunteers take the finished habitats and put them at a location of their choosing in the lake.

Artificial fish habitats, constructed during a previous GRDA “Rush for Brush” workshop, sit near Grand Lake, ready for to be placed in the water. On May 1, GRDA received a National Hydropower Association “Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters” award for this innovative public outreach program that has served to enhance the fisheries of GRDA lake waters for over a decade.

To date, 5,780 habitats have been constructed by 1,100 volunteers. The habitats now cover nearly 11 acres of lake bed in GRDA-managed lakes. While improving the fisheries, the program has also helped to improve fishing opportunities. In turn, that draws more anglers to the lakes and helps to boost the area economy. Both GRDA’s Grand and Hudson lakes hosts multiple fishing tournaments each year. Grand also played host to the prestigious Bassmaster Classic in both 2013 and 2016.

“This program is a good example of GRDA’s efforts to balance the interest of all lake users, while continuing to meet our steward and economic development missions,” said GRDA President/Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan. “We are very appreciative of the NHA for recognizing the program and also all the volunteers who have participated in the workshops over the years. They have contributed greatly to the program’s success.”

This is not the first time the GRDA program has been recognized. In November 2017, “Rush For Brush” received the “State Government Program” award from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful (KOB).

According to hydro.org, the National Hydropower Association is a nonprofit association dedicated exclusively to promoting the growth of clean, renewable hydropower and marine energy.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.