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Meet H2OEO Executive Director Justin Green

Water for Eastern Oregon (H2OEO) has hired Justin B. Green as executive director, leading the organization’s efforts to provide safe drinking water and curb groundwater nitrate contamination in the Lower Umatilla Basin.

 

Green is an environmental policy and regulatory consultant whose firm, Justin B. Green Consulting, is based in North Portland. Prior to 2022, he spent four years with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality as Water Quality Administrator, where he approved the Second Action Plan to address nitrate concentrations in the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area (LUBGWMA).

 

Green earned his law degree from Florida State University in 2005. From 2012-2018, he also worked at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, including separate stints leading the agency’s air and water resource management programs.

 

“I’m really excited to provide my background and experience to address both the acute drinking water issue and longer-term groundwater issue we are experiencing in the basin,” Green said. “There are a number of things that are being done today and a number of things we can be doing in the very near future to focus on these challenges. It’s going to take everybody working together and building a level a trust for us come up with durable solutions backed by the best available science.”




 

How have you become familiar with issues in the LUBGWMA?

“I started focusing work in the LUBGWMA when I approved the Second Action Plan in November 2020. What really stood out to me was all the careful work that went into the development of that plan by the LUBGWMA Committee. The committee has done an excellent job identifying sources of nitrate and recommending best management practices for the region. What we’re still missing is a clear understanding of hydrology in the basin, which will help us understand how and where these practices can be best utilized.


What additional support is needed, and how can H2OEO be part of the solution?

“We continue to hear about resource constraints at government agencies. Our organization can provide expertise in measuring progress within the basin and support the third-party science being developed. The bottom line is, we can talk about fixing the long-term groundwater issue all we want, but it is impossible to do that effectively if we’re not addressing the very immediate issue of providing clean drinking water to residents. We’ve already seen H2OEO bring resources and provide benefit to the community, assisting with the immediate response to the water emergency in 2022.”

 

How will your background serve H2OEO and its members?

“Having worked previously at Oregon DEQ, I really learned where the agency’s strengths and priorities are, and what its constraints are. I learned a lot about the variety of water issues that Oregon is facing. I also worked closely with the EPA, which oversees our state’s implementation of the federal Clean Water Act. I have spent years building a network of relationships to ensure clear communication and collaboration among parties in the Basin and there is always more work to be done building those relationships.”

 

What is your approach to handling such a complex and difficult issue?

“One of the main ways I’ve built my career, both in government work and consulting, is taking complex issues and breaking them down into implementable, bite-size pieces  so we can make progress. My approach is to always include everyone during discussions, and make sure we’re hearing all voices. It’s important that we continue to talk to each other and communicate. We’re not always going to agree, but if we can find common ground, that’s going to show up in the end product. It’s going to be a more meaningful, more implementable, and more measurable product at the end of the day.”

 

What are your goals for H2OEO and the basin going forward?

This is an issue that’s been building over a long time. Right now, there is nothing more important than making sure every resident has access to safe, clean drinking water. At the same time, we need to look at the underlying issue itself. What we need is peer-reviewed science regarding the hydrogeology of the basin, tracking of best management practice implementation; and improvement of the well monitoring network to get a clear understanding how we’re doing in addressing the issue.  We need to understand the structure of aquifers in the basin to establish a clear causal connection between what actions are impacting groundwater in the basin, and where.

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