The 2019 Dolly Connelly Award for Excellence in Environmental Journalism goes to Eric Barker of The Lewiston Tribune.

Judges awarded second place to Kimberly Cauvel of the Skagit Valley Herald.

A half-century ago, Dolly Connelly wrote on the great battle of whether -- and where -- to build high dams in Hells Canyon on the Snake River.

In rafting the river, I still look for the bore holes and paint daubs marking site of the Nez Perce Dam, which would have backed up both the Snake and Salmon rivers.

Eric Barker of The Lewiston Tribune, in a series of stories, carries issues of our greatest river system, vital to the Northwest, into the 21st century with a complex set of public policy decisions.

In words of Rocky Barker, retired Idaho Statesman writer, the Trib series "captures the shift from the old debate of dams vs. fish to the new reality of a rapidly changing energy market, a changing political atmosphere in Washington, and the challenge of climate change."

David Brewster, founder of The Seattle Weekly and Crosscut, summed it up: "A sovereign sense of all these important, interlocking issues across the Northwest. Balanced and thorough."

The relocation of the oft-flooded hamlet of Hamilton, in the Skagit River Valley, was the subject of the Skagit Valley Herald's comprehensive piece by Kimberly Cauvel.

"Good history, good personal stories and an eye for the larger issues,"Rocky Barker wrote. In Brewster's words, "These stories guide the community through a tough change with a great mix of the technical with the emotional and political issues surrounding the flood and the effort to make the community more resilient. In my case, I was moved by the history, and by folk who have put down roots for generations. I've been briefed by Forterra, the conservation group helping finance the move, but it came alive in the Herald piece."

These are exactly the sort of projects that the Connelly award was established to reward.