In Memoriam: Dr. Peter C. Klingeman, Founder RRNW

In Memoriam: Dr. Peter C. Klingeman, Founder, RRNW

It is with the most profound sorrow that we inform you of the passing of Dr. Peter C. Klingeman, one of the founding members of River Restoration Northwest. Many of you have seen Pete at the Symposium, filling various roles and taking care of business, but it may not be readily apparent how fundamental Pete was in the creation and evolution of RRNW. It was Pete who pulled together the five founding members following a national stream conference in Reno; it was Pete who was confident that we could organize a regional conference with only a few short months of planning; and it was Pete who took the gamble and secured Skamania Lodge on his personal credit card. That is how we started, and it was Pete’s dedication and unwavering belief in RRNW that kept us together and kept us strong.  Pete was not one to stand in the limelight, he did not like being center stage, he even struggled with having a much-deserved professional scholarship fund in his name — but River Restoration Northwest is Pete’s legacy – a gift he has given to all of us.

Pete lived a life full of rivers. He studied at Northwestern University and UC Berkeley in the late 1950s and early 1960s, where he was mentored by Dr. Hans Albert Einstein. After receiving his PhD, Pete held a number of university positions before settling in at Oregon State University in 1966, where he stayed for the remainder of his long career. In 1968, Pete became the Assistant Director of the Water Resources Research Institute, and then held the position of Director from 1975 to 1989. He also served as the Assistant Dean and Department Head in the OSU College of Engineering and Civil Engineering Department. Not surprisingly, as a student of Dr. Einstein, Pete became one of the few international experts in sediment transport. As one of the early pioneers in sediment transport, Pete established one of the first vortex bedload samplers in the world – at Oak Creek near the OSU campus. As a dedicated researcher, Pete made sure to measure bedload transport during peak flow events and would often have his graduate students out at the creek in the middle of dark and stormy nights. One of his graduate students, who happened to be a marathoner, mentioned that Pete could outpace her easily in the field, and that was when Pete was in his sixties. His energy and enthusiasm were contagious.

Pete not only taught very challenging engineering classes and conducted research on sediment transport in his Oak Creek Lab, he also applied his knowledge and experience to a wide range of environmental problems including: instream gravel mining, navigation, hydropower diversions, flood control, culvert design, reservoir operations, creation of artificial spawning beds, and fish passage improvement, just to name a few. It was Pete’s interest in real-world problems that made him such an excellent teacher and mentor to so many of us. It was not uncommon for Pete to bring a sediment transport consulting project into his university classes. It helped his students learn not only the theory of sediment transport, but also the application. It was his work with a wide variety of agencies and organizations that resulted in Pete’s huge network of contacts throughout the US and the world.

Pete Klingeman was an absolute institution at Oregon State University. Although he taught within the Civil Engineering Department, he drew in students from a wide swath of natural resource disciplines because Pete knew rivers, and for those of us interested in studying rivers, his classes were not to be missed. While technically a hydraulic engineer, Pete was a bit of a renaissance man – including geomorphology, biology, fisheries, and water quality into his courses.

During an email exchange in the early years of River Restoration Northwest, there was a very fitting typo – we accidentally referred to Pete as “the Treasure” — and while he was indeed an excellent Treasurer for many years, he was, and will always be The RRNW Treasure.