The National Achievement Award is the highest honor presented by the National Rivers Hall of Fame to those people who are making significant contributions to America’s waterways. The National Rivers Hall of Fame with members in 36 states is the only national museum telling the stories of the people of America’s rivers.
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Vernon Behrhorst’s distinguished and productive career in water resources has been dedicated to the support and promotion of our nation’s inland waterways system, particularly the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
His parents were successful in instilling their three children with a dedication to public service. His father owned and operated a small petroleum products distributorship in a midwestern town. Mr. Behrhorst came to Louisiana to teach geography at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1957. Shortly after his arrival he became involved with the Louisiana Intracoastal Seaway Association.
As member and executive director of the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association, he supported new channels, but also reoriented GICA’s mission to include improvements, rehabilitation, operation, maintenance, environmental considerations, and correlative flood control issues.
He provided leadership in securing construction of the Leland Bownam Lock on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Louisiana, which was completed in 1985, replacing the antiquated 55-foot wide Vermilion Lock with a 110-by-1200 foot lock. This established 110 feet as the “standard” width for construction of new locks, breaking the then standing rule that the width of new locks would be no greater than the existing locks.
Vernon Behrhorst was involved with projects that provided both navigation and environmental benefits. For example, he guided authorization and construction, in record time, of the Sargent Beach erosion control project in Texas to prevent erosion of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway into the Gulf of Mexico. He currently serves as Special Advisor to the National Rivers Hall of Fame and National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.
Honored in 1997.