Mrs. Joan Irvine Smith, co-founder of NWRI, was presented with the 2007 Coastal Protection Award from the Orange County Coastkeeper at the Seventh Annual "Toast the Coast" gala on September 29, 2007, in Newport Beach, California.
A philanthropist and longtime environmental advocate, Mrs. Smith is the great granddaughter of James Irvine, an immigrant who formed the Irvine Ranch from 120,000 acres of land in what is now Orange County, California. She spent much of her childhood on the ranch with her grandfather, James Irvine II, who would take her along to inspect his wells, dams, and lakes. It was he who taught her the importance of water, pointing out that the land was a desert and needed water to produce the crops he grew.
Mrs. Smith co-founded NWRI in 1991 along with her mother, Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke, and continues to support NWRI through the Joan Irvine Smith & Athalie R. Clarke Foundation. For these efforts and more, she was selected as the Coastal Protection Award honoree for her lifelong dedication to water supply and water quality issues in Orange County. In addition, she also received a Congressional Certificate of Recognition from Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-California) commemorating the occasion.
Coastkeeper is devoted to protecting and preserving the marine habitats and watersheds of Orange County, California. The "Toast the Coast" gala helps supports Coastkeeper through fundraising auctions, as well as honors local environmental visionaries.