The Playa del Rey-based Ballona Institute is one of 27 environmental organizations and individuals to receive the River Warrior Award in recognition of their efforts to protect and preserve water quality, along with riparian and aquatic habitat in free-flowing rivers.

Sponsored by the San Francisco-based nonprofit Resource Renewal Institute, the award, announced on Tuesday, June 2nd, is given with the hope of encouraging “valiant, resolute efforts in defending free-flowing rivers and the wildlife that depends on them,” said an Institute spokesman.

“Motivated by half-crazy passion, River Warrior Award winners struggle in the best of years — never mind the challenges of an economic downturn during a time of climate change,” said former California Secretary of Resources Huey Johnson, the founder of the River Warrior Awards.

Recipients of the award will receive $1,000.

The Ballona Institute, founded by Robert “Roy” van de Hoek and Marcia Hanscom, is an educational center for research, restoration, advocacy and exploration of the greater Ballona Wetlands. The organization was instrumental in the efforts to save over 600 acres of wetlands when they were acquired by the state in 2003.

Johnson says that his inspiration for giving the prizes comes from his experience from seeing the efforts of small organizations and individuals to protect and preserve water quality in the state’s rivers.

“Over a long career, I’ve seen many examples of little guys carrying on fights to maintain remote rivers,” he said. “It’s about time that they got some recognition.”