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EPA Designates Center of Excellence for Watershed Management At Alabama AandM University

Release Date: 01/30/2009
Contact Information: Davina Marraccini, (404) 562-8293, marraccini.davina@epa.gov

(Atlanta, Ga. – Jan. 30, 2009) – Alabama A&M University (AAMU) was recognized yesterday as the first historically black college or university (HBCU) to become a designated Center of Excellence for Watershed Management. This is only the second Center of Excellence to be designated in Alabama and the fifth in the Southeast. AAMU president Dr. Beverly Edmond signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) during a ceremony yesterday afternoon at the university’s Agricultural Research Center.

“Everyone lives in a watershed and at EPA we believe a watershed approach is the most effective framework to address today's water resource challenges,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg. “This designation will allow AAMU to continue developing the strong partnerships with other institutions, organization and agencies required to protect and restore watersheds in northern Alabama.”

According to ADEM Director Trey Glenn, “Alabama has tremendous water resources and the Department’s mission is to ensure those resources are protected for today’s citizens and future generations. We are confident that this new partnership with Alabama A & M will allow all parties to leverage our resources and focus our efforts to protect water quality in Alabama.”

To become a recognized Center of Excellence, the institution must demonstrate technical expertise in identifying and addressing watershed needs; involvement of students, staff and faculty in watershed research; capability to involve the full suite of disciplines needed for all aspects of watershed management; financial ability to become self-sustaining; ability to deliver and account for results; willingness to partner with other institutions; and support from the highest levels of the organization.

"The cities of tomorrow will be judged on how well human beings take care of the natural environment that surrounds and flows through them,” said Teferi Tsegaye, AAMU Chair of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and Director of the Center of Excellence for Watershed Management. “Watershed health provides an accurate footprint of how heavily or lightly man walks upon the earth."

Some of the benefits of being a recognized Center of Excellence include receipt of EPA technical assistance where needed (instructors, speakers, etc); promotion of the Center of Excellence to stakeholders; EPA letters of support for grant opportunities; and identification of opportunities for Center of Excellence involvement in local and regional watershed issues.

For decades, EPA and ADEM have protected Alabama’s lakes, rivers and wetlands by regulating specific points of pollution; the most common of these being sewage treatment plants and factories. Although this approach led to the successful cleanup of many waterways, others still remain polluted from sources not as easily regulated. These more subtle sources include farms, streets, parking lots, lawns, rooftops or any other surfaces that come in contact with rainwater. Today, EPA and ADEM take a broader approach to water protection, looking at both the individual waterway and the watershed in which it is located.

Started in 2007, the EPA Region 4 Centers of Excellence for Watershed Management Program works with colleges and universities from across the Southeast to provide hands-on, practical products and services for communities to identify watershed problems and solve them. Each EPA designated Center actively seeks out watershed-based stakeholder groups and local governments that need cost effective tools for watershed scientific studies, engineering designs and computer mapping, as well as assistance with legal issues, project management, public education and planning.

More information about priority watersheds in the Southeast is available online at: http://www.epa.gov/region4/water/watersheds/index.html