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EPA Designates Center of Excellence for Watershed Management At Auburn University

Release Date: 10/07/2008
Contact Information: Contact Information: Davina Marraccini, (404) 562-8293, marraccini.davina@epa.gov

(Atlanta, Ga. – Oct. 7, 2008) – Today, Auburn University was recognized as a Center of Excellence for Watershed Management in Alabama. This is only the fourth Center of Excellence to be designated in the Southeast. Auburn University 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 this morning in Samford Hall.

“We are confident that today’s agreement will help Auburn University continue and expand its efforts to protect and restore waterways throughout Alabama,” said EPA Regional Administrator Jimmy Palmer. “At EPA, we believe watersheds represent the most logical basis for managing resources since all water, both surface and groundwater, within them eventually drains to the same place.”

“The Alabama Department of Environmental Management is committed to protecting and preserving our water resources here in Alabama,” said ADEM Director Trey Glenn. “The signing of this MOU and the establishment of this partnership will allow each of us to leverage our limited resources and accomplish our goal of ensuring clean waterways for the citizens of 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.

"We appreciate this opportunity to partner with EPA and ADEM to help manage water resources as prudently as possible, with an eye toward conservation and increased availability," said Auburn University
President Jay Gogue. "Auburn has a broad array of expertise to contribute to these efforts."

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, the 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