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EPA Designates Center of Excellence for Watershed Management in Tennessee

Release Date: 02/25/2008
Contact Information: Davina Marraccini, (404) 562-8293, marraccini.davina@epa.gov

(Atlanta, Ga. – February 25, 2008) – Today, the University of Tennessee’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment (ISSE) and the Cumberland River Compact (CRC) were recognized as the Center of Excellence for Watershed Management in Tennessee. This is only the second Center of Excellence to be designated in the Southeast.

ISSE and CRC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) at a ceremony during the Green Development: Good for Water and the Bottom Line Conference at the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.

“At EPA, we believe watersheds represent the most logical basis for managing resources since all the water, both surface and groundwater, within them eventually drains to the same place,” said EPA Regional Administrator Jimmy Palmer. “Today’s agreement affirms our shared commitment to determine what actions are needed to protect or restore the impacted waterways throughout Tennessee.”

"I commend ISSE and CRC for their work in protecting Tennessee watersheds," said TDEC Deputy Commissioner Paul Sloan. "A Tennessee Center for Watershed Excellence can be an important resource for local governments and stakeholders groups who recognize need for using a comprehensive watershed approach to resource management."

“The Center of Excellence Program is a very nice tool that will allow us and CRC to partner with organizations that have a stake in watershed management and be able to pool resources more effectively to improve Tennessee waters,” added ISSE Director Randall W. Gentry.

“At this increasingly challenging time for water resources, we at the Compact are very excited about the additional coordinated resources such a Center will bring to our watersheds,” said CRC Senior Fellow Margo Farnsworth. “We're excited about the way the Center will be able to connect graduate students and additional resources directly to watersheds where on the ground work is being done.”

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. ISSE and CRC approached EPA in mid-2007 to become a Center of Excellence. This will be the first Center of Excellence that involves a partnership between a university and a non-governmental organization.

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 protected the nation’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 takes 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/priority.html