Tennessee School Steps Up for Watershed Excellence

The University of Tennessee's Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment and the Cumberland River Compact were recognized Feb. 25 as the Center of Excellence for Watershed Management in Tennessee. This is only the second Center of Excellence to be designated in the Southeast.

Representatives from the institute and the compact signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

To become a recognized Center of Excellence, an 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 Tennessee parties 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.

"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."

"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 Cumberland River Compact 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."

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.

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