By Melanie PetersonJanuary 24, 2020
ST. PAUL, Minn. - A St. Paul District team is working to becoming a national center of expertise for integrated water resource management, or IWRM.
Spearheaded by Sierra Keenan, planning, and Nate Campbell, project management, the team is working to fill a gap of formalized knowledge and expertise.
Integrated water resource management is a way to approach planning. The approach looks at the big picture of a watershed. Instead of costly temporary fixes, this watershed-view provides solutions to the larger problems.
"Delivering sustainable water resource solutions through IWRM is the number one goal of the Corps' Civil Works Strategic Plan 2014-2018," said Campbell. "We want the St. Paul District to lead the charge and become experts to provide support nationally."
The 14-person team includes people from across the Upper Mississippi River - St. Paul, Rock Island and St. Louis districts. Campbell said, the St. Paul District already uses IWRM but forming this team is a way to give a name and structure to the approach.
The goal is to serve as a delivery team for the IWRM approach when another district is unable to within their civil works boundaries, he explained. Additionally, the team aims to serve as the lead for
agency technical review of IWRM-related reports.
"There currently is no go-to cadre of individuals who have experience in watershed planning who are agency technical review certified who could mentor and provide leadership on watershed studies across the Corps," said Keenan.
In addition to specifically authorized watershed studies, the team has been able to incorporate their IWRM efforts into other existing program authorities. Under planning assistance to states, the team has coordinated with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources to provide support for the state's 'One Watershed,
One Plan' (https://bwsr.state.mn.us/onewatershed-one-plan) program, which requires each watershed in Minnesota to develop a comprehensive watershed management plan that incorporates data collection and input from stakeholders, agencies and citizens. Support to the state has included hydraulic/hydrologic modeling, a GIS-based approach to wetland restoration and development of a strategic framework for stakeholder engagement.
The team is coordinating their first tribal watershed assessment, which will be the first of its kind in the Mississippi Valley Division. Keenan said, the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians had an interest in restoring Lac Courte Oreilles Lake in Sawyer County, Wisconsin.
"As we coordinated with the Tribe, it became clear that doing a site-specific restoration project may not be possible because of where the boundary of tribal land fell," she said. "Through continued discussion with the tribe, it came to surface that they had an interest in a watershed study, which is something we have the authority to pursue under the tribal partnership program.
"The focus is still on restoration, but through a watershed assessment, we can better understand the system wide problems and the larger-scale objectives," she continued. "The conversation was originally focused on restoring habitat in a single bay on one part of the lake. With a watershed assessment, the team can look at drivers on a watershed scale instead of coming in with such a narrow focus."
The team is actively searching for IWRM initiatives to participate in. Campbell said, "The end goal is for a regional IWRM team to be established, staffed and overseen in the St. Paul
District. The vision is for the team to be efficiently executing IWRM studies for the region and providing support for the nation."