As part of the Great Lakes Tributary Modeling (GLTM) 516e Program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Buffalo District’s Sediment Transport Analysis and Regional Training (START) team has been delivering on their commitment to help stakeholders across the Great Lakes better understand the watershed they live in.
“It has been an amazing year, and so many groups have been taking advantage of the 100% federally funded training,” said Mike Voorhees who recently took over as program manager. “We have completed 31 watershed assessments from Wisconsin to New York; with groups ranging from non-governmental organizations to soil and water conservancy districts, to college students, nine field assessments, and have trained over 200 people with more than 500 people and agencies lined up for trainings next year.”
The START initiative provides trainings to federal, state, and local government agencies as well as at multiple educational institutions, on how to use a combination of web-based water quality management tools and field investigations to complete reconnaissance level watershed assessments. The training is an opportunity for agencies to gain a better understanding of localized sedimentation, erosion, and non-point source pollution issues within their watershed.
If numbers are not enough to establish the effectiveness of the START initiative, the Environmental Management Council (EMC) of Canton, New York is a terrific example of how organizations can take the initial training and build upon it.
The EMC used and replicated the report generated by the START team in a presentation to highlight the capabilities of the tools that were used in the assessment. The EMC took the training initiative one step further when they invited the START team back out to the watershed to host a second training session for citizen science with regards to total suspended solids.
“What I am most excited about is that later this month is we were asked by the EMC to do a third training for elementary and high school science teachers,” said Voorhees “What better way to get students involved in their watershed than educate the people who teach the students.”
Spending time within the communities has also lead to opportunities to network and get involved with college level academia. Specifically, Michigan State University (MSU) has asked members of the START team to sit on the advisory committee for their Great Lakes Clean Communities Network (GLCCN).
According to the GLCCN web page their mission is for leaders to connect in new and powerful ways, and determination drives innovative ideas to address environmental problems locally and throughout the Great Lakes. It was a perfect match for the START initiative.
The ultimate goal of the initiative is to reduce the loading of sediment and pollutants to tributaries in order to enhance Great Lakes water quality, help delist Great Lakes areas of concern, and reduce the need for navigation dredging.
“The training is 100% federally funded and the team can travel anywhere in the Great Lakes basin,” said Voorhees. “We only need a computer lab with internet access to host a training. I would encourage anyone who is interested in taking part in the initiative contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.”