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National planning team study explores watershed planning and the future

Published Feb. 25, 2014
Watershed planning should be a critical component within the Corps’ planning portfolio.

Despite its importance, the process has been misunderstood in the past as misguided with no clear purpose or output. This misunderstanding around watershed studies threatens the Corps’ capabilities and role in watershed planning.
A team working for the Corps’ Planning Community of Practice was recently tasked with addressing these misunderstandings, identifying problems facing watershed studies and providing solutions to address the problems. 

The problems facing watershed studies are not unique. There are funding constraints, complicated and confusing processes, limited guidance and poor communication of the value of watershed studies. 

During the research, the team worked to identify a framework that could address the issues by proposing a new process specific to watershed studies, information and resources to help teams and communication objectives to ensure the value of watershed studies is known and documented. 

Although much of the information developed by this team hasn’t been formalized as guidance or distributed to the field, important progress has been made on how watershed planning is another way for the Corps of Engineers to achieve Integrated Water Resource Management. 

Tackling the problems facing these studies has been challenging. Like most things we do in the Corps, there are no easy solutions. After looking at lessons learned as part of this team, it’s clear that planners will be key to the Corps’ future. They will need to think big, develop creative ideas, programmatic solutions and keep focused on the future. 

Moving forward, Corps planners will need to be a guiding path for the stakeholders in the watersheds. The focus should not be on what the Corps can do but on what progress can be made at the local levels, with the Corps participating where it can. 

Working on the national team created many opportunities and built critical networks. Although the task focused on watershed planning, the team determined that it was important to also support: budget development, defining the watershed planning portfolio, communication, coordination and support of other planning activities. There were many great lessons learned along the way.