What Can Your Project Manager/Watershed Specialist Do for You?

Working in your watershed to improve water quality isn’t easy. From running a successful meeting to understanding the requirements of a grant, there are many challenges and questions that come up throughout the process. Fortunately, there are agency staff that can help you every step of the way and work with your team to help reach your goals. The Office of Water Quality has Watershed Specialists and Nonpoint Source Grant Project Managers at the ready in case questions arise. Below is a detailed explanation of the roles and responsibilities of these staff so you know who to contact when questions arise.

Watershed Specialists:

These staff are responsible for coordinating, advising, and assisting locally led watershed management activities within assigned watersheds, and for working with local, state, and federal entities to integrate watershed planning into local level planning. Watershed specialists work closely with watershed groups throughout the planning and implementation process and serve all groups in the state, regardless of how the group is funded. Their focus includes:

  1. Work to coordinate local watershed management activities within an assigned area of the state and act as a liaison between federal, state, and local programs and officials. They promote coordination and integration of watershed management activities with other local planning efforts including:
    1. Maintain a list of local watershed groups, assess and document their resource needs.
    2. Provide assistance to groups in all stages of watershed management and track type of assistance given, such aa:
      • long-term watershed planning
      • integration into other local planning efforts
      • partnership building
      • recruiting and retaining volunteers
      • steering committee development
      • conflict resolution
      • meeting agenda development
      • meeting facilitation
      • training new watershed coordinators
      • preparing GIS maps
      • locating existing water quality and land use studies and data
      • monitoring/modeling guidance
      • promoting appropriate BMPs & watershed management measures relating to all land uses and water quality impairments
      • grant application development
      • leveraging funding sources to improve water quality
    3. Meet with federal, state, and local program contacts and officials as appropriate to promote local integration of watershed planning.
    4. Coordinate with IDEM program staff on local watershed efforts and needs to improve customer service.
    5. Work with all interested parties in regions of the coverage area where no active watershed management activities are ongoing to promote watershed planning.
  2. Support integration of watershed planning and nonpoint source pollution reduction into agency programs and sister agency programs including:
    1. Coordinating with other IDEM program areas to provide information about the watershed approach and consistent guidance to customers.
    2. Act as a liaison between federal, state, and local programs and officials, ensuring that interested parties are aware of pertinent watershed management activities. Assist watershed groups on topics not related to IDEM programs.
    3. Provide assistance to regional and interstate watershed efforts.
    4. Participate in appropriate regional or state work-related committees to promote the watershed approach.

Nonpoint Source Grant Project Managers:

These staff are responsible for managing all aspects of nonpoint source grants awarded by IDEM to locally-led watershed groups and other entities working to reduce nonpoint source pollution. Project Managers work closely with grantees to insure that work products such as watershed management plans meet U.S. EPA and IDEM requirements, process invoices for payment, and support grantees with recommendations and technical support on tasks outlined in the grant agreement. Their focus includes:

  1. Prepare grant agreement documents so that the agreement has measurable components, realistic budgets and timetables, and relevance to IDEM program goals.
  2. Manage grant funded projects in a manner that ensures that grantees follow terms and conditions of grant agreements, and to the greatest extent possible, successfully complete all tasks as written in the grant agreement. This includes:
    1. Conducting quarterly site visits with grantees for all projects assigned.
    2. Attending, on an as needed basis, other grantee meetings. At these meetings, provide guidance and assistance on grant tasks, IDEM program requirements and policy, and work with Watershed Specialists to help meetings achieve the targeted purpose.
    3. Attending, as scheduling permits, grantee outreach, education, and training sessions.
    4. Review and approve cost-share programs and practices.
    5. Review grantee progress and work with grantees on any needed minor changes in scope, budget changes, and time extensions.
    6. Review and recommend for approval any and all subcontractor agreements.
    7. Provide, in coordination with appropriate agency staff, technical support to groups. Assistance includes but is not limited to mapping, data analysis, load calculations, and monitoring.
  3. Manage invoices and accounting for grant-funded projects.
  4. Review and comment on Watershed Management Plans to insure that any plan meets the requisite elements for approval by IDEM and U.S. EPA.

Not sure who to talk to?

Watershed Specialists are primarily responsible for the development and sustainability of watershed groups. This includes working to improve group organization, meeting structures, communication, and technical assistance. They assist groups with building successful partnerships, developing effective steering committees, running efficient and effective meetings, resolving stakeholder communication issues, and supporting the assigned project manager.

Project Managers are primarily responsible for the successful completion of IDEM nonpoint source grant agreements. They are the leads for questions, problems, or challenges associated with grant agreement requirements such as creating and approving grant-funded cost-share programs, reviewing draft watershed management plans against the IDEM checklist, reporting load reductions, and revising any monitoring strategy laid out in the grant agreement, IDEM policy, or U.S. EPA policy.

Remember, you can always get help from either a Watershed Specialist or your Project Manager. IDEM relies on these staff using their skills and talents to help effectively when needed. While a Project Manager will approve your cost-share program funded by an IDEM grant, the expertise of a Watershed Specialist can also be beneficial to the long-term success of the program. Both Watershed Specialists and Project Managers can provide technical support on mapping, monitoring, data analysis, load calculations, watershed plan development, and cost-share program development.

These staff may both be at your grant-funded watershed group meetings, but Watershed Specialists are primarily responsible for the human interactions that determine if a group is working towards sustainability and strengthening its efforts, while Project Managers are there to help your group meet the goals and tasks of your grant agreement. If you will be holding a critical meeting, schedule IDEM staff to attend in advance, and help us help you by letting us know what you are meeting about. Agendas are great tools for you, your stakeholders, and IDEM staff.

Working Together to Help You:

Watershed Specialists and Nonpoint Source Project Grant Project Managers work very closely and cooperatively with grantees to help these projects be as successful as possible. You may see both staff at meetings and events – IDEM is committed to having the needed resources available to answer questions and provide whatever support is needed. If one of us doesn’t know the answer to your question, we’ll find someone who does. Don’t be shy about seeking advice – we have dedicated, highly trained professionals ready to help!