CLEMSON — Federal and state environmental officials renewed an agreement with Clemson University’s Center of Excellence for Watershed Management for another five years, recognizing its work to help protect and improve water quality in South Carolina.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) marked the renewal of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) in a ceremony Tuesday at EPA regional headquarters in Atlanta. Clemson is the first of 10 centers across the Southeast to be renewed.

“Clemson’s center has established itself as a leader in water resources management in South Carolina and across the Southeast — leveraging millions in funding to support priority projects,” said Stan Meiburg, EPA’s acting regional administrator. “The center is unique in that it focuses on using remotely sensed monitoring data, providing watershed information that can be used in real time to better protect local communities and improve water quality across the state.”

“DHEC is pleased to have a part in renewing Clemson’s center,” said Elizabeth Dieck, DHEC director of environmental affairs. “We believe that our continued partnership will increase awareness and facilitate improvements in water quality across the state.”

To become a recognized Center of Excellence, the institution must demonstrate technical expertise in identifying and addressing watershed needs, involve its academic community in watershed planning, protection and restoration, be self-sustaining and partner with other institutions. EPA recognition offers technical and promotional assistance and agency support for grant applications.

“Being named a Center of Excellence is a distinction and responsibility,” said John Kelly, Clemson University’s vice president of economic development. “Ensuring clean water for our state’s communities and businesses is a vital part of Clemson University’s mission.”

The center is part of Clemson University’s Institute of Applied Ecology and has been instrumental in developing the biennial S.C. Water Resources Conference established in 2008, fostering regional stormwater education consortiums through its Carolina Clear waterway protection and pollution prevention program, demonstrating the utility of green infrastructure practices to reduce stormwater runoff in Aiken, and promoting the use of Intelligent River technology which provides real-time remote data acquisition at the river-basin scale.

“We are excited to renew our MOU with EPA and DHEC and look forward to continuing our working partnerships with agencies and stakeholders,” added center director Gene Eidson. “Making decisions about water use and quality involves communication and confidence among public and private sector participants in policy making and operations. The people at the state, county and city levels who work with our center help us make our watershed programs relevant and robust.”

The center’s 2012 Annual Report is available on its website.

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EPA Region 4 Centers of Excellence for Watershed Management Program
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.