INTERVIEW with Greg Nageotte, Watershed Program Manager, Division of Soil and Water Conservation
What do you do to support sustainable development in Ohio?
I help provide resources such as funding, training and technical support to local watershed partnerships, so they’re able to develop and implement good action plans for the protection and restoration of streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and ground water. The Ohio Watershed Coordinator Grant Program I oversee is the linchpin for these efforts.
What is a watershed and why should they be protected?
A watershed is the land area draining to a specific body of water. All land is divided into watersheds nested within larger watersheds. For example, Columbus is located in the Scioto River Watershed, which is within the Ohio River Watershed and ultimately the Mississippi River Watershed. Because most water pollution problems are now a result of how people use the land, then by caring for the land in watersheds we can have clean water for consumption, recreation and wildlife.
What is the Ohio Watershed Coordinator Grant Program?
The grant program provides matching funds to a local sponsor such as a Soil and Water Conservation District, nonprofit organization, or university in order to hire a watershed coordinator. Having a person in this pivotal role makes it easier for local stakeholders to coordinate a good planning process and gather the resources necessary to accomplish their water resource goals.
The map shows Ohio watersheds for which we have helped fund a watershed coordinator. Watershed coordinators need to have a broad range of skills such as group facilitation, fundraising, environmental planning, volunteer organizing and grant management. So, by working with our partners, Ohio EPA, OSU Extension and others, we provide training opportunities to help them enhance these and other skills.
How are local watershed action plans developed?
Watershed plans come together in basically two major steps. First, the watershed coordinator helps stakeholders gather what is known about the watershed. This “watershed inventory” includes information about land use, water quality, high value resources and other information stakeholders need for good decision-making. The second step is a social process of engaging local stakeholders in defining specific steps necessary to improve or protect the watershed. State endorsed watershed action plans exist for many of the watershed grants identified on the map previously mentioned.
What is most challenging about your job?
Local watershed partnerships are like snowflakes. Each one has a unique mix of land uses, types and quality of water resources, people and histories. Every watershed coordinator also brings distinct experiences and personality to the mix. So, each watershed project is an experiment, and managing the program with the right balance of consistency and flexibility can be a challenge.