COSTA MESA, Calif. – The first three rules of real estate may well be “Location, location, location,” but when it comes to getting potential projects through the planning phase and into construction, one simple rule appears to evolve: Partnerships.
That fact became evident as several hundred watershed management professionals gathered here April 11 to discuss the benefits of consolidating efforts for maximum benefit in the present and anticipated times of fiscal limitations.
“You only need to look as far as the title of the conference, ‘The Power of Partnerships,’” said Col. Mark Toy, commander of the Corps’ Los Angeles District. “I talked about how our budgets are really flat, and so you’ve got to look at innovative ways you can bring people together so you can create synergy. People in D.C. want to see sponsors representing a region, not just one project.”
The conference, hosted by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, introduced speakers from federal, state and regional government agencies and from private industry who discussed the future of integrated watershed management and how its implementation increases the chances of getting projects approved and funded.
“When you come together in a way where you’re all on the same sheet of music and you’re budgeting for a watershed series of projects, there’s strength in that,” Toy said, “because the value to nation is greater when it affects more than just one sponsor, more than just one city, more than just one stakeholder. It’s really just making the most of those partnerships that are out there.”
Josephine Axt, chief of the District’s Planning Division, agreed.
“You don’t just go to D.C. anymore and say ‘I want this,’” she said. “Members of Congress are looking for people who say, 'We’re working with X, Y and Z in a collaborative fashion, and this is what the region needs, and this is how the region is working together.'"
That philosophy proved successful in two regards: the inclusion of $42 million in the president’s fiscal year 2014 proposed budget for construction along the Santa Ana River mainstem and the selection of the Santa Ana River watershed by Corps headquarters as a primary example of how collaboration among agencies can lead to project success.
“I’m really happy that in the Corps, the Santa Ana River watershed has been identified as a model effort of collaboration,” Toy said. “That’s the reason it went forward as the study that’s going to represent USACE in the next iteration of what watershed-based budgeting is going to look like. They could have chosen anything, but they chose SAWPA because of the great collaboration that exists.”
According to Axt, one can expect that collaboration will continue not only along the Santa Ana River, but with similar projects throughout the Corps.
“So in terms of the success of this conference, it was a great opportunity for Col. Toy to announce that the Santa Ana River watershed was selected as the model,” Axt said. “Headquarters said, ‘We like what they did. We like how they did it. We’re holding them up as what people should try to replicate.’”