Meeting Summary of ICWP Members’ Discussion

Washington, DC Roundtable, Crystal City Gateway Marriott

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Attendees:  Julie Cunningham, Chair; Brian Atkins, Vice-Chair; Drew Dehoff, Treasurer; Board members:  Kirsten Mickelsen, Dru Buntin, Ed Swaim; Peter Evan, past Executive Director; Members:  Carlton Haywood, Brian Carr, Mark Masters, Amy Shallcross, Katheryn Zitsch, Randy Hadland, YSI/Xylem, Denis Qualls; Sue Lowry, Executive Director.

Julie Cunningham opened the meeting and summarized the activities that would take place over the next 2 days with the jointly held Roundtable meetings with the Western States Water Council.  She then introduced Sue Lowry as the newly selected Executive Director for the ICWP. Sue’s contract was effective as of 15 Feb. 2018.  Sue took a few minutes to describe her career at the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office in interstate river basin and compact commission management, which included many years serving on the Board of Directors of the ICWP.  She retired in June, 2016 and formed AvocetConsult, LLC. 

Everyone introduced themselves but also described what it was about ICWP membership that was important to them.  Themes of the ability to network with colleagues, both in the federal agencies and among state/interstate/ regional water agencies; staying abreast of new topics through the work of the ICWP committees; access to federal agency management; being exposed to new issues at the Roundtable and Annual Meetings of ICWP.

Sue made available copies of her Workplan attachment from her contract and since this meeting is being held with her only being on the job for 3 weeks, she stated it would be helpful for her to hear the members’ priorities.  Several categories were discussed:

Communications with the ICWP membership and prospective members:

Website:  All recognized that the current website is sorely neglected, but it was felt that the overall look and feel is fine, it just needs updated content.  Sue is working with Jason whose firm manages the ICWP site and has made a few updates but will make many more after this meeting and after getting the ICWP files from Ryan Mueller, past Executive Director.  Ryan has stated he will get the files to Sue no later than March 21.  

We should rely on our website to tout our accomplishments and provide the bulk of our content to our members and use other methods to draw attention to what’s posted there.  Notices of updates should be driven by the availability of pertinent information, not necessarily a firm routine.  Communications should be eye-catching in terms of containing important information, and not inundate the reader with promotions, sales pitches, etc.

Blog:  this aspect of the website is seen as a way to easily get timely content out and available to the water public.  Jason has sent Sue the login information and she can now access and post.  As opposed to a set schedule to post, it was felt it was more important to post quickly when new topics arise and not just use filler to meet an arbitrary posting schedule.  

As Sue reviews the files that were developed during Ryan’s time as Executive Director, she will keep an eye for those final documents that should be posted to the website to build our archive of Board and Roundtable and Annual meeting summaries. 

Workplan Priorities for Topics

It was recognized that our support of the USGS’s basic streamgage programs are still the highest priority and Sue will work with Peter Evans (as he’s willing to volunteer some time to ICWP in his retirement) to get back on a schedule of development for the support letters.  Past letters can be cited as success stories, as we can point to funding increases that have occurred.

These four areas were identified as primary work areas for the ICWP and should correspond with our Committee structure:

Legislation/Policy

Interstate Water Management/Coordination

Water Data/Science

Water Planning

We should rely on committees to develop webinars and discussions of the topics we want to focus on.

The Interstate Committee could focus on federal participation and investment in interstate agencies and common needs among the interstate agencies.

One potential webinar – update on water planning.  To include a discussion of USGS’s internal focus (i.e. monitoring, and implications for the cooperative program). 

For legislative outreach materials– provide front-loaded summary information and eye-catching opening statements to garner attention; tie everything to financial implications.

Peter recommended we can pick up Ryan’s draft Policy Statements regarding PAS and streamgage funding.

There is great interest in the full usage of PAS funding, including district planning chiefs interested in using PAS to accomplish mutual goals.  There may be a role for ICWP in coordinating the usage of PAS among/between districts and interstate agencies to accomplish mutual goals across districts. Generally, there is an opportunity to highlight USACE flexibility and encouraging staff that are focused on cooperating with states and interstates in meeting mutual goals regardless of district boundaries.

Regarding streamgaging, potential focus areas include federal initiatives regarding gage support (e.g. changes to the cooperative program), assessments of efficacy of current gage locations and usefulness in supplying critical data to models, and technological investments/improvements that could reduce the operations cost per gage and thereby help stabilize volatile funding and possibly allow for expanded network coverage.

Second tier topics include Infrastructure and Water Supply.  It was noted that a Water Supply Committee had been discussed in the past few months, but as the National Water Supply Alliance is now formed and well organized, it seems that ICWP should play a support role rather than stretching our thin resources into this arena.

Water Planning is not currently a standing committee, but during the discussion it was recognized that this could be another “niche” area for the ICWP that is not being filled by any other national water organization.  It also seems like a membership handle into the states that belong to the Western States Water Council.  The Council itself is made up of the directors of the water quantity, water quality and attorney generals agencies.  If staff level water Planning program directors were targeted for ICWP programs, it may be a way to get additional states to see value in ICWP membership.

Membership

As mentioned in the above paragraph, water planning staff may be an avenue for membership growth. Discussion was also held on regional water management agencies who are welcomed to ICWP as affiliate members. As states face budget struggles, in many cases the regional water entries are better funded and poised to be able to bring the state’s perspective to ICWP meetings.  

Along with regional entities, we should recognize the importance of interstate issues and maintain/expand forums for conversations with interstate agencies and tackling interstate issues.  Better, more widespread publication of our meeting agendas are likely to attract attention from regional and affiliate members.  Tribes are also a potential avenue for growth, as there is a lot of activity regarding their water rights and the topic garnered attention in recent congressional hearings.

Outreach and website information should make it clear what sets ICWP apart from other organizations and what the benefits of membership are.  An example – our streamgage support letter doesn’t just support data collection but emphasizes that the data collected make it possible for members to manage water resources and fulfill other obligations.  

We should hone our space (planning and science) to the primary interests of our members and let other organizations handle WOTUS, etc.  A new byline may assist with communicating the value we provide to members. 

To buffer against losing members through attrition, ICWP should encourage participation by members’ alternate or backup staff, with the goal of building a roster of junior members who will be poised to fill vacancies arising from retirements and other membership changes.

The Emeritus category was also discussed.  As this will not be a big revenue generating category, these past members can help us identify new organizations for membership and networking.

Sue also plans to reach out to our current sponsor entities as well as to prospective firms to assure that ICWP is providing them with good avenues that meet their company needs.

Upcoming Meetings:

2018 Annual Meeting: Will be held in Oklahoma City. Julie already had a list of potential panel topics to explore.  Sue will work with Mary Schooley in the next couple of weeks to identify potential hotels and get a meeting date selected.  The National Water Supply Alliance was interested in knowing these dates as soon as they are set as the may want to meet the day before to help with travel costs for those members in both organizations.

2019 Roundtable: It was determined that coming to Washington DC in the “off” years when we don’t meet jointly with WSWC is still beneficial, but that we might want to explore the model of our attendees visiting the agencies and congressional staffers at their offices rather than pulling together a conference agenda.  This could save money for members and limit the exposure to ICWP of high cost room blocks/catering, etc.

2019 Annual Meeting: Plans are developing to hold this 60thanniversary Annual meeting in Alabama.  Parts or all of the meeting may be held at the National Water Center in Tuscaloosa.  Sue will work with the Center and then with Brian’s staff to find optimal dates and location.  

2018 Summer Board meeting:  Dru suggested that although the Strategic Plan is dated 2015-2018, most aspects of the Plan are still pertinent and not much time will be needed to update the plan. He suggested that a more timely discussion might be to focus on work assignments to the Committees and more specifically webinar topics/speakers.  This item will be added to the next Board of Directors agenda.  

Sue Lowry

19 March, 2018