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Memphis District Commander serving on state water steering committee

TN H2O Steering Committee

Memphis District Commander Col. Mike Ellicott (left) and Tom Needham (right), Shelby County (Tennessee) Director of Public Works talk with other members of the TN H2O Steering Committee.

With an eye on water resource issues both near term and out to the year 2040, Tennessee leaders headed by Gov. Bill Haslam, recently created the Tennessee Water Plan, or TN H2O. Memphis District Commander Col. Mike Ellicott is on the steering committee, and Hydraulics and Hydrology (H&H) Branch Chief Dave Berretta is a member of the groundwater working group.

According to recent documents published by the group at a Jan. 31 meeting in Nashville, “TN H2O is an initiative to assess current resources for the state and develop recommendations to ensure that Tennessee has an abundance of water resources to support population and economic growth in the future.”

Col. Ellicott said he is excited to be a part of this important initiative.

“It is a fantastic opportunity to serve on the steering committee for this organization!” Col. Ellicott said. “Water quality and quantity are challenges that reach across state and Corps of Engineers boundaries and a safe and adequate water supply is critical to the Nation’s future.”

The Nashville District Commander Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and a host of other representatives from federal, state and local government, manufacturing and industry, agriculture, academia and public interest groups also serve on the steering committee. Together, they bring a broad range of experience and expertise to the task. 

Explaining why the work of this group is so important, committee documents stated that over the past several years, Tennessee has experienced several issues which highlight the need for a comprehensive assessment of water resources in the state. For example, concerns over claims to water resources in the Memphis aquifer, droughts impacting numerous communities across the state, failures of aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and contentious interstate battles over rights to water, highlight the need for this effort. Developing a statewide water plan would position the state to understand strategic water resource needs and priorities for the state.

H&H Chief Dave Berretta said he sees the role of the groundwater working group as critical to this effort.

“We’ll be sharing the information Memphis District has available,” he said. “The group’s focus is to find ways to protect, preserve and manage these resources at both the state and regional level.”

Other working groups will address surface water, infrastructure, natural resources, institutional and legal frameworks, and technical issues.

Gov. Haslam has charged the committee with producing a final report and a set of recommendations available for public input by mid-October of this year.

The report will include an assessment of Tennessee’s current water resources and challenges and opportunities on the horizon (e.g. water reuse and land use conversion) and recommendations to ensure that Tennessee continues to have plenty of water to meet its needs.

“This is a very aggressive schedule and we are already supporting the effort,” Berretta said.