Establishing a New Instream Flow and Water Level Conservation Training, Research, and Development Center: Project Progress Report

Establishing a New Instream Flow and Water Level Conservation Training, Research, and Development Center: Project Progress Report

The final feasibility assessment report (Feasibility Report) whether to establish a Training, Research, and Development Center (Center) to support instream flow and water level conservation (IFWLC) is now available.

Chena River in Alaska

This project report outlines the process and outcomes of a 10-member steering committee (Committee) comprised of IFWLC experts representing governmental, non-governmental, academic, and private sectors with extensive experience in integration of the interdisciplinary development, training, and application of IFWLC methods, and who have remained actively involved in water resource allocation issues. Per the assessment process, the committee determined there is the need, support, strategies, and pathways forward to develop the Center.

The feasibility assessment project was funded by a Multistate Conservation Grant (F21AP01124), a program funded from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Improvement Acts Program, and jointly managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The effort was led by the Instream Flow Council (IFC) and the American Fisheries Society (AFS). The project builds off the work of the Cooperative Instream Flow Service Group which closed in the early 2000s – recognizing that interdisciplinary IFWLC scientific, legal, institutional, and public involvement training is still critically important to regulatory staff, management, research, and all categories of water stakeholders (including end users), so that the ecological and other implications of water allocation decisions on freshwater and estuarine ecosystems are clearly understood.

The Committee formed to administer and conduct the feasibility assessment used a combination of personal contacts among colleagues, peers, and associates, and results from an internet-based survey of water stakeholder interests. They concluded that no appropriate, comprehensive, and consistent training opportunities currently exist, and there was overwhelming and broad support for the formation of a Center. The Committee envisioned that the Center would provide four primary functions: leadership; interdisciplinary training; collaboration with partners on development and testing of new methods and subsequent integration into the Center curriculum; and support services.

The pros and cons of four approaches to the development of the Center were evaluated, considering start-up costs, location, and staffing needs. The Committee recommends that the Center be housed within a university or research center with shared interdisciplinary objectives for IFWLC conservation, and ideally will have a dedicated endowment to ensure longevity.

The eventual format, function, and funding of the Center will be guided by the IFC and AFS and will evolve over time with input and feedback provided from the stakeholder community. The Center’s collaborative networking with universities, national research centers, and private industry engaged in research and development and application of new IFWLC interdisciplinary methods will further improve the ability of all stakeholders to participate in and assess the implications of water resource decisions on freshwater and estuarine ecosystems.

In addition to supporting regulatory management and enforcement staff representing local, state, regional, provincial, national, tribal, and international jurisdictions, other stakeholders such as private sector individuals and businesses, NGOs, foundations, academic institutions, and citizen groups will benefit from the Center’s resources and training.

The next project steps will include crafting a business plan to facilitate implementation of the Feasibility Report recommendations relating to the specifics of funding needs, sources, and financial mechanisms, and its governance. Other preliminary actions required to establish and operate the Center will also be executed.

Please submit comments, requests for additional information, or to be included in future update notices using the online Instream Flow and Water Level Conservation Center – Feasibility Report feedback Form located on the IFC home page

Download the Feasibility Report

Feasibility Assessment Citation

Weedman, D., D. Austen, T. Annear, D. Carlisle, C. Estes, T. Hardy, A. Locke, D. Orth, D. Reiser, and C. Stalnaker. 2023. Training, research, and development center to support instream flow and water level conservation: Feasibility assessment. Multistate Conservation Grant Project Number F21AP01124, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration. Instream Flow and Water Level Conservation Steering Committee. Instream Flow Council and American Fisheries Society. 78 p.

Photo Credit
Joseph, Flickr
November 15, 2023