UK research institute receives only honor in state

By Gary Hermann

A UK research institute has received an honor that no other institute has in Kentucky.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named the Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute the only Center of Excellence in Watershed Management in Kentucky and seventh in the Southeast.

Yesterday on World Water Day, President Lee Todd and KWRRI Director Lindell Ormsbee represented UK in receiving this award yesterday in a small ceremony.

“To move forward, to get those other pollutants out of our waterways, it’s going to take more partners,” Doug Mundrick, the EPA region IV deputy director, said. “We are so excited to have UK here on board with this.”

Benefits of being a Center of Excellence is that the university will be seen as a global and regional leader at dealing with these water problems, Mundrick said.

“People want to do the right thing, sometimes they don’t know what the right thing is,” Mundrick said. “Institutes like UK will help bring that out there.”

Ormsbee acknowledged various people, organizations and institutes that helped UK in its mission in watershed management.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with various other institutes here at UK, which I think underscores the strengths of a land grant institution,” Ormsbee said.

Ormsbee also spoke about the Water Pioneers program, which exposes first-generation college-bound high school sophomores from Eastern Kentucky to watershed issues. The goal of this is for them to return to their local communities and work on environmental projects there.

“It’s really been neat to see some of those students continue on to UK,” Ormsbee said.

At the ceremony, Todd reflected on a comment he made 10 years ago when he accepted the presidency at UK.

“If the University of Kentucky as a land grant university can do more for its own state than any other land grant university in the nation, I can live with that,” he said.

Todd also commended the program and its methods of addressing one of “Kentucky’s Uglies.”

“Some of the things we’re doing here are translatable to other states and other worlds,” Todd said. “We are doing exactly what I think a land grant university should be doing.”

According to Mundrick, to receive this distinction an institution needs to demonstrate technical expertise in identifying and addressing watershed needs.

There also needs to be involvement of students, staff and faculty in watershed research, the financial ability to become self-sustaining, the ability to deliver and account for results, a willingness to partner with other institutions, and support from the highest levels of the organization.