Welcoming Scott Storment
EAHCP Steward - September-October 2018 - www.EAHCPSteward.org
Scott Storment is new to the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan (EAHCP), but he has a wealth of environmental and program management experience very similar to the EAHCP’s mission. The EAHCP Steward had the opportunity to sit down with Storment to get his thoughts about those past projects and this new major step in his career.
EAHCP Steward: Welcome to the EAHCP team. We know you’ve been on the job a handful of weeks and are still getting the lay of the land at the EAA, but there are lots of people interested in getting to know you. Give us a quick rundown of your educational background and professional experience.
Storment: It is definitely a pleasure to be at the EAA and managing the EAHCP. I earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M before heading to the University of New Mexico to do my graduate studies in Natural Resource Planning and Environmental Finance. After getting my master’s degree there, I was fortunate to lead a binational watershed enhancement program as a staff member for the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, which is now the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Our job was to develop best practices for improving water quality in the Rio Grande River watershed that encompassed Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. That project involved dealing with some endangered species and their habitats as well. In addition to environmental conditions, we also worked with communities in that watershed and the Mexican government to balance the economic development with environmental needs. After completing work on the Rio Grande Alliance, which is what that project was called, I transitioned to using some of my environmental finance training in the wastewater infrastructure development sector. There I managed some programs aimed at helping the half million people living in the “Colonias,” which were substandard housing communities along the Texas-Mexico border. That experience led me working in the Governor George Bush administration as the first director for Colonias Initiatives. We helped people who were desperately poor connect their small homes to sewer lines to improve sanitation there. From there I transitioned the North American Development (NAD) Bank in San Antonio and worked on water, wastewater, energy and air quality projects. This was also the timeframe when renewable energy supplies were being developed and so I had the opportunity to learn a lot about solar, wind and even bio-gas power. Everything the NAD Bank financed had to include some sort of environmental improvement aspect to it. I left the bank to start my own environmental services company. We did projects in the U.S. and Mexico and I had the good fortune of doing some work for major companies like USAA. One of the things I managed was the Water Forum, a local event that focused on regional water issues. That event helped me get to know some of the folks from the Edwards Aquifer Authority. I briefly worked for a company called Ameresco before coming to the EAA. There I learned a tremendous amount about water conservation technologies which should transfer very well to my new work on the EAHCP.
EAHCP Steward: Sounds like your work experience has an abundance of similarities to what the EAHCP is about, which should be a nice head-start for you.
Storment: The overlap is very striking for me. I’ve helped develop small and large watershed plans in this area of the country. And in every case, there is a direct link between the river system and the local aquifers. Each system contains water quality and quantity issues to deal with. Additionally, an important component of these types of projects is teaching communities about these resources and how they can help protect them. All three of those topics are directly relevant to priorities of the EAHCP and EAA. After spending so much of my recent career on the water infrastructure side, it has been refreshing to reengage on the environmental policy, program and planning aspects that make up the EAHCP.
EAHCP Steward: Speaking of policy and science, how do you see those things coming together in the EAHCP?
Storment: Well, there are a myriad of official participants in the EAHCP, and then there are several non-voting participants who are definitely involved in this program. What amazes me most is how successful the program has become using a consensus-based approach to decision making. These are not easy issues to manage and there are very different points of views on managing resources like the Edwards Aquifer. However, I think there are two very important factors that make this type of decision making system work here. First, there has been a plethora of solid, scientific studies to inform decision makers and interested parties along the way. Additionally, the common interest of managing resources from a local, or in this case, regional aspect rather than deferring to state or federal authorities is a definite motivator for working together. From my experience, solving problems regionally are always the best ways to get positive results for a group like the Edwards Aquifer community. I am a firm believer in that approach.
EAHCP Steward: After studying the EAHCP for a short time, what are the things that stand out to you as the most important next steps in the program?
Storment: In the next few weeks, we will be receiving the final report from the National Academies of Science. They’ve spent a few years studying the EAHCP and so all of us will be very interested in their assessment and recommendations for improvements. There are also a number decisions to be made about Phase 1 and 2 of the EAHCP coming in the near term. I’m fortunate to have inherited a successful and well-running program, but as we all know, there is a long path before us and I’m definitely looking forward to working with everyone on this challenge.