Charrette helps Harpeth River Feasibility Study flow ahead ‘SMART’

By Lee Roberts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 25, 2013) – The team responsible for conducting the Harpeth River Flood Risk Management Feasibility Study held a planning charrette Nov. 20-22 at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Headquarters to help the process flow forward as SMART as possible.

Fort Worth District Planner Nancy Parrish (Right) and Project Manager Nova Robbins facilitate a planning charrette at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Nov. 20, 2013.  They were asked to conduct the workshop because they both were trailblazers involved in a SMART pilot project called Westside Creeks, an ecosystem restoration in San Antonio, Texas.  In addition, they have conducted SMART initiatives and benefitted from holding a charrette to kick off the planning process for a feasibility study in their home district. (Photo by Lee Roberts)
Fort Worth District Planner Nancy Parrish (Right) and Project Manager Nova Robbins facilitate a planning charrette at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Nov. 20, 2013. They were asked to conduct the workshop because they both were trailblazers involved in a SMART pilot project called Westside Creeks, an ecosystem restoration in San Antonio, Texas. In addition, they have conducted SMART initiatives and benefitted from holding a charrette to kick off the planning process for a feasibility study in their home district. (Photo by Lee Roberts)

The term SMART is a Corps directive that calls for studies to be specific, measurable, attainable, risk informed and timely.

Amanda Burt, Nashville District’s planner for the Harpeth River study, said the planning process has changed dramatically and this is the first SMART planning project for the Nashville District.

“The charrette helped put us on the right path and get us started on several required elements of the process,” Burt said.

The Nashville District in partnership with Metro Nashville, City of Franklin, City of Brentwood and Williamson County are conducting a feasibility level assessment of flooding in the Harpeth River watershed.  The sponsors used the charrette to lay the groundwork for a more integrated team, to save time and money, to encourage meaningful public involvement, to foster positive interaction, and promote a shared vision for conducting the study and resolving issues.

Nova Robbins, a project manager with the Fort Worth District, facilitates input from sponsors involved in a planning charrette at the Nashville District Headquarters Nov. 20, 2013.  As an objective third party, Robbins helped the sponsors focus and collaborate during the workshop. (Photo by Lee Roberts)
Nova Robbins, a project manager with the Fort Worth District, facilitates input from sponsors involved in a planning charrette at the Nashville District Headquarters Nov. 20, 2013. As an objective third party, Robbins helped the sponsors focus and collaborate during the workshop. (Photo by Lee Roberts)

Burt explained that the participants were able to focus and collaborate during the workshop and benefitted from several experienced members of the Fort Worth District who volunteered to facilitate the charrette.

Nova Robbins, a project manager, and Nancy Parrish, a planner, traveled from Texas to lead the charrette because they both were trailblazers involved in a SMART pilot project called Westside Creeks, an ecosystem restoration in San Antonio, Texas.  In addition, they have conducted SMART initiatives and benefitted from holding a charrette to kick off the planning process for a feasibility study.

Robbins and Parrish said there is no best way to conduct a feasibility study. That’s why they both believe that thinking differently and outside of the box and changing the culture of how the Corps of Engineers conducts business is why a charrette is a super tool to use when guiding multiple stakeholders through the SMART planning process.

Roger Lindsey, program manager at Metro Nashville Water Services, participates in a planning charrette Nov. 20, 2013 at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Headquarters.  The charrette lasted three days and facilitated collaboration between sponsors involved with conducting the Harpeth River Flood Risk Management Feasibility Study. (Photo by Lee Roberts)
Roger Lindsey, program manager at Metro Nashville Water Services, participates in a planning charrette Nov. 20, 2013 at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Headquarters. The charrette lasted three days and facilitated collaboration between sponsors involved with conducting the Harpeth River Flood Risk Management Feasibility Study. (Photo by Lee Roberts)

“It is a meeting where you put sponsors in a room and you scope the project on what your objective is and the best pathway to the next decision point,” Parrish said.  “It really is the kickoff meeting that sets the stage and the tone for how the project is going to be done.”

Parrish explained that the team leading the Harpeth River Flood Risk Management Feasibility Study has milestones that have to be reached and the charrette helps with providing a broad overview of the steps that will need to be taken to complete the study on time and on budget.

The need to deliver quality products and services to appropriately address the nation’s water resources is why the Corps developed and initiated the SMART concept.

Retired Maj. Gen. Michael J. Walsh, formerly the deputy commanding general for Civil Works and Emergency Operations, first engineered the SMART concept.  He released an official memorandum in February 2012 that addressed how the Corps of Engineers executes and delivers feasibility studies.

Nancy Parrish, a planner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District, talks to sponsors of the Harpeth River Flood Risk Management Feasibility Study Nov. 20, 2013 at the Nashville District Headquarters. Parrish facilitated a planning charrette designed to help the sponsors collaborate and create a suitable pathway for accomplishing the study on time and on budget. (Photo by Lee Roberts)
Nancy Parrish, a planner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District, talks to sponsors of the Harpeth River Flood Risk Management Feasibility Study Nov. 20, 2013 at the Nashville District Headquarters. Parrish facilitated a planning charrette designed to help the sponsors collaborate and create a suitable pathway for accomplishing the study on time and on budget. (Photo by Lee Roberts)

The new planning paradigm involves a three-pronged requirement. The general directed that all feasibility studies follow a “3x3x3” rule that set a goal for studies to be completed in 18 months, but no more than three years, not cost more than $3 million, and be a reasonable report size of 100 pages or less.

“Smarter, better and faster” is what the SMART concept is about, Robbins said. “The SMART Planning Process is the process being handed down from headquarters as part of this whole transformation.”

Burt said having the two facilitators in from Texas freed her up to participate in the charrette instead of trying to conduct it herself.

“They did a great job and having a third-party objective view really helped all parties involved.  I’m very grateful they were able to provide their unique expertise and help the Nashville District with the new SMART planning process,” Burt said.

Nancy Parrish, a planner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District, facilitates a planning charrette at the Nashville District Nov. 20, 2013 designed to conduct the Harpeth River Flood Risk Management Feasibility Study in a way that is specific, measurable, attainable, risk informed and timely. (Photo by Lee Roberts)
Nancy Parrish, a planner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District, facilitates a planning charrette at the Nashville District Nov. 20, 2013 designed to conduct the Harpeth River Flood Risk Management Feasibility Study in a way that is specific, measurable, attainable, risk informed and timely. (Photo by Lee Roberts)

The Feasibility report will be prepared in response to Congressional request for the Corps to review the report of the Chief of Engineers on the Cumberland River and Tributaries, published as House Document Number 761. That law authorizes the Corps to plan, design, and construct non-structural and structural measures for flood damage reduction and risk management through a partnership with non-federal government agencies. This authority allows the Corps to reduce flood damages experienced in Harpeth River communities if a cost effective, environmentally sound solution is identified.

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