News & Updates

Recent updates from America’s Watershed Initiative.

News & Updates

Recent updates from America’s Watershed Initiative.

AWI Newsletter – October-December 2022

Meet Me In St. Louis!

AWI staff and Board traveled to St. Louis for our annual Board gathering. The two-day event began with a trip to Castlewood State Park to see a green infrastructure and stream stabilization project along Kiefer Creek. AWI learned about these techniques, noting green and grey solutions will be important throughout the watershed as we respond to a changing climate.

Opening night, we welcomed more than 60 guests to the Missouri Botanical Garden where we recognized our individual, foundation, and corporate donors.

Our Board meeting was held at the National Great River Restoration and Education Center (NGREC) in West Alton, IL. To start the day, we welcomed David Busse, Chief of Engineering and Construction and Shawn Sullivan, Strategic Planning Coordinator, both from the USACE St. Louis District for a discussion about the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) and other new directions in the basin. This was followed by our Board meeting where we elected new leadership (read more below), discussed our 2023-2025 work plan, and toured the spectacular NGREC facility on the Mississippi River that was recently awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

After two years apart, it was wonderful to be together in support of each other and our goals for the watershed. We will hold our 2023 annual meeting in New Orleans, LA.

AWI Elects New Leadership

Rainy Shorey, a 16-year veteran of Caterpillar, Inc., with “lean master black belt” experience in organizational management and a strong supply chain background, was elected as chairperson of America’s Watershed Initiative.

Rainy joined Caterpillar in 2007 and spent the first half of her career as an Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) Professional and Manager in Central Illinois. After serving seven years overseas as a Project Manager and New Products Implementation Manager in Poland and Japan, Rainy returned to Illinois in 2020 as a Master Black Belt in the Lean Center of Excellence. She is currently Global Manager of Product Compliance & Support.

Dan Mecklenborg, formerly of Ingram Barge will continue in his role as Board president and Larry Weber of the University of Iowa engineering school will become Board chair emeritus.

Other new officers include:

  • Vice Chair: Kirsten Wallace
    Upper Mississippi River Basin Association
    Minneapolis, MN
  • Treasurer: Charlie Hess
    Brown and Root
    New Orleans, LA
  • Secretary: Rachel Orf
    National Corn Growers Association
    St. Louis, MO

Welcome New Board and National Advisory Council Members

The AWI Board expanded with the addition of one new Board member and one new member of the National Advisory Council. John Montgomery of Louisville, KY, joined the Board. John is the Senior Vice President – Federal Operations Leader for Stantec. John has over 35 years of career experience and has held several key senior leadership positions with Stantec including the North America Coastal Resiliency corporate campaign leader and Water Resources Sector Leader. He has devoted his career to understanding how ground and surface water systems are interconnected, and what effect each has on the other while helping communities deal with water-related challenges and opportunities.

Norma Jean Mattei, Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of New Orleans was also in attendance as a member of our National Advisory Council. The NAC is a group of individuals outside of the Board who fulfill several special functions for AWI. NAC members are prominent, well-respected, forward-thinking people who are recognized as leaders and who also have a strong interest in the watershed. They help to identify and connect AWI to potential supporters and partners across sectors and watersheds. Norma Jean joins Dr. Craig Philip, Research Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and former Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Transportation and Operational Resiliency (VECTOR) on the NAC.

Dr. Mattei earned her Ph.D. degree in Civil Engineering from Tulane University. She is a renowned researcher and educator in the areas of structures and construction materials, sustainable engineering and construction and large watershed management. Dr. Mattei serves as one of two civilian civil engineer Commissioners on the Mississippi River Commission (MRC). She also served as 2017 President of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and locally she is still active on the Executive Committee of the ASCE New Orleans’ Chapter of the Structural Engineering Institute.

AWI in Washington, D.C.

AWI staff and Board traveled to Washington, D.C. at the end of November for a multi-agency meeting planned by AWI and hosted by Robert Bonnie, Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation at USDA. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss potential policy frameworks to advance watershed-wide issues such as: water quality, floods and droughts, inland navigation and science and data availability. Attending the meeting were leaders of several agencies including Commerce, EPA, DOI, USACE and Transportation. Stay tuned for more information about this exciting opportunity to bring attention and funding to the watershed.

Next Generation Report Card

AWI had a series of meetings with staff from the USACE’s Engineering Research Center, the Mississippi Valley Commission and USACE headquarters to review the current metrics for navigation and floods. We reviewed all current metrics, discussed the pros and cons of these measures, and explored new data sets. These findings have been summarized and will be shared with a broad group of experts from across the basin with an eye to expanding metrics that will drive change. For example, the group discussed additional metrics that could help us to address resiliency of the inland navigation system, its key components, and the tools available for improvement. In the flood area, we discussed the new FEMA guidance on levees and the impact on the current metrics. Stay tuned for more on the organization of project teams to support the next report card in 2023.

Around the Watershed


  • Meetings with the Missouri State Staff including Water Resources and Transportation; Midwest Climate Science Center, St. Louis University Water Access, Technology, Environment and Resources (WATER) Program
  • Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA) Multi-Benefit Conservation Practices meetings



  • Annual Waterways Symposium, Paducah, KY