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Posted 11/24/2015

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By Sean McBride

There are only about 40 people teaching PROSPECT courses for the Corps’ regulatory program and three of them come from the Charleston District. Tina Hadden, Dr. Richard Darden and Steven Currie were all selected to teach different courses due to their vast subject knowledge and history in the profession.

PROSPECT, short for Proponent-Sponsored Engineer Corps Training, courses provide job-related training through technical and professional courses that meet the unique needs of the Corps. The program is managed by the USACE Learning Center in the Huntsville District and there are courses for just about every branch of the Corps. Courses are taught by Corps employees who are selected after a very competitive application process seeking the most highly-dedicated experts in their fields.

PROSPECT courses are very specific, offering Corps employees many different topics to continue their education. For instance, instead of a very broad course on regulatory as a whole, classes are focused on particular subject matter, such as Reg 4: Wetland Delineation and Identification, taught by Currie. The week-long class splits its time in the classroom and in the field where regulators come together to go through the wetland delineation manual, learn how to determine if an area is a wetland or not, and go through the complicated process of recording the field data necessary to fill out the required forms. Currie says that wetland delineation is not something that is taught in most colleges, so you have to learn by experience.

“I’ve always enjoyed teaching and my experience in the field of soil science can be useful to others,” says Currie. “It’s a benefit to the Corps to have highly-technical experts contributing to the understanding of a complicated subject.”

Currie admits that a regulator’s job is more often reviewing environmental consultant’s reports than actually performing the work yourself. With as much water that covers the state of South Carolina as there is, it’s impossible for a limited number of regulators in Charleston to evaluate the whole area. Of course, determining what areas you’re responsible for is an entirely different PROSPECT course on its own. Titled Reg 2A: Scope of Analysis, Cultural Resources and Endangered Species, Darden teaches regulators how to review permit applications and what the appropriate level of review is for us.

For instance, if someone is applying for a permit on a big piece of land, only work on part of that land may affect a wetland. If there is an endangered species located on the part of the project that affects wetlands, we would have to look at the impacts of the project on the endangered species. But, if the endangered species was on the other side of the large project area, it would not necessarily fall under our scope of analysis. The class teaches students how to make these determinations.

“It’s very difficult to grasp the concept of scope of analysis if you’re new to the Corps,” said Darden. “Being an instructor forces me to know the subject better than I ever could otherwise. I have to master the subject and be a student myself.”

Individual Corps districts can also pay to host an instructor to teach a PROSPECT course directly to their office. That’s what happened when Hadden was asked to travel to the Alaska District to teach the Reg 2C: Coastal Projects class, where she taught Alaska District’s regulators how to effectively and efficiently evaluate projects proposing to impact coastal aquatic resources.

“I get personal satisfaction from teaching and have a desire to pass on my knowledge to other regulators,” says Hadden, who’s been with the Corps for 33 years. “In the exchange of information, you always learn something new.”

Altogether, Charleston District regulators have taught approximately 12 classes to regulators across the Corps, including six classes last year. Spreading knowledge to the future workforce is just one way the Charleston District is living the Corps mission.