ZAGREB, Croatia - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. European Command and International Sava River Basin Commission have embarked on a landmark project over the past three years - to develop the first continuous hydraulic model of the Sava River Basin.
The $100,000 project is funded by EUCOM's Civil Military Operations Program and carried out by USACE. Once complete, the model will be shared between Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia to prepare flood mapping, support flood warning and forecasting systems, and analyze future flood protection projects.
"And what makes this effort even more monumental is the fact that three of the four countries are not legally bound to [European Union] Flood Directive, but have committed themselves to obey the principles set by the directive and accordingly," said Dejan Komatina, Ph.D., the executive secretary of the ISRBC.
To honor the cooperation among the countries and recognize the project's achievements, the U.S. Ambassador to Croatia presented a plaque to the ISRBC chairman during a dedication ceremony here Sept. 8. The plaque will be mounted on the commission's new headquarters building.
"This work is invaluable and represents the type of projects that can be made through regional cooperation," said U.S. Ambassador James Foley, who spoke at the ceremony. "It's my hope that this spirit of cooperation can continue to lead to concrete results and I believe that this flood risk mapping will form the basis for follow-on work between the signatories of the Framing Agreement on the Sava River Basin who have cooperated so well today."
The agreement, signed by all four countries, promotes regional cooperation on issues related to navigation, economic development, comprehensive water management and environmental protection, said ISRBC chairman Branko Bacic during the ceremony.
"One thing that is probably the most characteristic for the Sava River Basin is the fact that the Sava commission is actually dealing with the area of the development of flooding and navigation, and water management as a whole and protection of the Sava River Basin water resources," he said.
The ISRBC was the first multilateral organization formed in the region after the Yugoslav Wars, Bacic said. The organization provides political and economic stability within the area through its support of international navigation, sustainable water resources management, and hazard risk reduction within the river basin.
So far, the commission has achieved many tasks with regards to navigation development and water management issues, Komatina said.
"The first step is completing the hydraulic model. Once that's accomplished, we can use the model to conduct potential flood risk and damage assessments, which will allow us to create a flood risk management plan in compliance with the EU Directive," he said. "We hope to have the first flood management plan developed by 2015."
Although completion of the model will mark the end of USACE's role in the project, both Komatina and Bacic expressed an interest and readiness to continue involving U.S. agencies in the development of a flood management plan.
"Thank you for your expertise," Bacic said. "I hope that the [Sava River Flood Mapping] workshop has been very successful and that it will be only one of a series of workshops that we're going to implement in the future."
The U.S. ambassador also recognized the efforts of everyone who contributed to the project.
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has undertaken an outstanding effort. And as I understand, they had to work to draw on from many different government resources in order to make this project come to fruition," Foley said. "The U.S. European Command championed and underwrote this project because of the humanitarian benefit across the region. And finally, the International Sava River Basin Commission, which was more than just a customer, a recipient of this data, was an active participant throughout the project."
The Sava River is the third longest and the largest discharge of water to the Danube River contributing almost 25 percent and is an important asset to the Danube's biological and landscape diversity, according to the ISRBC website. The river runs from Slovenia to the Danube in Serbia.