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The Watershed Approach by Matthew Lacroix


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Community-Based Watershed Management Forum, March 2012, Juneau Alaska. Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition

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The Watershed Approach by Matthew Lacroix

  1. 1. “The Watershed Approach:Community Planning and Management Strategies” Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, AK March 2012 Matthew LaCroix Environmental Protection Agency Aquatic Resources Unit Alaska Operations Office
  2. 2. The Watershed Approach• Introduction to the watershed approach• Why the EPA promotes the watershed approach• Value of this approach for community planning• Use of the watershed approach at different scales• EPA resources available to communities to support watershed planning 2
  3. 3. TerminologyWatershed means a geographically defined land area that drains to a common waterway, such as a stream, lake, estuary, wetland, or ultimately the ocean.Watershed Approach (Framework) is a flexible framework for managing water resource quality and quantity within a watershed.Watershed Plan is a strategy that provides assessment and management information for a watershed, including: analyses, actions, participants, and resources for development and implementation. 3
  4. 4. TerminologyWetland Plan is a strategy that provides assessment and management information for wetlands within the planning area. May or may not be watershed.Wetland Program Plan is a strategy for developing and implementing the “Core Elements” of a local wetland program. In context of Wetland Program Development Grants. 1. Monitoring & Assessment 2. Regulatory Action 3. Voluntary Restoration & Protection 4. Water Quality Standards for Wetlands 4
  5. 5. Watershed Approach Guiding Principles• Partnerships with stakeholder involvement• Geographically-defined planning area• Coordinated management actions based on science and data 5
  6. 6. What’s the Process?The Watershed Planning Process is a series of cooperative, iterative steps to: 1) characterize existing conditions, 2) identify and prioritize problems, 3) define management objectives, 4) develop protection and remediation strategies, 5) implement, adapt selected actions as necessary. 6
  7. 7. Watershed and Wetland Planning• Planning is planning: crafting a shared vision for your community. Effective planning creates a road map to achieve that vision.• Identifying where you are now, where you want to be, and how to get there.• It helps to understand what obstacles are in your path and who needs to participate in the effort. 7
  8. 8. Watershed and Wetland Planning• The watershed approach allows planning to be holistic and flexible. – Scale may be large or small, focus broad or narrow. – Key is focus on watershed needs.• All forms of planning can use the watershed approach. – E.g., wetland, green infrastructure, mitigation, transportation planning. 8
  9. 9. Why the Watershed Approach?Because reality eventually imposes itself. – Life on earth is bound to the water cycle. – Watersheds are the operational/organizational units of land/water interaction. – Our communities rely on healthy aquatic ecosystems. • Water for drinking, municipal, commercial, industrial uses, creating and maintaining habitat for plants, fish and wildlife that support subsistence, sport, and commercial harvest, recreation, tourism and quality of life. 9
  10. 10. Why the Watershed Approach?More reality – The health of aquatic ecosystems is controlled by watershed land use. – If we do not actively plan for and work towards healthy watersheds, we will lose them. • Water quality has not been maintained or improved anywhere on the planet without directed local effort. 10
  11. 11. How do watershed and wetland planning support the development of community-based projects and initiatives? 11
  12. 12. Watershed and Wetland Planning“Watershed needs” are community needs. E.g., flooding, erosion, stormwater management, groundwater contamination, surface water impairment, reduced fish returns, loss of shellfish habitat, lost recreational opportunities. 12
  13. 13. Benefits of Watershed ApproachThe Watershed Planning Process allows communities to: 1) prioritize issues & actions 2) build consensus about those priorities 3) take action that is efficient & effective 13
  14. 14. Watershed and Wetland PlanningWatershed Plans provide information to support stakeholder (public, property owners, developers, agencies) decisions. E.g., Is this a wetland? Is this water impaired? Does this culvert block fish passage? Are there land use restrictions or permitting requirements that affect my project?Watershed Plans can be regulatory or non-regulatory. E.g., could: establish riparian buffers adjacent to impaired waters, require a permit for riparian development, require compensation for riparian impacts, prioritize lands for conservation easements, prioritize outreach activities, provide tax incentives for buffer establishment, provide grants for buffer establishment. 14
  15. 15. Alaska Planning Examples• Juneau Wetlands Management Plan• Anchorage Wetlands Management Plan• Homer land suitability mapping, wetland management recommendations• MSB wetland, stormwater, Green Infrastructure planning• Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership Strategic Action Plan• Montana Creek Lands Assessment, Trout Unlimited• Matanuska River Watershed Ecosystem Based Plan, Chickaloon Village Traditional Council• Water Resources Stewardship Plan, Cheesh-na Tribal Council• ILF Compensation Planning Frameworks, SEAL Trust, Great Land Trust, The Conservation Fund, SAWC 15
  16. 16. What resources, strategies, and tools does the EPA have to support communities to do this work? Watershed Central Watershed Plan Builder Watershed Academy Healthy Watersheds Initiative Wetland Program Development Grants/ESTP Clean Water/Drinking Water Revolving Loans All at: 16
  17. 17. Why EPA supports community-based watershed planning• Local action is the most effective, and CWA requires it• States, Tribes have primary responsibility to prevent pollution• States, Tribes are intended to implement the section 402 and 404 permitting programs – National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) – Permits for Dredged or Fill Materials (not just wetlands)• EPA is to support research, provide technical services and financial aid to States, Tribes, interstate agencies, and municipalities 17
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  26. 26. Top 10 Watershed Lessons Learned• The best plans have clear visions, goals, action items• Good leaders are committed & empower others• A coordinator at the watershed level is desirable• Environmental, economic, social values are compatible• Plans only succeed if implemented• Partnerships equal power• Good tools are available• Measure, communicate, & account for progress• Education & involvement drive action• Build on small successes 27
  27. 27. Parting Thoughts“A good doctor treats the patient, not the disease.” --- Aristotle“Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our childrens lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land" — Luna Leopold 28
  28. 28. Questions?Matthew LaCroix Jill GableAquatic Resources Unit Watershed UnitU.S. EPA, Region 10 US EPA, Region 10 1200 Sixth Ave., Suite 900Alaska Operations Office Seattle, WA 98101-3140(907) 271-1480 (206) 29