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Presentation to the Southeastern Water Pollution Biologist Association November 15, 2012 Laura Dlugolecki, US EPA Office of Water, ORISE.

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Presentation on theme: "Presentation to the Southeastern Water Pollution Biologist Association November 15, 2012 Laura Dlugolecki, US EPA Office of Water, ORISE."— Presentation transcript:

1 Presentation to the Southeastern Water Pollution Biologist Association November 15, 2012 Laura Dlugolecki, US EPA Office of Water, ORISE

2 US EPA’s Healthy Watersheds Initiative A systems approach to maintenance of the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters (CWA Section 101(a)) Protection of aquatic ecosystems within a spatio-temporal context that acknowledges their dynamics and interconnectivity (dependence) in the landscape – hydrologic dynamics, habitat connectivity, natural disturbance regimes, climate change State-scale implementation of strategic watershed protection priorities that leverages programs and resources across state agencies

3 EPA Healthy Watersheds Approach Maintenance of aquatic ecological integrity by protecting our highest quality watersheds or those intact components of watersheds A systems approach that includes landscape condition (eco green infrastructure), water chemistry, biotic condition, and critical watershed functional attributes (hydroecology, geomorphology, & natural disturbance patterns) Identification of Healthy Watersheds state-wide Implementation of state-wide strategic protection priorities that leverage programs and resources across state agencies Inform priorities for ecological restoration

4 What are the Characteristics of a Healthy Watershed? Habitat of sufficient size and connectivity for native aquatic and riparian species Green infrastructure network of native vegetation in the landscape that maintains natural hydrology and nutrient and organic matter inputs to aquatic ecosystems Biotic refugia or critical habitat (e.g., deep pools, seeps & springs for survival during droughts) Natural hydrology (flow regime, lake water levels) that supports aquatic species and habitat Natural transport of sediment and stream geomorphology that provide natural habitat Functioning natural disturbance regimes (floods, fires) Water quality that supports biotic communities & habitat Healthy, self-sustaining aquatic biological communities

5 Restoration alone is not the answer The cost of repairing damaged ecosystems is high and restoration is not always successful EPA Region 3, 2006

6 Maintain existing healthy watersheds and increase their numbers over time Raise the visibility and importance of protecting high quality waters Listing of impaired waters and focus on cleanup important--- but so is protection of high quality waters Overarching Goals of the Healthy Watersheds Initiative 6

7 COMPONENTS OF NATURAL SYSTEMS Month 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 FLOW (cfs) J F M A M J J A S O N D Water Quality Biology Geomorphology Connectivity / Energy Pathways Hydrology

8 Integrated Healthy Watershed Assessments Watershed Ecosystem Condition Geo- morphology Assessment Landscape Condition Assessment Hydrology Assessment Habitat Assessment Biological Condition Assessment Water Quality Assessment 8

9 State/Tribal/Regional-scale implementation of strategic watershed protection priorities that leverages programs and resources across state/tribal agencies and with other partners Healthy watersheds protection is integrated into EPA Water Programs (e.g., Wetland Mitigation Rule, source water protection, TMDL Recovery Potential Screening Tool, NEP CCMPs, 319) State conservation priorities, areas of special concern Healthy Watersheds Assessments can support and inform many other programs 9

10 Build case for conservation in specific areas Help identify outstanding/exceptional resource waters Inform DNR-county land and water management plan development Use vulnerability information to build public support for protection Communicate economic benefits of protecting HWs to market the importance of environmental programs Prevent future impairments in vulnerable waters and help target restoration Identify nutrient reduction needs in HWs as part of statewide nutrient reduction strategy Inform in-lieu-fee wetland mitigation Prioritize runoff management grants that protect HWs Prioritize watershed monitoring Contribute to instream flow assessment Applications of WI HWI Assessment


12 Healthy Watersheds Integrated Assessment in Vermont

13 Developing an Index for watershed Health Collaborative process with state partners, based on stakeholder and expert input For the Vermont example, a composite index of watershed health was constructed by averaging the normalized indicator scores for each attribute For attributes with more than one indicator, a sub- index was first calculated. The sub-indices were then averaged to obtain the overall health index score. Depending on the specific management objectives, it may be appropriate to place more weight on some ecological attributes than on others.

14 Developing a Watershed Health Index Data Inputs: Landscape Condition: Active River Area (TNC), Contiguous habitat block analysis Habitat Condition: # of dams, % total class 1 and 2 wetlands Geomorphology: VT has geomorphic assessment program Water Quality: National Wadeable streams Assessment, state data Biological Condition: TALU, macroinvertebrate and fish data for state Hydrology: data on hydrologic modification

15 Vulnerability Vulnerability assessment currently captures the “risk” of future exposure to climate change and land use change Examine future projections of downscaled climate data and projected population growth (land use change and water use demand) Develop an index of vulnerability

16 Strategic Protection and Restoration

17 Vermont’s Healthy Watershed Assessment Management Priorities

18 Protecting Healthy Watersheds in the Mobile Bay Watershed

19 A Holistic Approach to Protecting the Bay Mobile Bay provides a wealth of ecosystem services that benefit Alabama citizens including water purification, seafood harvest, nutrient cycling, carbon storage and recreational opportunities. The health of Mobile Bay depends upon the health of its supporting upstream watersheds. The assessment will allow the state of Alabama to prioritize protection and restoration efforts that protect critical aquatic ecosystems and bay health. Partnership with Mobile Bay NEP, ADEM, DCNR, EPA, GSA, TNC, and others

20 Identify protection priorities in the watersheds that drain into Mobile Bay Help inform restoration priorities in these watersheds Gain a better understanding of the MB drainage watersheds connectivity to MB and importance of protecting those watersheds Long-Term Goal: Proactive Protection (avoid future problems & create ecological support network for restoration) + Restoration (targeted to ensure sustainability) 20 Objectives of the MB Assessment

21 Held organizational meetings in the summer 2012 Identified team leads and members Identified data sets at state and MB levels (October 2012) Acquiring Data …. Just getting started Will have stakeholder meeting in early 2013 to discuss preliminary results Expected Completion of Assessment: May 2013 21 Status of the Assessment


23 Example Output: Management Priorities for Mobile Bay Drainage Basin

24 Communication tool, report card Identify reference or benchmark watersheds Inform antidegradation, identify ORNW’s Improve monitoring programs, identify data gaps Inform watershed-scale wetland permitting & mitigation Identify river corridor protection areas Inform local land-use decision making Inform climate adaptation plans Inform restoration priorities Inform future CCMP priorities Identify areas for collaborative, cross-agency efforts Potential Uses of HW Assessment

25 Healthy Watershed Initiative National Framework and Action Plan (2011) Identifying and Protecting Healthy Watersheds Concepts, Assessments, and Management Approaches (Feb 2012) The Economic Benefits of Protecting Healthy Watersheds (2012) Fact Sheet, Newsletter, other resources/examples on the web site, (updating and re-designing) Key Documents

26 Thank You! Questions? Please visit our website! Contact: Laura Gabanski Laura Dlugolecki Join our List Serv!

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