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A TRIBAL WATERSHED ANALYSIS AND MANAGEMENT METHODOLOGY

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The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds (OWOW) and the American Indian Environmental Office (AIEO) have collaborated on a joint project to develop a comprehensive Watershed Analysis and Management (WAM) Methodology that addresses tribal/state watershed management issues. The objective was to produce a customer tailored watershed analysis and management framework, that includes geographic specific analytical assessment methods and application techniques for addressing a wide range of tribal environmental issues. The goal is to develop a well-defined process, that recognizes the explicit objectives of multiple stakeholders and results in watershed management plans which reflect cultural values, economic impacts, and critical environmental resources. Typical problems addressed are the impact of alternative timber operations on erosion, water quality and fish habitats and impacts of alternate land use plans on nutrient runoff. The project began in 1996. The project involves a system development grant, under OWOW with The Pacific Watershed Institute (PWI) concurrent with pilot applications of the approach through AIEO grants with tribes representing different ecological environments, project objectives, and different State/Private issues. The system development benefitted from comprehensive watershed planning efforts in the Pacific Northwest including the federal Northwest Forest Plan and the Washington State watershed analysis process. This background made feasible on overall structure to guide the pilot implementations as comprehensive system development progressed.

This paper focuses on the design and development of the WAM methodology with the following characteristics:(1) A well defined process-creditable, repeatable, defensible; (2)Promotes consultation with multiple stakeholders; (3) Incorporate systems Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC.) (4) Versatile in scope and scale. (5) Incorporate user into system design and training to ensure stand alone use. (6) Adaptable to continuing improvement. Special attention was placed on developing an analytical watershed framework, which not only provides credible but also repeatable and defensible assessment results. The watershed framework includes new approaches to QA/QC to ensure that the generated products are well developed, clearly defined, and reflect technology based upon the best engineering, science and management practices.

The WAM approach utilizes five steps: Scoping ( identify stakeholders, issues ); Assessment (acquire data, analyze); Synthesis ( integrate the assessments); Prescriptions (develop solutions); and Adaptive Management (monitor, modify). To accommodate a wide range of problems the process can be carried out at two levels of detail. Level 1, called the characterization level, relies primarily on existing information without supplementary field data. This level of analysis provides a rapid means to assess a watershed and establish priorities. Level 2 utilizes more quantitative assessments involving acquisition of supplemental field data and use of detailed analysis modules. This is the level utilized for comprehensive analysis of a watershed where major economic and or environmental issues are at stake including the development of TMDLs.

A series of process and resource modules assist in the WAM analysis. The process modules are; erosion, channel, hydrology, and vegetation. The resource modules are; water quality, aquatic, and cultural. The cultural tribal module reflects the special value system of the particular tribe and permits these values to impact the analysis. A similar module, a community resources module, is applied in non-tribal applications. The cultural and community resources modules also capture a range of stakeholder values.

The focus on effective system design was complemented with an equal emphasis on ensuring user needs. Four pilot tribes were selected from 22 applicants based on ten selection criteria. The four Tribes are: Penobscot Nation (Maine), Prairie Band of Potawatomi (Kansas), White Mountain Apache Tribe (Arizona), and the Quinault Indian Nation (Washington). A related effort, The Watershed Approach to TMDLs is being undertaken with The Navajo Nation, Window Rock, Arizona. Each tribal pilot has implemented a WAM development addressing issues within its watershed with a level of analysis appropriate to its task and the resources available. The watershed system and pilot applications began in 1997 with completion in 2000.

In addition to the pilot operations, the WAM process has been used in training for National multi agency sponsored Unified Watershed Assessment (UWA) Tribal Workshops held in1999. A week long integration workshop of the complete WAM Team was held in Feb.-Mar 2000 to integrate the tribal WAM implementation and tribal training experience into the WAM methodology. The final guidance document reflects the three year system development and extensive application experience. Comprehensive tribal WAM Workshops are planned throughout the year 2000. The WAM tribal pilots will provide leadership for these workshops.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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