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MODELING TMDL DEVELOPMENT COSTS, PRIORITY SCHEDULES, AND RESULTING RESOURCE NEED PATTERNS: A DYNAMIC PLANNING TOOL FOR THE MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

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The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) must develop as many as 1,500 TMDLs over the next 10 to 15 years. The exact number will fluctuate as water body segments are added and removed from the list, but it clearly will be a significant effort. To accomplish this mission, DEP must make several decisions:



Within and across the state's five major basins, how should TMDLs be prioritized? How should this be decided?


What skills and expertise will be needed to develop TMDLs? What are the relative strengths and comparative advantages of state, community, and other technical resources?


How much will these efforts cost? Where will the money come from? How can the state most efficiently leverage its resources—both from DEP staff and from outside organizations—to get the job done?


In 2001, the Massachusetts DEP contracted with CH2M HILL to develop an Excel-based planning tool that would help staff answer many of these questions. The tool is primarily designed for use by DEP TMDL program managers, although it contains features to facilitate use by staff at other state agencies as well as watershed stakeholders.

The resulting tool contains a series of linked spreadsheets and utilizes Visual Basic (VB) programming to conduct the costing analysis, facilitate evaluation of alternative staffing and funding options, and streamline reporting of analytical and decision-making results. The tool uses Massachusetts' 1998 Impaired 303(d) List of Waterbodies as input. A series of spreadsheets contain estimated TMDL development costs and general program management expenditures, based on the composition of the 303(d) list. Average cost estimates for “typical” TMDLs were developed for 13 types of TMDLs:



Bacteria: Lake, River, Coastal;


Chlorine: River, Coastal;


Nutrients: Lake and River Phosphorus; Coastal Nitrogen;


Unionized Ammonia: River and Coastal; and


Low DO/Organic Enrichment: Lake, River, Coastal.


Program managers can change assumptions about skill mix, labor costs, and contributing organizations (e.g., state agency, contractor, etc.).

In dynamic planning windows, the program manager can make different assumptions about the percentage of TMDLs (by TMDL category, by major basin, and by subwatershed) that will be started and completed during each of three five-year planning cycles. Together, the 303(d) list, the workload module, and the planning choices feed into a strategy module that outputs TMDL development schedules, staffing plans, and budgets based on fixed and variable assumptions in other modules.

The model has several unique features that make it a valuable planning tool. Chief among these is that all the output tables, graphs, and charts are “dynamic”—you change assumptions and the outputs change “live.” This feature provides automatic feedback to DEP about how different assumptions impact level of effort, cost, and overall funding pattern. For example, one planning objective might be to select a TMDL development schedule that results in a fairly even funding need over time, rather than 4 million one year and 40 million the next year—which can happen when schedules are developed independently of resource estimates. This tool provides such capability.

TMDL development costs depend on many factors: the 303(d) list itself—including number of waterbodies, and how the list changes over time (completed TMDLs, new listings, delistings); type and complexity of problems; number of stressors per segment; geographic distribution of problems; available water quality improvement options; TMDL implementation costs. This tool will help DEP match TMDL development needs to available technical and financial resources so that a plan for meeting schedule milestones can be developed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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