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Stakeholder involvement is a vital part of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process. In addition to satisfying legal requirements for public review, working with stakeholders has many benefits. Stakeholder support, both in spirit and in dollars, helps create TMDLs that are “real solutions to real problems.” Stakeholders can also assist with specific parts of the TMDL process, such as data gathering, data review, and public education. Yet stakeholder outreach can be time consuming, presenting a challenge for busy staff members with limited resources. Optimizing existing staff and resources to achieve effective stakeholder involvement requires planning and a willingness to form partnerships with outside organizations. It is also important to consider what level of stakeholder involvement is “sufficient” and what is “excessive.”

There is no “one size fits all” approach to stakeholder outreach for TMDLs. Tailoring your goals, approach, and outreach tools to each specific TMDL under development can help ensure effective involvement. Initial planning, setting priorities, and continuous re-evaluation are important steps in the process. Planning should be geared towards determining how stakeholder involvement can help achieve development and implementation goals for each specific TMDL. Setting priorities involves deciding whether you are primarily striving to share information or seeking specific feedback from stakeholders. Priority setting can also involve choosing to focus your efforts on specific audiences, such as interested, knowledgeable stakeholders (as opposed to the general public).

Forging partnerships with other organizations can be an effective outreach strategy. Existing groups, such as watershed councils, can serve as stakeholder groups, eliminating the need for the often time consuming process of creating a new group specific to each TMDL. Other organizations may also have created specific tools, such as fact sheets, that can be useful for stakeholder outreach. Collaborating with other groups can have its own challenges, however, and it is important to plan for, and continuously evaluate, how best to work with these organizations.

The San Francisco Bay Region has involved stakeholders in the development of all its TMDLs, including those that address mercury and PCBs in San Francisco Bay, pesticides in urban creeks, and sediment in Napa River and other creeks. Each TMDL process has involved different kinds of partnerships, approaches, and outreach tools. Outreach tools used have included meetings, fact sheets, mailings, one-on-one interactions, and the Internet. Lessons learned in San Francisco Bay Region TMDLs provide useful examples of how to conduct effective stakeholder outreach.

Optimizing stakeholder involvement calls for tailoring your approach and tools to each specific TMDL. It also involves setting priorities to make the best use of resources within your organization and forging partnerships with other organizations. Up-front planning and collaboration can save time and resources and ensure sufficient, effective stakeholder involvement.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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