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Case Study of Stakeholder Involvement in the Development of TMDLs in the Sacramento River Watershed

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This presentation describes the past and ongoing efforts in the Sacramento River watershed to develop strategies for attainment of water quality standards for two pollutants of concern: organophosphate pesticides and mercury. The strategic planning efforts have been performed as stakeholder-based efforts, including input from a diverse array of participants. This presentation focuses on the benefits and drawbacks of the stakeholder process as a forum for problem solving, the approach taken to foster collaboration and connection between stakeholder activities and the TMDL development process, the work products developed by the stakeholder groups, and the lessons learned from the process.

The Sacramento River watershed is the drainage for the largest river in the State of California. The area contained in the Sacramento River watershed comprises 26,000 square miles, approximately 16 percent of the land area of California. The Sacramento River watershed is dominated by non-point sources, including rangeland, forests, agriculture, and mining areas. The urban population base is located primarily at the base of the watershed, in or around the Sacramento metropolitan area. Urban inputs to the river include treated wastewater effluents and storm water runoff and are regulated under NPDES permits issued by the State of California.

The Sacramento River Watershed Program was established in 1996 with a goal of building a working forum and communication network for stakeholders. The vision of the program is to lead efforts to restore, maintain, and where possible enhance the attainment of beneficial uses and to maintain the social and economic vitality of the region.

The waters of the Sacramento River and tributaries are 303(d)-listed for a number of pollutants, including organophosphate pesticides and mercury. TMDLs for each of these pollutants are required to be prepared by the State of California within the next three years. Two stakeholder focus groups were formed under the Sacramento River Watershed Program to develop strategies to address identified problems with OP pesticides and mercury. The SRWP focus groups have worked through regular facilitated meetings to develop comprehensive strategies for each pollutant.

The SRWP strategies include the development of an analytical framework which addresses linkages between management activities and the attainment of water quality targets. The strategies developed to date emphasize the development and implementation of pilot remediation projects, combined with ongoing monitoring and research to resolve significant management uncertainties. The dual purpose of the pilot projects is (1) to initiate measures to improve water quality conditions and (2) to generate information regarding the effectiveness of various control options.

The collaboration and conflicts between the stakeholder-led strategic planning effort and the TMDL development activities by the State of California are the primary topic for this presentation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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