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THE CLEAN ESTUARY PARTNERSHIP: LOCAL AND STATE COLLABORATION TO IMPLEMENT WATER QUALITY STANDARDS FOR SAN FRANCISCO BAY

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Monitoring of the San Francisco Bay ecosystem indicates continuing impacts of pollution, and the Bay has been listed as impaired pursuant to ยง303(d) of the Clean Water Act for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, selenium, dioxins/furans, and various pesticides. Many recent legal and regulatory conflicts have convinced stakeholders to investigate a more collaborative approach for developing long-term strategies to address these impairments. This led to the formation of the Clean Estuary Partnership (CEP) in 2001. The CEP is based on a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association, and the Bay Area Clean Water Agencies (publicly-owned treatment works).

By using the CEP in the process of developing TMDLs, the State of California obtains opportunities early on to work with stakeholders to develop implementation concepts, refine key uncertainties, and obtain peer review. This will result in greater consensus regarding the technical foundation for regulatory action, and reduces the likelihood of public controversy (including litigation) when load allocations are adopted in the San Francisco Bay Basin Plan and implemented through NPDES permits.

The CEP mission statement calls for strategies to attain water quality standards based on sound science, adaptive management, and public collaboration, as such strategies will have considerable credibility and legitimacy. To develop strategies with these characteristics, the CEP relies upon the development and use of conceptual models for each pollutant of concern. Conceptual models are an organized presentation (often in diagrammatic form) of existing knowledge of pollutant sources, pathways through the environment, and the physical and biological processes in the ecosystem that produce impairments and mediate the response to management actions.

Conceptual models also form the basis for the development of numerical models that can be used to predict the response of impairments to various management strategies. The CEP will sponsor collaborative review of conceptual models, identifying important uncertainties to address with technical studies as part of adaptive implementation of TMDLs. The successful adoption and implementation of strategies to attain water quality standards requires the support of a broad audience represented by elected and appointed officials, members of the media, and interested members of the public. The CEP is therefore implementing a directed program of outreach to these audiences that describes the impairments and strategies in concise, nontechnical language. Outreach materials (fact sheets, web pages, briefings) will be based upon the conceptual models.

By transparent development of conceptual models, and their revision based upon collaborativelydesigned technical studies, the CEP seeks to merge the scientific method with adaptive management as part of the process for developing TMDLs in San Francisco Bay. The maintenance and refinement of conceptual models also provides a mechanism for the efficient transfer of scientific information to future generations of natural resource managers who will share the responsibility of addressing the pollution problems we have detected.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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