IMPLEMENTING A COMPREHENSIVE FUNCTION-BASED WATERSHED ASSESSMENT AND PLANNING PROTOCOL TO TARGET STREAM AND WETLAND RESTORATION
Abstract:To increase the ecological effectiveness of wetland, stream, and riparian restoration projects, the newly created North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program has sought to integrate mitigation projects into comprehensive local watershed assessment and planning. At a minimum, local watershed plans sponsored by the program are to identify potential stream and wetland restoration projects to help meet NCDOT's future compensatory mitigation needs. Ideally, these restoration projects are to be linked to other water quality improvement and protection efforts initiated at the local level, such as stormwater management projects, water supply protection strategies, land use planning or best management practices for reducing nonpoint source pollution and controlling stormwater runoff. Working with NCEEP staff and teams of local stakeholders, Tetra Tech is conducting technical assessments and providing local watershed planning support in several targeted 14-digit hydrologic units in the Upper Cape Fear, Upper Yadkin, and Neuse river basins. To accomplish the program's goals, Tetra Tech has established a protocol for developing plans that are focused on the greatest threats to ecological watershed functions (hydrology, habitat, and water quality), incorporate input from stakeholders and resource professionals, and that target management measures cost-effectively. The initial phase of the protocol involves scoping to characterize the watersheds and develop conceptual understanding of the key stressors that are degrading, or have the potential to degrade, watershed functions (hydrology, water quality, aquatic and terrestrial habitat). The scoping phase integrates analysis of existing data with visual field assessment and stakeholder input to hypothesize the links between impacts and stressor sources. A detailed assessment phase is then performed to validate or reject the hypothesized links. Where validated, quantitative indicators are used to prioritize management needs and target management toward highest risk areas. Management opportunities are evaluated for targeted areas, and watershed plans are developed reflecting prioritized cost-effective management measures. The protocol provides a model that can be used for other local watershed planning efforts that are driven by similar goals and objectives.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2004
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