Advisory Group Working to Improve Watershed Plan Process

Municipalities and other groups in the TMACOG region have created many watershed plans that have been reviewed and approved by the Ohio EPA. But the plans are not always well coordinated with each other and revising plans can be complicated. Up-to-date plans are valuable because they maintain progress toward regional goals and also make projects more competitive in grant applications. Funding is available from the U.S. EPA section 319 program for projects that are defined in an approved plan.

TMACOG has formed a regional advisory group with the goal of creating a better process to maintain this type of watershed plan and coordinating plans and their projects within the region. TMACOG Water Quality Planner Sara Guiher is leading the group made up of members of the TMACOG Watershed Committee. That committee includes representatives from local governments, consulting firms, Ohio EPA, non-profit organizations, and Ohio Lake Erie Commission.

The regional process that they envision will help to direct the maintenance of plans to ensure that new projects and data are incorporated while making sure that new plans are written for priority watersheds. When the plan process is complete, the group expects to create web-based materials to facilitate participation by regional partners. To date, the group has defined a planning area (see map below), discussed stewardship of plans, and started planning for a stakeholder workshop to be held in spring 2019 to introduce the process. They plan to have the process completed by June 2019.

9-element Plans
The watershed plans are called Non-point Source Implementation Strategies (NPS-IS), also known as 9-element plans. These plans identify objectives and viable projects that can reduce pollution from non-point sources. Each 9-element plan must:

Identify and quantify sources of pollution in watershed
Identify water quality target or goal and pollutant reductions needed to achieve goal
Identify the best management practices (BMPs) that will help to achieve reductions needed to meet water quality goal/target
Describe the financial and technical assistance needed to implement BMPs identified in Element 3.
Describe the outreach to stakeholders and how their input was incorporated and the role of stakeholders to implement the plan
6. Estimate a schedule to implement BMPs identified in plan
7. Describe the milestones and estimated time frames for the implementation of BMPs
8. Identify the criteria that will be used to assess water quality improvement as the plan is implemented
9. Describe the monitoring plan that will collect water quality data need to measure water quality improvement (criteria identified in Element 8)

Point vs. Non-point Pollution
Point sources are fixed locations that can be fairly easily monitored: water treatment plants, industrial buildings, or farms, for example. Non-point sources are more difficult to control and to monitor. Non-point sources of water pollution include stormwater that runs off parking lots into a nearby creek, agricultural runoff, or runoff from construction sites. Non-point source pollution varies in intensity and in the amount of damage it can do. Runoff from a farm field might be harmlessly managed by existing swales, drains and creeks. Or, if a storm follows application of fertilizer or manure, agricultural runoff might be heavily loaded with phosphorus which contributes to harmful algal blooms.

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