To ensure that Clean Water Act Section 319 projects funded with incremental dollars make progress towards restoring waters impaired by nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, watershed-based plans that are developed or implemented with Section 319 funds to address 303(d)-listed waters must include at least the elements listed below. Where the watershed-based plan is designed to implement a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), these elements will help provide reasonable assurance that the nonpoint source load allocations identified in the NPS TMDL or anticipated in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for the watershed will be achieved, as discussed in the Assistant Administrator’s August 8, 1997 memorandum, "New Policies for Establishing and Implementing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)." However, even if a NPS TMDL has not yet been completed, EPA believes that these nine elements are critical to assure that public funds to address impaired waters are used effectively. (See also the EPA "Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans Chapter 2 – Overview of Watershed Planning Process" at www.epa.gov/owow/nps/watershed_handbook/pdf/ch02.pdf , which specifically discusses most of the elements listed below or contact DES Watershed Assistance Section (603) 271-8862 or [email protected] for more information.
Nine Elements of a Watershed-based Plan
a. An identification of the causes and sources or groups of similar sources that will need to be controlled to achieve the load reductions estimated in this watershed-based plan (and to achieve any other watershed goals identified in the watershed-based plan), as discussed in item (b) immediately below. Sources that need to be controlled should be identified at the significant subcategory level with estimates of the extent to which they are present in the watershed (e.g., X numbers of dairy cattle feedlots needing upgrading, including a rough estimate of the number of cattle per facility; Y acres of row crops needing improved nutrient management or sediment control; or Z linear miles of eroded stream bank needing remediation).
b. An estimate of the load reductions expected for the management measures described under paragraph (c) below (recognizing the natural variability and the difficulty in precisely predicting the performance of management measures over time). Estimates should be provided at the same level as in item (a) above (e.g., the total load reduction expected for dairy cattle feedlots; row crops; or eroded stream banks).
c . A description of the NPS management measures that will need to be implemented to achieve the load reductions estimated under paragraph (b) above (as well as to achieve other watershed goals identified in this watershed-based plan), and an identification (using a map or a description) of the critical areas in which those measures will be needed to implement this plan.
d. An estimate of the amounts of technical and financial assistance needed, associated costs, and/or the sources and authorities that will be relied upon, to implement this plan. As sources of funding, States should consider the use of their Section 319 programs, State Revolving Funds, USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Reserve Program, and other relevant federal, state, local and private funds that may be available to assist in implementing this plan.
e. An information/education component that will be used to enhance public understanding of the project and encourage their early and continued participation in selecting, designing, and implementing the NPS management measures that will be implemented.
f. A schedule for implementing the NPS management measures identified in this plan that is reasonably expeditious.
g. A description of interim, measurable milestones for determining whether NPS management measures or other control actions are being implemented.
h. A set of criteria that can be used to determine whether loading reductions are being achieved over time and substantial progress is being made towards attaining water quality standards and, if not, the criteria for determining whether this watershed-based plan needs to be revised or, if a NPS TMDL has been established, whether the NPS TMDL needs to be revised.
i. A monitoring component to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation efforts over time, measured against the criteria established under item (h) immediately above.
In commenting on a draft of these guidelines, several states noted the difficulty of developing this information with precision and suggested that states should be authorized to begin implementing projects without having first developed some or all of this information. EPA believes, as this guidance reflects, that there must be a balanced approach to address this concern. On one hand, it is absolutely critical that states make, at the subcategory level, a reasonable effort to identify the significant sources; identify the management measures that will most effectively address those sources; and broadly estimate the expected load reductions that will result. Without such information to provide focus and direction to the project’s implementation, it is much less likely that the project can efficiently and effectively address the nonpoint sources of water quality impairments. On the other hand, EPA recognizes that even with reasonable steps to obtain and analyze relevant data, the available information at the planning stage (within reasonable time and cost constraints) may be limited; preliminary information and estimates may need to be modified over time, accompanied by mid-course corrections in the watershed plan; and it often will require a number of years of effective implementation for a project to achieve its goals. EPA fully intends that the watershed planning process described above should be implemented in a dynamic and iterative manner to assure that projects whose plans address each of the nine elements above may proceed even though some of the information in the watershed plan is imperfect and may need to be modified over time as information improves.