rEWMP: Reducing Cost and Gaining Public Buy-In Using Strategic Adaptive Management
This presentation will explain how the Rio Hondo/San Gabriel River (RH/SGR) Water Quality Group (WQG) developed a more meaningful, measurable, and achievable water quality compliance plan, while reducing implementation costs by 90% and gaining public buy-in.
The RH/SGR WQG includes the County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Flood Control District, and the Cities of Arcadia, Bradbury, Duarte, Monrovia, and Sierra Madre. The WQG recognized the importance of clean water, and developed an Enhanced Watershed Management Program (EWMP) that identified an initial suite of BMPs heavily weighted towards implementation of 436 linear miles of distributed green streets. In addition to green streets, the initial EWMP included 10 regional projects, low-impact development projects constructed during re-development of parcels, and enhanced minimum control measures. The estimated price tag for the initial program exceeded $1.4B.
While the WQG’s EWMP established one initial path to improve water quality, the WQG proactively decided to improve upon the original EWMP through an adaptive management process. The revised EWMP (rEWMP) was therefore developed to (1) improve the accuracy and certainty of the compliance analysis, (2) solicit and incorporate stakeholder input through an aggressively transparent outreach campaign, and (3) bolster confidence that investments in the program will yield meaningful and cost-effective water quality improvement. These updates resulted in a more robust and reliable compliance plan.
The cornerstone of the rEWMP was the WQG’s enhanced understanding of the multi-benefit regional projects throughout the region. Emphasizing these regional multi-benefit projects amplified the WQG’s ability to align with other environmental objectives (e.g., water supply augmentation and ecosystem rehabilitation) which will enhance opportunities for funding by outside partners. The WQG therefore funded a detailed study to devise an improved rEWMP BMP strategy which best leverages new and previously identified opportunities located within the RH/SGR watersheds. The result of this study was a specific list of multi-benefit regional projects and a refined distributed green street strategy customized to current, local water quality conditions.
The rEWMP was also developed to take advantage of newly available monitoring data and a better understanding of water quality in the region. The rEWMP emphasizes the attainment of protective, science-based, and cost-effective solutions using robust metrics and methods. The improved compliance analysis confirmed, with high certainty, that the actionable list of rEWMP BMPs can be expected to achieve measurably cleaner water.
In addition to traditional rationale for rEWMP development, the WQG invested in the rEWMP as an opportunity to break down walls and open lines of communication with stakeholders. Emphasizing complete transparency, the WQG reached out to advocacy groups and openly shared their methods and data. These new lines of communication will help the permittees to arrive at solutions that have broad support. In addition, the WQG collaborated with Regional Water Quality Board staff and actively sought staff input throughout the rEWMP development process. This engagement and collaboration was applauded by the Regional Water Quality Control Board and earned words of support from environmental advocacy groups.
Ultimately these efforts were summarized in a public-facing, easily digestible planning document curated to permittees, practitioners, regulators, and advocates/stakeholders, and which awaits final approval by the Regional Board later this year. This presentation will describe how other municipalities and watershed groups can apply the rEWMP principles to achieve meaningful, measurable, and achievable watershed outcomes that “connect the drops” from plan to compliance. The presenters will engage the audience with compelling graphics and anecdotes from their strategic planning journey