Watershed-Wide Collaboration for Efficient and Effective Outreach Messaging and Municipal Permit Compliance
The Russian River Watershed Association (RRWA) is a coalition of 11 cities, counties and special districts in the Russian River watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration and watershed enhancement. The RRWA serves as the coordinating entity for the Phase I and Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permittees for the purposes of efficient and effective storm water management. By leveraging collective resources and expertise, the RRWA promotes cooperation and implementation of a wide range of water quality improvement and regulatory compliance projects at a reduced cost to the member agencies and communities they serve.
The RRWA Board of Directors is comprised of elected officials from each member agency. A Technical Working Group (TWG), comprised of staff from each member agency, reviews and participates in projects, develops initiatives, and provides scope and budget recommendations to the Board.
At the inception of the MS4 program, the basic compliance approach was at a jurisdictional scale, with each permittee implementing individual programs for permit compliance. As the program has evolved, storm water management has shifted to a regional, watershed-wide scale. Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), Watershed Management Plans, and Storm Water Resource Plans (SWRPs) are a few examples of developing and implementing programs beyond the traditional jurisdictional boundary. The RRWA governance structure and frame work has allowed member agencies to efficiently collaborate on a watershed scale and implement programs for realized, and in most cases, measurable success. Successful projects include:
Collaborative development of the Russian River SWRP: Under a Prop 1 Planning Grant, the RRWA developed a watershed scale SWRP on behalf of 24 member and collaborating entities.
Regional permit compliance: The RRWA provides a centralized, collaborating and reporting mechanism for member agencies to develop a single deliverable to the Regional Water Board. Projects include reporting results from a recent watershed-wide trash assessment and subregional storm water monitoring and reporting program.
Russian River Friendly Landscape Guidelines: Host entity for comprehensive toolbox of principles and practices for landscape professionals in the watershed.
Safe medicine collection and disposal: Promotion of proper disposal of unwanted medication, providing the general public with convenient drop-off locations for unwanted medication.
Urban Creek Care Guide: Residential creek care information including erosion prevention, car washing, hazardous waste disposal, and other pollution prevention activities.
Student watershed education program: Feature a student video contest and activity providing a simple and easy to understand interactive guide for young children to engage in watershed education.
Effectiveness Assessment: The RRWA develops, conducts, and assesses a public participation survey throughout the watershed every 5 years to analyze MS4 permit effectiveness on behalf of the member agencies.
Advocacy: The RRWA provides advocacy support including communication with state government, comments letters on legislative affairs and regulations impacting members, and support for following evolving initiatives such as grant solicitations and new requirements.
Additionally, the RRWA is evolving into taking a lead role in key watershed initiatives, including a regional monitoring program, the California Water Plan Russian River Pilot Project, and the public engagement forum Russian River Confluence. Under the RRWA framework, member agencies are effectively and efficiently complying with regulatory requirements using a streamlined approach to compliance, while providing consistent regional messaging, and cost savings, resulting in improved watershed health. The RRWA serves as a model example for a successful framework at collaborating on a watershed-wide scale.
Andy Rodgers has over 30 years of experience providing technical and management consulting services to public and private entities throughout the western United States. Andy specializes in developing and implementing cost effective assessment, strategic collaboration, advocacy, funding, and outreach programs for municipal water quality planning, management and regulatory compliance challenges. Andy has managed and participated in hundreds of soil and water quality assessment, management and corrective action projects for utility corridors and public asset facilities and properties. Andy brings his clients the ability to address regulatory requirements while facilitating the planning and advancement of associated infrastructure projects.
Colleen Hunt has 18 years of experience as an environmental scientist and project manager working in water quality compliance projects. She was previously responsible for managing the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Stormwater Program and has water quality regulatory compliance experience, including municipal stormwater permit compliance. Her knowledge of water quality regulatory requirements allows her to advise municipalities on direct compliance approaches leading to assurance of compliance and appropriate allocation of resources. Now working in private consulting, Colleen contributes to the development and implementation of RRWA projects, including a compliance advisory and strategy specialist for RRWA members