Watershed-Wide Permit Alignment: the Challenges and Successes of Regional Collaboration and Multiple Agency Program Integration
The purpose of this topic is to share a recent accomplishment of the Russian River Watershed Association (RRWA). RRWA is a coalition of 11 public agencies in the watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, fisheries restoration, and watershed enhancement. RRWA addresses water quality issues in the watershed from an urban perspective, focusing on municipal stormwater, wastewater, and water supply. This abstract describes the process of integrating multiple municipal separate stormwater permits within a shared watershed. In February 2013, the Statewide NPDES Small MS4 Phase II General Permit was adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). Phase II permittees had the option to either enroll in the new Phase II General Permit, participate in an existing Phase I program, or enter into a separate permit. The three largest RRWA member agencies were co-permittees of a Phase I permit: the City of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, and the Sonoma County Water Agency. The RRWA member agencies that were previously designated or newly designated Phase II agencies include Rohnert Park, Cotati, Windsor, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Cloverdale, and Ukiah. The Phase II agencies reviewed their options for permit renewal and opted to participate in and implement the Phase I permit held by the larger agencies. Phase II member agencies submitted notices of intent to the SWRCB on June 1, 2013 to participate in the regional Phase I Permit. RRWA collaborated closely with North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) staff, lead Phase I co-permittee staff, and Phase II agency staff and decision makers to create a plan for watershed-wide permit alignment that would include 10 of the 11 RRWA member agencies. This collaboration was carried out through regular round-table meetings with all stakeholders; regular meetings between RRWA and NCRWQCB staff to clarify permit requirements and implementation options; and regular email document review. To our knowledge, this is the only watershed in California that has accomplished this regional alignment. By implementing the existing Phase I permit, the Phase II agencies and RRWA will be able to leverage collective resources to expand on and enhance a well established regional stormwater program. With no funding mechanism in place for stormwater permit implementation, this was a prudent option for agencies. Through this regional program, residents and business will receive consistent outreach and educational messaging. Agencies can build on established documents, materials, and protocols and collaborate on purchasing opportunities and training events. RRWA will engage conference attendees by discussing the specific challenges and opportunities encountered during the process of creating a regional Phase I permit implementation program. This unique watershed-wide alignment may be of interest to other agencies, watershed associations, and Regional Water Quality Control Boards.
Mr. Rodgers currently serves as the Deputy Director of the Russian River Watershed Association, managing numerous programs related to stormwater, wastewater, and water supply. In Summer 2014, Mr. Rodgers will assume the Executive Director position for the Association. Mr. Rodgers regularly works with elected officials and senior technical staff to develop new programs that meet agency needs, tracks performance of active projects, and communicates the regional benefits. Trained in watershed management through a CalFed program in 2004, Mr. Rodgers applies his expertise throughout northern California by performing water quality driven compliance tasks and manages educational and technical projects and programs on behalf of North Bay municipalities. Mr. Rodgers is a Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control (CPESC) and has more than 27 years of professional experience in his fields of expertise.