The Massachusetts Watershed Initiative is a broad partnership of state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, businesses, municipal officials and individuals. Begun in 1996 by the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA). The Watershed Initiative is an innovative, result-oriented program. Multi-discipline watershed teams are charged with providing comprehensive watershed protection in each of the 27 major watersheds in the Commonwealth. 20 full-time team leaders who report directly to the Secretary of Environmental Affairs manage the 27 interdisciplinary watershed teams. Watershed Teams form the foundation of the state’s watershed protection efforts by providing direct watershed-specific linkage between agencies and the community. They effectively serve as the “eyes and ears” of the Environmental Secretariat. The watershed teams also assist watersheds in overall planning and implementation through the development of a five-year watershed action plans and annual work plans. The Five Year Watershed Action Plan serves as the strategic planning document for the Watershed Team, while the Annual Work Plans developed by the team detail the significant environmental issues within the watershed, a summary of the previous years activities and a list of prioritized projects.
The priority project list represents the Watershed Team’s
consensus judgment on projects that should receive prioritized funding. Such
funding previously was supplied directly through the various funding mechanisms
available to the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. Watershed teams
would submit annual work plans to a “Roundtable” comprised of senior level
managers under EOEA and Community partners. The Roundtable was the mechanism by
which to ensure that agencies are allocating their resources – both people and
money – according to the priority issues and actions identified by the teams.
The Roundtable serves as a clearinghouse and priority setting group for the
Watershed Initiative to review annual work plans, ensure consistency of
service, and reconcile competing demands for allocation of resources while
supporting the needs of each watershed. Resource needs of the teams are
communicated and addressed directly by top management, by-passing the many
layers of bureaucracy that stand between our front line staff and communities
and the ultimate decision makers. The goal is to facilitate locally based
problem identification and problem solving and coordi
· Outreach and Education.
· Water Quality
· Water Quantity
· Open Space
One of the central tenets of the MWI is that the most effective environmental decisions occur when scientifically sound solutions are vetted through a process of public involvement that supports appropriate regulatory actions. The Watershed Initiative employs an iterative 5-year program with a targeted activity for each year of the program.
· Year 1 – Outreach
· Year 2 – Research
· Year 3 – Assessment
· Year 4 – Planning/Implementation
· Year 5 – Evaluation
It was further determined that in order to successfully implement the Watershed Initiative Approach it would take time to both harness and distribute available resources. Accordingly, the full 27 watersheds would be progressively phased in to complete a full 5year planning cycle there bye avoiding the over taxing of critical resources.
A key objective of the MWI is the integration of community
interests and regulatory programs for the protection of our environment. A “watershed” defines the geographic
landform where the surface and ground water flow downhill to a common point,
such as a river, stream, pond, lake, wetland or estuary. We have chosen to
define “communities” as the set of
entities whose collective interests have a common goal of a healthy
environment. Ecological researchers have also employed the terms “Natural Community” and “ecoregions” to
describe the interacting assemblage of plant and animal species that occur
together and which share a common environment. The concept of ecoregions was
employed in the development of the Massachusetts Ecological Regions Project:
The voluntary, grassroots work done by local community partners is critical to the success of the
Watershed Action Plan. However, it is not sufficient unto itself to deal with
all of the issues. While certainly not unique to NCW, the combination of water
quality problems, degree of urbanization, extensive industrial history and
stressed natural resources have resulted in a high degree of environmental
regulatory activity. It is beyond the intent of this plan to provide a complete
history of federal and state legislation, the regulations or the agencies
dedicated to environmental protection. Appendix L highlights some of the
critical legislative authorities, programs and regulations administered by
federal state and local authorities that will be used in support of the North Coastal Watersheds Action Plan. We
will also highlight where appropriate key phrases and language found in the
legislative authorities, programs and regulations that we have into our Action
Plan. Appendix P contains many acronym definitions, including programs that
have changed name under the new Administration. For more detailed information
regarding environmental regulations within the
Each of the communities within the watershed has its own unique mission and resources. Acting individually, they frequently do not possess all of the skills and resources necessary to solve the wide range of complex problems facing the watershed.
Examples include: The problem of contami
The resources of any one of the communities cannot solve these complex problems. Complex multifaceted problems often require the bringing together of resources of disparate communities to craft effective solutions. The Action Plan will adopt the strategy that draws upon the unique set of resources and expertise of each community to articulate a set of shared goals and objectives, culminating in the development of solutions that enjoy the benefits of all available resources. The Plan will foster true partnerships between municipal officials, non-profit organizations, citizens, businesses and government agencies, achieving the best possible protect to, and restoration of our threatened resources of land and water.
In order to effectively deal with these often complex and
conflicting problems, the North Coastal Watersheds Team will follow the
structure and process developed by the
· The co-leadership roles of the state, watershed associations or other citizen groups, the business community, and municipalities in implementing the watershed approach;
· 27 interdisciplinary watershed teams managed in the past by 20 full-time team leaders, and currently by committed individuals who work full-time in other state positions;
· Watershed-based outreach, resource assessment, planning and implementation involving all stakeholders;
· Annual watershed workplans as the vehicle for integrating specific activities in each watershed.
· Subwatershed problem identification and action plan development;
· Target limited dollars to watershed priorities, so they are used where we can achieve the most environmental protection;
· Support local action and empowering local people to protect their local resources.
The Initiative evolved after it became apparent that no single entity (community) had all of the resources necessary to manage or resolve all of the environmental issues within the Commonwealth. In order to adequately protect the natural resources and quality of life of the Commonwealth these sometime disparate communities would have to come together. A unique attribute of the Watershed Initiative is the realization that often, it should be the local municipalities and the citizenship’s decision as to what should be the priorities and resources that need the most protection. At the very least they should be active participants in the process. Each of these issues therefore may take on varying degrees of importance at the subregional and subwatershed levels within the North Coastal Watersheds as determined by the specific needs, availability of resources and efforts of the community partners. The design of the Watershed Initiative provides mechanisms for integrating the strengths of each community into demonstrable success. As of 2003, the Massachusetts Watershed Initiative no longer funds full-time team leaders. However, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the original sponsoring agency, still adhere to the goals and methods of the MWI.
The North Coastal Watersheds Team came into existence in calendar year 1997. Initially the team consisted of personnel from the various state and federal regulatory programs. Larry Gil, the first North Coastal Team Leader, sought to expand membership by reaching out to a list of the region’s local contacts. He first visited with local community groups at their respective locations, inviting all to attend the first North Coastal Watersheds Team Meeting in March 1997. The list of attendees is significant since it verifies the breadth of the communities within communities, the commonality of some problems and the diversity of interests. See list of community groups in Appendix B. At the close of the meeting the group reached the following conclusions:
· Local governance committees, non-profit organizations, effectively service the North Coastal Watersheds. “Grassroots” organizations are localized, often well established, have varied interests and are well tuned to the communities and citizenry that they serve.
· Federal, state, and local authorities do not often pool their resources and the authorities provided by their regulations to address environmental problems.
· Communication and coordination of authorities across and between regulators needs to be improved. Effective communications involves maintaining frequent contacts, establishing dialogue and engagement in solving problems.
· The attendees agreed to serve on a watershed team.
After much discussion, four critical points emerged to guided the team’s efforts over the next several years:
· More interagency coordination / communication and involving locals in state environmental work.
· Increased teamwork on current subregional and local efforts rather than rebuilding the wheel.
· Greater conservation of critical resources by working with interconnected ecological regions rather than a patchwork of cities and towns.
The team determined that the most productive use of our limited resources was to work collaboratively on specific new projects while continuing to support ongoing projects. The North Coastal Watersheds is blessed with an active citizenry. Each community representative comes to the meeting with the understanding that the integrity of their individual missions as proactive stakeholders will be honored thereby fostering an environment of mutual trust between the communities. Each plays a pivotal role in organizing and promoting citizen involvement within their respective spheres of influence. The linkage between the respective communities serving in the North Coastal Watersheds has been through the development of annual workplans and the implementation of priority projects. Priority projects represent the team’s consensus judgment as to where limited resources should be best directed to address the MWI program elements. The North Coastal Watersheds team has employed the following selection sequence to identify its priority projects.
· Team members are requested to submit draft descriptions of priority needs not being addressed to the team leader, or via the website http://www.northcoastal.net/ncw/forum_main.asp
· The team leader compiles and then distributes the draft project descriptions to all team members;
· The projects are further refined and crafted into scopes of work;
· A finalized list of all the priority projects is presented to the team membership;
· The membership ranks all of the projects based on the quality of the content, perceived need, consistency with targeted work plan activities.
· Based on the cumulative team votes the selected priority projects are submitted with the annual work plan to the Roundtable. (This will likely not exist while unless the MWI is re-instituted).
The result of this approach has been a successful multi-year collaborative effort based upon the various stakeholders coming together to address issues relevant to the North Coastal Watersheds. The team has a core constituency that includes representatives and/or major stewards from:
· Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR, formerly DEM and MDC)
· The Department of Environmental Protection’s Northeast Regional Office
· Department of Fish and Game (DFG, formerly DFWELE).
· Eight Towns and the Bay (8T&B)
· Friends of Lynn Woods (FOLW)
· Lynn Water and Sewer Commission (LWSC)
· The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)
· Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
Safer Waters in
· Salem Sound Coastwatch
Membership on the NCW Team continues to broaden with the inclusion of community and business partners, however their participation is generally focused on specific issues. Please consult the team membership page for a current list of team participants including state and federal agency membership. The NCW Team meets on a regular basis (monthly for much of the year).
For the first four years the team had an annual program budget of roughly $100,000, all of which was used to fund as many as eight projects each year. Projects that crossed watershed boundaries were undertaken in partnership with neighboring watershed teams providing maximum leverage of limited resources. The North Coastal Watersheds began 1997 as Year 2 in the five-year cycle - Information gathering. Much of that first year was focused on the collection of water quality monitoring data. Near the end of 1997 and extending into 1998, the team progressed to the Year 3 focus of Assessment.
Throughout the first years, the team worked to:
· Integrate activities, responses and assistance to local communities and citizens with team members where ever and as often as possible.
· Work in increments many of the issues will not be solved by the success of single action but require several actions.
· Project local successes through collaborative demonstrations to other communities as examples of the Massachusetts Watershed Initiative Approach to address problems.
The first four years of the North Coastal Team provided a solid foundation from which to develop an effective 5-Year Action Plan for the North Coastal Watersheds. The writing of the 5-Year action plan began in 2001. A first draft was completed in 2002. EOEA contracted with Perot Systems Government Services in 2003 to seek public input and finalize the draft – the final version is scheduled for release in mid-2004.
The following sections contain summaries of the issues addressed and strategies employed for each of the seven MWI program elements with highlights of North Coastal Watersheds accomplishments, significant events, and significant partners. NCW Team members are highlighted in bold as are priority projects.