Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) receives funding for management of nonpoint source pollution from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. These funds are made available through NDEQ’s Nonpoint Source Management Program to, in part, implement approved nine-element watershed management plans. A basin management plan is intended to encompass several separate watershed management plans under an umbrella document that covers a common basin area generally aligning with the boundaries and jurisdiction of a natural resources district. This guidance provides the preferred format for an acceptable basin management plan.
Why develop a basin management plan?
Nebraska’s unique system of managing resources through Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) provides the opportunity to address nonpoint source water pollution issues. The NRDs, delineated nominally by river basin boundaries, have the jurisdiction and capacity to manage water resources as a continuous system. Incorporating management plans for multiple watersheds into one document provides economy of scale in developing plans and focuses attention on priority water quality issues within each NRD. The basin plan should provide flexibility for NRDs to prioritize projects to resolve the most pressing impairments of water resources in the basin.
What is a nine-element watershed management plan?
A nine-element watershed management plan provides a systematic strategy to resolve nonpoint source water pollution in a defined drainage area of manageable size (HUC 8 watershed or smaller). The nine elements essential for an effective management plan are listed below.
- Identification of Pollutant Sources – description of the pollutants of concern, their sources (crop production, livestock, street runoff) and where in the watershed they are generated (identify geographic source areas) such that practices can be targeted towards 20% or less of a watershed area.
- Estimation of Pollutant Loads – quantification of pollutants per source.
- Identification of Management Practices – description of practices planned to reduce loads of specific pollutants, placement of practices in targeted area(s), load reductions by management practice for targeted pollutants and justification for why these management practices were selected to address the pollutant (achieve the load reductions calculated in #2) and specific sources (described in #1).
- Communication and Outreach – strategy to promote awareness of and participation in projects by targeting key audiences.
- Implementation Schedule – timeline for completing planned actions to resolve water quality impairments.
- Milestones for Measuring Implementation Progress – completion dates for major tasks and accomplishments.
- Evaluation Criteria – benchmarks and methods for measuring the effectiveness of implemented practices.
- Monitoring – process and methods for measuring water quality and other improvements.
- Technical and Financial Assistance – listing of technical and financial resources expected to support projects.
How does a basin plan incorporate the nine elements?
The nine elements must be incorporated into management plans for each of the individual watersheds identified in the basin plan to be considered a fully developed watershed plan. It is not necessary for watershed plans to be fully developed (including the nine elements) for every watershed identified in the basin plan. However, Section 319 funds may not be used to support projects in a watershed that does not fully incorporate the nine elements. While there are benefits to developing multiple watershed plans under one basin plan, NRDs must weigh the advantage of developing a basin plan rather than separate watershed management plans.