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Maintain Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team (GIT 4)

Scope and Purpose

The goal of the Maintain Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team (GIT4) is to maintain local watersheds at optimal health across a range of landscape contexts. With this goal, GIT4 intends to bring attention to the challenge of protecting streams and watersheds that are healthy today, as a programmatic complement to the “impaired waters” approach which focuses on restoring waters if they become degraded. Healthy watersheds sustain local social, economic, and environmental benefits at optimal levels and contribute to achievement of Chesapeake Bay Program goals for the tidal Chesapeake Bay and tributaries. The optimal levels at which such benefits are sustainable will depend upon the landscape context of the watershed.

The principle rational for setting this goal is that balanced strategies for natural resource restoration and protection, investment and management are necessary to achieve a sustainably restored Chesapeake Bay. In addition, natural resource protection generally is a more cost-effective strategy to achieve the desired outcome. And maintaining healthy local watersheds is more meaningful to communities “up-watershed” since the majority of the people in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are more likely to be concerned about the health of their local streams than the Bay.

GIT4 has identified three strategies to pursue its goal: 1) provide a forum for mutual learning and exploration of scientific and management issues; 2) develop information resources, including health and protection status tracking capabilities, and other communications in support of healthy watershed identification and protection; and 3) enhance the science that supports better characterization of healthy watershed functional values.

Goals and Priorities

More detail about the workgroup's goals and priorities can be found on ChesapeakeStat.

  • Mark Bryer (Chair), The Nature Conservancy
  • Jason Dubow (Vice-Chair), Maryland Department of Planning
  • Renee Thompson (Coordinator), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
  • Katherine Wares (Staff), Chesapeake Research Consortium

  • Doug Ashline, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Jim Baird, American Farmland Trust
  • Sheila Besse, District of Columbia Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE)
  • Bevin Buchheister, Chesapeake Bay Commission
  • Josh Burch, District of Columbia Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE)
  • Peter Claggett, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
  • Sally Claggett, U.S. Forest Service (USFS)
  • Tim Craddock, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
  • Carrie Decker, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Lee Epstein, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • Gregory Evans, Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Greg Garman, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Amy Handen, National Park Service (NPS)
  • Anne Hariston-Strang, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Todd Janeski, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
  • Bill Jenkins, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Region 3
  • Donnelle Keech, The Nature Conservancy
  • Julie Mawhorter, U.S. Forest Service (USFS)
  • Nesha McRae, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
  • Dan Murphy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
  • Mike Naylor, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Tish Robertson, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
  • Nicole Sandberg, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
  • John Schneider, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
  • Ben Sears, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Susan Spielberger, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Scott Stranko, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Ann Swanson, Chesapeake Bay Commission
  • Angel Valdez, Maryland Department of the Environment
  • Diane Wilson, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
  • Julie Winters, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • John Wolf, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
  • Gene Yagow, Virginia Tech

Past Meetings & Events

Summary Report: Potomac Watershed Assessment Methodology

The Nature Conservancy conducted a watershed assessment to delineate healthy watersheds in the Potomac watershed portion of West Virginia.  This project was funded by the Maintain Healthy Watersheds GIT in 2014 and was completed in the fall of 2015.  The methodology used was the same as the one applied in the West Virginia Watershed Assessment Pilot Project.  As part of this project a comprehensive 39 metric index of overall watershed health was created.

Map of State-Identified Currently Healthy Waters and Watersheds

The most current (2015) map of state-identified healthy waters and watersheds.  The Healthy Watersheds Outcome in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement states that one hundred percent of these waters and watersheds will remain healthy.

Healthy Watersheds Forestry TMDL Forest Retention Study: Methodology, Findings and Recommendations

(09/23/15) A status report on a project funded by the Maintain Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team.  The goal of the project was to model and test alternative land use growth scenarios in a portion of the Rappahannock River Basin as a proxy for the Chesapeake Bay watershed by employing the methodology used by EPA TMDL modelers and using real land use data from the localities in the test area to determine the potentail value of a BMP in the TMDL model for retaining forestland.

Cost of Community Services: AFT Report

Cost of Community Services (COCS) studies are a case study approach used to determine the fiscal contribution of existing local land uses. A subset of the much larger field of fiscal analysis, COCS studies have emerged as an inexpensive and reliable tool to measure direct fiscal relationships. Their particular niche is to evaluate working and open lands on equal ground with residential, commercial and industrial land uses. COCS studies are a snapshot in time of costs versus revenues for each type of land use. They do not predict future costs or revenues or the impact of future growth. They do provide a baseline of current information to help local officials and citizens make informed land use and policy decisions.

Susquehanna River Basin Ecological Flow Management Study

As the single largest freshwater input to the Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna River is a key tributary to one of the nation’s most important estuaries. Natural hydrologic variability is a fundamental component of any river system’s ecological health. Aquatic species and natural communities have evolved in concert with naturally variable flows, and the ecological health of a river system depends on an intact hydrologic regime. This study is focused on ecological flow needs, often called environmental flows, and other water resource needs are not explicitly considered.

Identifying and Protecting Healthy Watersheds: Concepts, Assessments, and Management Approaches

This technical document was developed to help implement the Healthy Watersheds Initiative (HWI) by providing EPA and state water quality and aquatic resource scientists and managers with an overview of the key concepts behind the HWI, examples of approaches for assessing components of healthy watersheds, integrated assessment options for identifying healthy watersheds, examples of management approaches, and some assessment tools and sources of data. This document summarizes the many examples from across the country of state, local government, and others efforts to assess, identify, and protect healthy watersheds by understanding their systems context. This document can assist in those efforts and also serve as a resource for other states and their partners interested in conducting healthy watersheds assessments and implementing holistic, systems-based healthy watersheds protection programs.

Economic Benefits of Protecting Healthy Watersheds: A Literature Review

This paper explores the various methods that have been used to quantify the value of ecosystem services. Specifically, it examines payment for ecosystem service schemes, willingness to pay studies and cost avoidance scenarios. Cost avoidance scenarios, although generally considered to capture only the lower bounds of actual value, are used to communicate a clear message to society about the potential costs of losing an ecosystem service and replacing that service. Many case studies that examine the costs of replacing ecosystem services highlight the economic benefits of protecting healthy watersheds.

The Role of Natural Landscape Features in the Fate and Transport of Nutrients and Sediment

In response to a request from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s (CBP) Maintain Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team (GIT4), the CBP’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) sponsored a workshop on March 7-8, 2012 to consider whether there is a scientific basis for changing how the Chesapeake Bay Program Watershed Model assigns nutrient and/or sediment loading rates of natural landscape features based on their ecological health/condition, management status, and/or landscape position.
The workshop agenda included plenary sessions with expert panels on the fate and transport of nutrients and sediments by natural landscape features - forests, riparian buffers, streams, and wetlands – one panel on landscape ecology, and one presentation on how the current Chesapeake Bay Program Watershed Model estimates nutrient and sediment loading rates. Workshop participants then dispersed into breakout groups, one for each landscape feature, to discuss the following questions:

  • What changes could be made to the existing Chesapeake Bay Program Watershed Model to better simulate the functioning of natural landscapes?
  • What functions should be considered in any future modeling effort?
  • What questions need to be addressed by the scientific community before any model or tool can appropriately simulate or account for natural landscape functions?

Tracking Healthy Waters Protections in the Chesapeake Bay

A team of graduate students in the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy at the College of William & Mary surveyed local government staff in 23 Chesapeake Bay Watershed localities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Four categories of watershed protection tools were tested across all states: watershed management, zoning ordinances, development management, and natural resources protection. On average, localities utilized less than half of the policies categorized as watershed management and development management. Development management and natural resources protection policies were almost universally used. Local policies varied in their level of stringency and enforcement. A number of state regulations mandated the use of certain policies, and localities differed widely in their use of local regulatory authority to have more restrictive policies. The most successful localities blended mandates with incentives and advisory services, while gearing action and awareness specifically toward watershed protection.

Case Studies

This is a collection of healthy watershed identification and protection case studies presented at the Maintain Healthy Watersheds GIT quarterly meetings.

Strategic Plan

The following documents describe the Maintain Healthy Watersheds GIT strategic plan through a strategy for 2013, collective activities, the decision framework, and guidance from CBP and the Management Board on adaptive management.

    Chesapeake Bay Benthic Community Restoration Goals

    Publication date: March 01, 1994 | Type of document:

    Benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages have been an integral part of the Chesapeake Bay monitoring program since its inception due to their ecological importance and their value as biological indicators.  The condition of benthic...

    Healthy Watersheds Outcome Justification

    Publication date: | Type of document: Outcome | Download: Electronic Version

    Healthy Watersheds Outcome: 100 percent of state-identified currently healthy waters and watersheds remain healthy.

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