Communities looking for help prioritizing investments in watershed restoration and protection have a new resource they can go to, according to Bruce Williams, chair of the Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) to the Chesapeake Executive Council.
The draft Chesapeake Bay Comprehensive Water Resources and Restoration Plan, prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore and Norfolk Districts, in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Federation, is actually more an "assessment" of current conditions and implementation opportunities according to Dan Bierly, chief of the Corps’ Civil Project Development Branch. Working in collaboration with local communities, the Corps expects to provide significant planning, engineering and construction assistance for habitat restoration projects identified in the plan.
Containing information specific to each of the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia), as well as the District of Columbia, it is intended to inform decision makers at all levels of government of the challenges, needs and opportunities within the 64,000-square-mile watershed.
It provides a single, comprehensive and integrated restoration roadmap that prioritizes, geographically, activities that achieve the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. The plan was developed using an integrated water resources management approach. The Corps used geospatial analyses to identify high-quality areas for conservation, degraded areas for restoration and gaps in restoration efforts. LGAC members noted that another valuable aspect of the plan is that it identifies places where there may be duplication of effort.
In addition to the hundreds of specific project opportunities, from forest buffers to wetland restoration, that may be eligible for federal funding and technical assistance, the plan identifies opportunities to focus planning and zoning policies on preserving high ranked healthy habitats and important socioeconomic areas that are at risk. The final plan will identify at least one project in each watershed jurisdiction that can be considered for implementation or technical assistance by the Corps.
The draft plan is available for review electronically and includes a Master Results Database and a Candidate Restoration Projects Database. These tools will allow communities to view the candidate restoration projects that stakeholders have submitted for consideration and implementation by the Corps and other partners. Stakeholders can add project opportunities to the plan on the Corps’ project website.
“Reviewing the draft plan may prove challenging for smaller communities without GIS capabilities,” said James Wheeler, a member of LGAC’s Pennsylvania delegation. “But the availability of electronic documents on the Corps’ website should help address that issue.”
The Corps is seeking input on the draft plan and additional project opportunities through July 16, 2018.