Scope and Purpose
The goal of the Maintain Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team (HWGIT) is to maintain local watersheds at optimal health across a range of landscape contexts. With this goal, the HWGIT 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 the Healthy Watersheds goal is that balanced strategies for natural resource restoration, protection, investment, and management are necessary to achieve a sustainably restored Chesapeake Bay. Conserving natural resources is a more cost-effective strategy to achieve Chesapeake Bay water quality goals. In addition, maintaining healthy local watersheds is more meaningful to communities since the majority of citizens are more likely to be concerned about the health of their local streams than the Chesapeake Bay.
The HWGIT has identified four strategies to ensure the long-term conservation of healthy watersheds: 1) tracking the health of watersheds and our effectiveness in protecting them, 2) strengthening local commitment and capacity to protect healthy watersheds, 3) improving protection of state-identified healthy watersheds under federal programs and federal agency decision-making, and 4) supporting state-based efforts to improve assessment and protection of healthy watersheds.
Projects and Resources
Chesapeake Healthy Watersheds Assessment
In 2017, the EPA’s Healthy Watersheds Program published the results of their Preliminary Healthy Watersheds Assessments (PHWA), a project that brought together nationally consistent data to assess watershed health and vulnerability. The HWGIT agreed that a similar regional assessment utilizing jurisdiction specific data could address major gaps identified in the Healthy Watershed’s Management Strategy. Building on the PHWA framework, HWGIT contracted Tetra Tech to complete a Chesapeake Healthy Watersheds Assessment (CHWA) to help partners identify “signals of change” in vulnerable or resilient healthy waters and watersheds. The final report was published in 2019 and is available below. In order to visualize the results, Innovate!, Inc. developed an application to facilitate exploration of the data. The readily available online, geospatial tool supports and informs management related to watershed health and vulnerability at the catchment scale. See the flyer below to read more, and access the tool directly here.
You can access the Chesapeake Healthy Watersheds Assessment tool here.
Maryland Healthy Watershed Assessment
In 2020, the Maryland Healthy Watershed Assessment (MDHWA) was funded through a Goal Implementation Team Funding project. Development of the MDHWA establishes a framework of watershed health and vulnerability metrics for assessing Maryland waters and watersheds. Development of this statewide assessment built upon the previously completed Chesapeake Bay Healthy Watersheds Assessment (CHWA) (Roth et al. 2020). The assessment is intended to inform watershed management decision-making to sustain the health of state-identified healthy watersheds, which have been defined in Maryland as the watersheds associated with its designated high-quality, Tier II waters. The MDHWA will increase State capacity to better understand the broad spectrum of health and vulnerability issues affecting Maryland’s streams and healthy watersheds. The MDHWA will also serve as a model that can be replicated in other jurisdictions and updated in future assessments.
- MDHWA Report (pdf - 3.404 MB)
Map of State-Identified Currently Healthy Waters and Watersheds (2017)
The most current (2017) map of state-identified healthy waters and watersheds and the 2015 map. The Healthy Watersheds Outcome in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement states that one hundred percent of these waters and watersheds will remain healthy.
Conservation Land-Use Policy Toolkit
This toolkit provides local governments in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed with information about land use policy tools they can use to slow the conversion of farmland, forestland, and wetlands.
- Jantz & Price: A community-driven approach to developing future land use at the river basin scale: An example from the Delaware River Basin (pdf - 5.571 MB)
- Conservation Land Use Policy ToolKit: Webinar Presentation (pdf - 3.079 MB)
- Scope6 summary tables by case study (xlsx - 44.014 KB)
- Scope6 tool x case study matrix (xlsx - 24.186 KB)
Healthy Watersheds Forest Retention Studies (Phases I, II and NEWLY released Phase III):
The Healthy Watersheds/Forest project is a Virginia-led, multi-year, landscape-scale effort begun in 2015 that is now in nearing completion in phase III. The goal of this project was to research and pilot alternative methods for forest and agricultural land conservation through three separate phases. Phase 1 modeled and tested 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 potential value of a BMP in the TMDL model for retaining forestland. In Phase II, Pennsylvania partnered with Virginia to determine what from the perspective of local leaders were the economic and policy incentives needed to prioritize forestland retention as a land use planning option. Phase III developed and piloted the community policy and financial infrastructure necessary to facilitate high quality forest and agricultural land conservation/retention on a sustainable, landscape scale basis. Phase III was divided into two tasks. Task 1 focused on collaborating with the municipal authorities responsible for the plans, policies and ordinances in the two pilot counties. Task 2 focused on developing a transferable financial model in the pilot counties to incentivize private capital markets to invest in the retention of forest and agricultural lands to offset future forecasted growth and development based on the 6.0 Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) model. The ultimate goal has been to create a favorable regulatory environment and incentives for private landowner participation in land conservation while also contributing to the funding requirements of counties to help them meet basic services for their citizenry through a model that can attract private sector financial interest at a scale required to achieve the Phase III goal. This Phase III report covers the research, findings and activities from the start of phase III in April 2018 through September 30, 2019, the end-date for the Chesapeake Bay Trust-funded grant period. The focus of the project team from this point forward to the end the project next Spring (with additional funding from the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities) will be on (1) designing and testing in collaboration with Orange County Virginia, the Economic Development Authority infrastructure required to aggregate landowner interests effectively, and (2) further engaging with the private financial sector to solicit its interest in participating in the Virginia approach, while refining the financial options to best meet landowner, locality and investor needs.
You can read the final reports for each phase here:
- Phase I Final Report (pdf - 1.717 MB)
2021 Healthy Watersheds PresentationView details
2021 Healthy Watersheds LAPView details
2021 Healthy Watersheds Narrative AnalysisView details
Jeff Lerner (Chair), Acting Branch Chief, Partnerships and Accountability, U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities
EPA's Campus at Federal Triangle
Washington, District of Columbia 20004
Jason Dubow (Vice Chair), Maryland Department of Planning
Peter Claggett (Coordinator), Research Geographer, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Sophie Waterman (Staffer), Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team Staffer, Chesapeake Research Consortium
Dan Murphy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
Bill Jenkins, Acting Deputy Director, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Region 3
John Wolf, GIS Team Lead, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Scott Stranko, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Todd Janeski, Coastal Nonpoint Source Prg. Mgr., Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
Tim Craddock, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
Amy Handen, Local Implementation Programs Coordinator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Mark Hoffman, Chesapeake Bay Commission
Lauren Townley, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Kelly Maloney, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
11649 Leetown Rd
Kearneysville, West Virginia 25430
Jennifer Starr, Local Government Advisory Committee Coordinator, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
Laura Cattell Noll, Local Leadership Workgroup Coordinator, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
Katie Brownson, Watershed Specialist, U.S. Forest Service (USFS)
1750 Forest Drive Suite 130
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Steve Epting, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1650 Arch St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
Julie Reichert-Nguyen, Climate Resiliency Workgroup Coordinator, NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office
200 Harry S Truman Parkway Suite 460
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Cassandra Davis, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Albany, New York 12233
Ben Coverdale, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
285 Beiser Blvd, Suite 102
Dover, Delaware 199904
Deborah Herr Cornwell, Maryland Department of Planning
301 W. Preston Street, Suite 1101
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
Julia Wakeling, District of Columbia Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE)
1200 First St NE
Washington D.C., District of Columbia 20002
Erik Fisher, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Mindy Neil, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
601 57th St SE
Charleston, West Virginia 25304
Shane Kleiner, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Sarah McDonald, Geographer, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
1750 Forest Drive Suite 130
Annapolis, Maryland 21401