Chapter 9. Selected Watershed Initiatives in the Great Basin Region

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1 Chapter 9 Selected Watershed Initiatives in the Great Basin Region The Great Basin contains vast areas of sparsely populated desert lands. Lacking an ocean drainage, the Great Basin is a hydrologic sink with streams terminating in lakes and wetlands. Water resources are scarce in most areas, and the watersheds themselves tend to be large, dispersed drainages covering hundreds of thousands of highly arid acres. These geographic characteristics are reflected in the relatively small number of active watershed initiatives. Most efforts are concentrated in the farmlands of western Utah and the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevadas in western Nevada. Many of the watershed initiatives of the Great Basin are concerned with water quality impacts caused by mining and agriculture the primary historical uses of land in the region and issues of water supply for irrigation. Lacking the highly developed state programs found in other regions of the West, the groups of the Great Basin do not have the same level of funding and inter-group coordination found in California or the Northwest. They typically reflect the rural values and interests characteristic of the region, and are often administered out of the local conservation district offices. As population center continue to rapidly grow in the region, however, groups are emerging to address a greater diversity of concerns. 277

2 Jordan River Watershed Council Focus of the Watershed Initiative The Jordan River watershed is located in north-central Utah. The focus of the group is on the entire basin, an area covering approximately 480,000 acres spread over one county. The population of the focus area is approximately 1,000,000, with the majority of the population distributed mostly in cities/towns. The largest city in the region is Salt Lake City, with a population of approximately 250,000. The local economy is strong and highly diversified. There is not a significant percentage of the region s population employed in natural resource jobs. There is a significant influence from the Mormon communities in the area. The Jordan River Watershed Council was formed in 1993 in response to concerns about poor coordination and communication regarding the management of the watershed. Establishment of the group was primarily the result of the efforts of local government. Since its formation, the group has been mostly concerned with wetland conservation, water quality issues related to impaired uses, water supply/flow regimes, land-use management issues related to the development of sensitive areas, and general environmental degradation related to hydrologic modification of streams. From an institutional (or administrative) standpoint, the group is also concerned with inadequate interagency or interjurisdictional coordination, the lack of local involvement in resource management, and ineffective management programs or laws. Specific short-term goals include: (1) identifying the nature and extent of the environmental problems, (2) formulating and implementing enhancement programs, and (3) educating the public about impacts and solutions. Structure and Functioning of the Watershed Initiative The group includes members from: the US Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, Corps of Engineers, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Geological Survey; six state agencies; fifteen local agencies; one or more water districts/organizations; and one or more environmental groups (non-voting). Membership is limited to government entities only, although non-voting members can attend meetings and stakeholder subcommittees are being used. The group is directed by a coordinator and facilitator, both funded by Salt Lake County. The group utilizes subcommittees, including Riparian, Abandoned Mine, Stormwater, and Lake. The group has an office. Meetings are held monthly. Issues are brought before the group through the vision statement, current projects, and requests. The group utilizes a formal decision-making process selected by the group during its initial formation, reliant upon majority rule. The estimated annual budget of the group (including the value of in-kind services) is between $20,000 and $75,000. Major providers of funding and in-kind services include the local Salt 278

3 Lake County Public Works Department in the amount of $60,000 used for water quality, flood control, and restoration work; all other participants combined contribute approximately $25,000 as in-kind services. Accomplishments and Ongoing Activities The group has completed or is in the progress of completing the following activities: the development of management plans, shared decision-making/negotiated problem-solving, resource monitoring, scientific research, legal or policy research, on-the-ground remediation or restoration activities, the publication of newsletters and/or brochures, and conferences/workshops. The group is most proud of its restoration projects at Decker Lake, on the Jordan River, and in Mill Creek, and of its abandoned mine treatment assessment in Alta. Overall, the group considers itself to be relatively successful in addressing the natural resource problems of concern. Areas of strength of this watershed initiative appear to be the adequacy of the size, composition, and organizational structure of the group; the perceived adequacy of the decision-making process; the well-attended and efficiently run meetings; the adequacy of the funding to meet short-term goals; and the helpfulness of local, state, and federal agencies. Approximately $10 million will be spent on Jordan River restoration in the next 3-4 years. The group considers the following actions to be essential to their continued problem-solving effort: a substantial modification of land-use practices, a fundamental reallocation of agency resources and priorities, on-the-ground modification of the physical landscape and habitat, generation of additional technical data or knowledge about the resource, and the generation of increased public awareness of the resource or resource problem(s). Contact Mr. Steven F. Jensen Jordan River Watershed Council N 3003, 201 South State St. Salt Lake City, Utah Phone: Fax: Otter Creek Steering Committee Focus of the Watershed Initiative The Otter Creek watershed is located in north-central Utah. The focus of the group is on the entire basin, an area covering approximately 240,000 acres spread over one county. The 279

4 watershed is 39 miles long and includes mountains, valleys, and plateaus, with elevations ranging from 6,200 feet to 11,600 feet. The population of the focus area falls within the range of 1,000 to 5,000, with the majority of the population distributed in mostly rural areas. The largest city in the region is Koosharem, with a population of approximately 300. The local economy is weak and not diversified. There is a significant percentage of the region s population employed in natural resource jobs, mostly in the sectors of agriculture and/or ranching. The Otter Creek Steering Committee was formed in 1990 in response to concerns about water quality impairments. Establishment of the group was primarily the result of the efforts of the federal government, with additional assistance from state and local agencies. Since its formation, the group has been mostly concerned with issues of water quality, water supply/flow regimes, stream bank degradation, and the loss of riparian habitat. From an institutional (or administrative) standpoint, the group is also concerned with the inadequate funding/attention being given to a natural resource problem. Specific short-term goals include: (1) restoring stream banks, (2) improving rangeland, and (3) improving riparian habitat. Structure and Functioning of the Watershed Initiative The group includes members from: the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Corps of Engineers, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Environmental Protection Agency, one or more Indian tribes, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and one or more local agency. Membership is open to all interested parties. The group is directed by a coordinator, funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The group has an office, located in Richfield, UT. Meetings are held quarterly. Issues are brought before the group by concerned parties. The group utilizes a formal decision-making process that is at the discretion of the coordinator, reliant upon consensus. The group has no budget. Major providers of in-kind services include the Environmental Protection Agency s 319 program and the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the amount of $500,000. Accomplishments and Ongoing Activities The group has completed the following activities: the development of management plans, shared decision-making/negotiated problem-solving efforts, resource monitoring, scientific research, on-the-ground remediation or restoration activities, the publication of newsletters and/or brochures, conferences/workshops, and other educational activities. The group is most proud of its coordinated resource management plan. Overall, the group considers itself to be moderately successful in addressing the natural resource problems of concern, as illustrated by monitoring data showing on-the-ground improvements and by the fact that most participants believe the problem is being solved. Areas 280

5 of strength of this watershed initiative appear to be the adequacy of the size, composition, and organizational structure of the group; the perceived adequacy of the decision-making process; the well-attended and efficiently run meetings; the adequacy of funding to meet short-term goals; and the helpfulness of federal and state agencies. Areas of potential weakness include that local agencies have only been slightly helpful. The group considers the following actions to be essential to their continued problem-solving effort: a substantial modification in water allocation, voluntary behavioral and/or ideological changes by local resource users and groups, and on-the-ground modification of the physical landscape. The group listed the following keys to success: (1) rangeland improvement, (2) riparian enhancement, and (3) streambank stabilization. Contact Mr. Roy Gunnell Otter Creek Steering Committee PO Box Salt Lake City, UT Phone: Fax: Steamboat Creek Watershed Program Focus of the Watershed Initiative The Steamboat Creek watershed is located in western Nevada. The focus of the group is on the entire basin, an area covering 17.5 miles of river spread over one county. Steamboat Creek is considered the major nonpoint source of pollution to the Truckee River, contributing excess sediment, nitrogen, boron, arsenic, phosphorus, and trace metals attributable to old mining impacts and geothermal activity. The population of the focus area falls within the range of 100,000 to 250,000, with the majority of the population distributed mostly in cities/towns. The largest city in the region is Reno, with a population of approximately 162,000. The local economy is moderate in strength and moderately diversified. There is not a significant percentage of the region s population employed in natural resource jobs. The Steamboat Creek Watershed Program was formed in 1995 in response to pollution from old mining sources and agriculture. In addition, a sewage treatment plant at the end of the Creek needed to meet Clean Water Act discharge requirements. Establishment of the group was primarily the result of the efforts of the local Washoe-Storey Conservation District and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. Since its formation, the group has been mostly concerned with issues of water quality; water supply/flow regimes related to the demands of the fast growing urban areas; the maintenance of fish and wildlife and/or endangered species, since 281

6 currently only the tributaries to the creek can sustain fish populations; and land-use management issues related to agricultural practices that contribute to phosphorus loading. From an institutional (or administrative) standpoint, the group is also concerned with inadequate funding/attention being given to a natural resource problem, the lack of local knowledge of the need for riparian buffers, and ineffective management programs or laws pertaining to stormwater and construction regulations. The mission/vision statement of the group is: The Steamboat Creek Restoration Project is a community-wide, cooperative effort to restore, enhance and preserve the Steamboat Creek watershed. Specific short-term goals include: (1) getting local governments to adopt the Steamboat Creek Restoration Plan, (2) hiring a Watershed Coordinator to implement restoration projects, and (3) developing a Geographic Information System to integrate data. Structure and Functioning of the Watershed Initiative The group includes members from: the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, the Washoe-Storey Conservation District, Washoe County Parks Department, two citizen advisory boards, and Washoe County Water Resources. Membership is open to all interested parties. The group is directed by a coordinator and facilitator, both of whom are funded through an Environmental Protection Agency section 319 grant. The group utilizes subcommittees and has an office, located at the Washoe-Storey Conservation District office in Reno. Meetings are held monthly. The group utilizes a formal decision-making process selected by the group during its initial formation, reliant upon consensus. The estimated annual budget of the group (including the value of in-kind services) is more than $75,000 (the highest category in our survey). In past years, typical budgets have been different because the group is now receiving implementation funding as well as mitigation funding for restoration. Major providers of funding and in-kind services include the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the University of Nevada Reno Cooperative Extension Service used for technical review, the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection in the amount of $120,000 through a Clean Water Act grant used for administration and implementation, and the Washoe-Storey Conservation District in the amount of $30,000 used for technical review. Accomplishments and Ongoing Activities The group has completed the following activities: the development of the Steamboat Creek Restoration Master Plan, publication of newsletters and/or brochures, and other educational activities including presentations given to various entities. In addition, the group has planned or is in the process of completing the following activities: shared decision-making/negotiated problem-solving, resource monitoring, scientific research, legal or policy research, and on-theground remediation or restoration activities. The group is most proud of completing the 282

7 Steamboat Creek Restoration Master Plan and having developed partnerships and interest among developers, engineers, and others throughout the community. Overall, the group considers itself to be moderately successful in addressing the natural resource problems of concern, as illustrated by the fact that most participants believe the problem is being solved. Areas of strength of this watershed initiative appear to be the adequacy of the size, composition, and organizational structure of the group; the perceived adequacy of the decision-making process; well-attended and efficiently run meetings; and the helpfulness of local, state and federal agencies. Areas of potential weakness include the inadequacy of funding to meet short-term goals. The group considers the following actions to be essential to their continued problem-solving effort: changes in federal or state law, a substantial modification of land-use practices, a substantial modification in water allocation, a fundamental reallocation of agency resources and priorities, voluntary behavioral and/or ideological changes by local resource users and groups, on-the-ground modification of the physical landscape, and the generation of additional technical data or knowledge about the resource. The group listed the following keys to success: (1) consistent funding, and (2) voluntary cooperation and support. Contact Mr. Charlie Donohue Steamboat Creek Watershed Program Water Restoration Coordinator Washoe-Storey Conservation District 1201 Terminal Way, #222 Reno, NV Phone: Fax: Homepage: Upper Carson River Management Group Focus of the Watershed Initiative The Upper Carson River is located in western Nevada. The primary focus of the group is on two counties in the upper basin, but the group is also concerned with the remainder of the basin. The watershed encompasses an area of almost 1,000 square miles. The population of the focus area falls within the range of 100,000 to 250,000, with the majority of the population distributed mostly in cities/towns. The largest city in the region is Carson City, with a population of approximately 51,000. The local economy is moderate in strength and moderately diversified, with a significant gaming industry. There is not a significant percentage of the region s population employed in natural resource jobs. 283

8 The Upper Carson River Management Group was formed in 1994 in response to a variety of management problems. Establishment of the group was primarily the result of the efforts of local conservation districts, along with assistance from state and federal agencies, the Washoe Tribe, citizens/activists, and agricultural and industry interests. Since its formation, the group has been mostly concerned with issues of land-use management as it relates to managing ranching, open space, and urbanization. In addition, the group is also concerned with water quality associated with old mines in the watershed and a waste management facility; water supply/flow regimes, particularly related to extreme events; the maintenance of fish and wildlife and/or endangered species; and general environmental degradation related to fire, erosion, and the loss of plants and wildlife. From an institutional (or administrative) standpoint, the group is also concerned with inadequate funding/attention being given to a natural resource problem, inadequate interagency or interjurisdictional coordination, and the lack of local involvement in resource management. The mission/vision statement of the group is: In thirty years we would like the Upper Carson River Watershed area to be: a productive, healthy, diverse, agricultural, urban, pasture, forest, range, and river ecosystem. The system will provide abundant agricultural products, clean water, healthy living conditions, wildlife, recreation and planned urbanization that encourages the safe natural capture, storage, release and use of the water in the watershed. Specific shortterm goals include: (1) obtaining a regional Corp of Engineers 404 permit to address Carson River erosion problems, (2) developing a watershed education program, and (3) developing a regional approach to Carson River system stabilization. Over the longer term, the goals of the group are To develop an openly accessible network of technical, financial and political support from private and public sectors that will assist interested private landowners, tribal government and agencies in voluntarily planning and implementing ways to enhance the natural resource values of the Upper Carson River Watershed area. Structure and Functioning of the Watershed Initiative The group includes members from: the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, Corps of Engineers, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Geological Service; the Washoe Tribe; one or more state agencies; one or more local agencies including the Douglas County, Carson City, Alpine, and Carson Valley Conservation Districts; and one or more water districts/organizations. Membership is open to all interested parties. The group is directed by a coordinator paid through a Clean Water Act 319 grant. The group has an office, located in the Gardnerville Natural Resources Conservation District office. Meetings are held approximately monthly. Issues are brought before the group at the meetings either by concerned participants or by the coordinator. The group uses a decision-making process that is at the discretion of the coordinator, generally reliant upon consensus. The estimated annual budget of the group (including the value of in-kind services) is more than $75,000 (the highest category in our survey), an increase from past years. Major providers of 284

9 funding and in-kind services include local agencies such as the Carson Valley Conservation District used for administrative support. Accomplishments and Ongoing Activities The group has planned or is in the process of completing the following activities: the development of management plans, the prioritization of issues, on-the-ground remediation or restoration activities, publication of semi-annual newsletters in conjunction with a conservation district, planning a conservation workshop with the Carson Valley Conservation District, and various other educational activities. The group is most proud of completing the management plan. Overall, the group considers itself to be moderately successful in addressing the natural resource problems of concern, as illustrated by the fact that most participants believe the problem is being solved. Areas of strength of this watershed initiative appear to be the perceived adequacy of the decision-making process; the adequacy of the size and organizational structure of the group; and the helpfulness of local, state and federal agencies. Areas of potential weakness include poor meeting attendance and structure, and the inadequacy of funding to meet short-term goals. The group considers the following actions to be essential to their continued problem-solving effort: changes in federal or state law, a substantial modification of land-use practices, a substantial modification in water allocation, a fundamental reallocation of agency resources and priorities, the modified operation of existing facilities, voluntary behavioral and/or ideological changes by local resource users and groups, on-the-ground modification of the physical landscape, generation of additional technical data or knowledge about the resource, and the generation of increased public awareness of the resource or resource problem(s). The group listed the following key to success: (1) participation of local citizens, landowners, and agencies; (2) funding; and (3) education. Contact Mr. Keith Rugg Upper Carson River Management Group 1528 Highway 395, #100 Gardnerville, NV Phone: Fax:

10 Weber County River Keeper Program Focus of the Watershed Initiative Weber County is located in north-central Utah. The focus of the River Keeper is on the entire region, an area covering approximately 351,000 acres. There are two primary rivers in the county, along with reservoirs and streams. The watershed in the county is part of the Great Basin and receives between inches of precipiation annually. The population of the focus area falls within the range of 25,000 to 100,000, with the majority of the population distributed in an equal mix between rural areas and cities/towns. The largest city in the region is Ogden, with a population of approximately 70,000. The local economy is moderate in strength and highly diversified. There is not a significant percentage of the region s population employed in natural resource jobs. The Weber County River Keeper Program was formed in 1995 in response to concerns about pollution and river education needs, along with the need to monitor and advocate for river health. Establishment of the position was primarily the result of the efforts of local government. One person oversees the entire program, in consultation with appropriate governmental and private interests. Since the creation of the position, the River Keeper has been primarily concerned with issues of water quality, water supply/flow regimes, the maintenance of fish and wildlife and/or endangered species, land-use management, and general environmental degradation from pollution sources. From an institutional (or administrative) standpoint, the River Keeper is also concerned with transboundary impacts, inadequate funding/attention being given to a natural resource problem, and ineffective management programs or laws. Specific short-term goals are focused on education. Over the longer term, the goal of the River Keeper is to help inform the public about the choices that will be necessary to preserve the watershed for future generations. Structure and Functioning of the Watershed Initiative The River Keeper works with the following organizations: the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, one or more state agencies, one or more local agencies, one or more water districts/organizations, one or more environmental groups, and one or more academics or citizens. The River Keeper is directed by a Citizen Advisory Council. The River Keeper has an office, located at Weber Center. Meetings are held as necessary. Issues are brought before the River Keeper by concerned parties. The estimated annual budget of the River Keeper (including the value of in-kind services) is between $20,000 to $75,000. Major providers of funding and in-kind services include federal agencies and local agencies, including the County, used primarily for salary and transportation. 286

11 Accomplishments and Ongoing Activities The River Keeper has planned or is in the process of completing the following activities: resource monitoring, scientific research, on-the-ground remediation or restoration activities, publication of newsletters and/or brochures, and other educational activities including visiting every school within the Ogden/Weber County School Districts and being involved with a scientific multi-faceted engineered wetland in cooperation with three Universities and others. The River Keeper is most proud of coordinating 1,431 volunteer cleanup hours last year. Overall, the River Keeper Program considers itself to be moderately successful in addressing the natural resource problems of concern, as illustrated by the fact that the River Keeper believes the problem is being solved. Areas of strength of this watershed initiative appear to be the meetings are well-attended and efficiently run, the funding is adequate to meet short-term goals, and state and local agencies have been very helpful. Areas of potential weakness include that the federal agencies have not been helpful. The River Keeper considers the following actions to be essential to its continued problemsolving effort: changes in federal or state law, a substantial modification of land-use practices, voluntary behavioral and/or ideological changes by local resource users and groups, on-theground modification of the physical landscape, generation of additional technical data or knowledge about the resource, and the generation of increased public awareness of the resource or resource problem(s). The River Keeper listed the following keys to success: (1) education, (2) wetland proliferation, and (3) stormwater control. Contact Mr. Stan Hadden Weber County River Keeper 2380 Washington Blvd. #359 Ogden, UT Phone: Fax:

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