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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Information and Education Programs - Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO): Successful Connecticut Project Used as Model Nationwide

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Laurie Giannotti
Connecticut NEMO Coordinator
Middlesex County Extension Center
1066 Saybrook Road
P.O. Box 70
Haddam, CT 06438-0070

John Rozum
NEMO National Network Coordinator

NEMO is an educational program for land use decision makers that addresses the relationship between land use and natural resource protection, with a focus on water resources. The NEMO project was created in 1991 by the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension Service (Uconn/CES), in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources Management and Engineering and the Connecticut Sea Grant Program. NEMO receives funding from a number of federal and state agencies; major funding is provided by the USDA/Cooperative Research, Education, and Extension Service Water Quality Program, the University of Connecticut, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

NEMO helps communities to better protect their natural resources while charting the future course of their towns. The project uses advanced technologies—geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and the Internet—to create effective education programs. NEMO presentations, publications, and Web-based services form an integrated package of information centered around the theme of natural resource-based planning. The presentations help explain the links between land use, water quality, and community character. The project also offers follow-up presentations and materials to help communities move forward on the two major aspects of natural resource-based planning, namely, planning for areas to be preserved and planning for developed or developing areas.

A Connecticut success story

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CT DEP) estimates that about one-third of the state's rivers and streams and three-quarters of the state's portion of Long Island Sound are impaired, primarily because of nonpoint source pollution from urban and suburban areas and construction sites. Nonpoint source pollution is generated by land use, and most land use decisions in Connecticut are made at the local level by municipal officials and private landowners. Federal and state nonpoint source laws and programs established over the past 30 years have created a growing need for local officials to be more knowledgeable about the causes, effects, and management of polluted runoff. With 169 municipalities in Connecticut, the large number of local officials and the continual turnover of volunteer commissioners present a challenge to those who want to educate land use decision-makers.

In 1997 CT DEP awarded section 319 grant funds to NEMO to expand its program to provide technical assistance for local officials. During the first year, NEMO delivered its basic presentation through a series of 10 regional workshops. More than 120 of the state's 169 municipalities were represented at the workshops, and many participants contacted NEMO to schedule follow-up meetings on specific issues or concerns. Each municipality also received a map set (watersheds and land cover) to help educate local officials and facilitate nonpoint source management at the local level. In 1998 and 1999 NEMO conducted regional workshops to teach local officials how to manage nonpoint source pollution by addressing imperviousness through their land use planning and regulatory authorities. Over the past 2 years, although still conducting regional workshops that focus on new land use commissioners, the project has moved to a more intensive approach, selecting on a competitive basis five communities per year to enter the "Municipal Program." In this educational model, each community is charged with listing specific goals, creating a NEMO committee made up of representatives from all the land use boards and commissions and other interested parties, and designating a chief NEMO contact to facilitate the progress.

Proven results

After 8 years of the NEMO Project, there is concrete evidence that Connecticut municipalities are giving greater consideration to water quality in their land use planning and regulatory programs than in years past. Two such examples are highlighted below.

As a result of NEMO's Eightmile River Watershed Project, the towns of Lyme, East Haddam, and Salem signed the "Eightmile River Watershed Conservation Compact," which commits the towns to work together to protect natural resources from new development. Since the signing, the three towns, local land trusts, and The Nature Conservancy have protected more than 1,800 acres of open space in the watershed. In addition, UConn/CES foresters have worked with landowners to develop forest stewardship plans on almost 500 acres and provided information that is being used to manage another 2,500 acres of forestland. The project was also instrumental in helping to build a fish ladder to restore access to upstream habitat for alewives and blueback herring for the first time since the early 1700s.

As one of NEMO's original pilot projects, the suburban coastal municipality of Old Saybrook has a long-term relationship with the project that has resulted in a progression of positive impacts that continues to broaden in scope. The Zoning Commission reduced the number of required parking spaces in several site plans to reduce the amount of impervious surface where it could be demonstrated that fewer cars were likely. Associated landscaping regulations were revised to require the breaking up of "seas of asphalt" through the use of landscaped islands and buffers. The Conservation Commission revised the town's Conservation Plan to include a recommendation on controlling nonpoint source pollution and recently completed a natural resources inventory for the town. The Board of Selectmen prepared a Policy Statement that includes alternative design and construction standards and vegetative storm water management practices that were incorporated directly from NEMO Project design principles and are in keeping with Phase II storm water permit requirements.

Future of NEMO

Based on the success of the first several years of this partnership, CT DEP anticipates continuing its section 319 funding support for NEMO and now considers NEMO an integral part of the state's Nonpoint Source Management Program. In 2001 NEMO is continuing its Municipal Program, as well as impervious surface research.

The UConn NEMO Project is the coordinating center for the National NEMO Network, a growing network of projects around the country adapted from the Connecticut project. As a result of NEMO's success in Connecticut, 34 other states have established or are planning to establish technical assistance programs based on the NEMO model. For more information about the NEMO Project, visit http://nemo.uconn.edu. Exit EPA Disclaimer

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