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Water: Estuaries and Coastal Watersheds

Implementing a Community-Based Watershed Approach

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The National Estuary Program (NEP) represents a unique partnership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and numerous federal, state, and local organizations working together to address coastal watershed management challenges. The NEPs have succeeded because:

  •  they focus on the watershed,
  •  use science to inform decision-making,
  •  emphasize collaborative problem solving, and
  •  involve the public.

What are the Keys to Success?

Establishing governance structures according to watershed boundaries. Because environmental problems do not conform to political jurisdictions, the NEPs define their management areas and management committees according to watershed boundaries and the ecosystems within them.

Using science to develop and implement a management plan.The NEPs use science to assess estuary conditions, develop solutions to estuary problems, and adapt management efforts. They conduct a technical characterization that describes the quality of the estuary, defines its problems, and links problems to causes.

Fostering collaborative problem solving. The NEPs invest a considerable amount of time to facilitate consensus on complex environmental issues. They develop mechanisms such as charters, bylaws, or memoranda of agreement to provide a framework for resolving conflicts.

Informing and involving stakeholders to sustain commitment. The NEPs inform stakeholders about the estuary and their mission, goals, objectives, and progress to ensure their sustained commitment. The NEPs involve stakeholders through such mechanisms as opinion surveys and small group meetings as well as formal participation on citizen advisory and other committees.

Where Can I Find More Information?

The wealth of knowledge and experiences of the National Estuary Program can help to further watershed protection and restoration efforts. EPA's Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds has developed the Community-Based Watershed Management Handbook to describe the highly successful approaches to watershed management implemented by the NEPs.

If you would like to order a free copy of this handbook by mail, please call the National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP) at 513-489-8190 or 800-490-9198 or send an email to nscep@bps-lmit.com. When you request a copy of this publication, please refer to EPA document number: EPA-842-B-05-003.


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