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Basin Planning Process

 

- To Empower People and Focus Clean Water Actions -

Basin Planning Principles

 

  • Basin planning is an ongoing process. It is designed to be compatible with the Vermont Water Quality Standards and other applicable state and federal laws. The term "basin" refers to the 15 major river basins planning units which cover the State of Vermont. The term "watershed" refers to any drainage which may be larger, smaller or synonymous with these 15 planning watersheds. To view a map of Vermont showing the approximate extent and name of these river basins for which tactical plans are developed, click here.
  • DEC now employs a Tactical Planning Process as described by the Surface Water Management Strategy, to streamline the production of Basin Plans.
  • The Basin Planning Process empowers people with information and tools and provides focus for activities to protect and restore water quality. A Basin Plan may, for example, give special attention to protecting particularly high quality waters or restoring habitat or other important impaired water resources.
  • The process focuses on the big picture. It concentrates on issues of basin importance where cooperation among municipalities, private organizations and branches of state government can be effective in protecting, restoring or enhancing water quality.
  • The process takes maximum advantage of existing planning processes that relate to the management of our state's waters. It will identify existing local organizations (authorized by law to undertake planning) in each basin to take the lead in establishing advisory committees that will foster continuing basin planning, collaboration and communication among all basin stakeholders. The local organizations and their advisory committees will advise the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) on all elements of a Basin Plan.
  • A Basin Plan is prepared every five years. It summarizes current and past assessment, planning, and implementation activities. It integrates topics of special local importance with topics of special state importance, and makes management recommendations on these topics. It updates previous water quality plans.
  • A Basin Plan is not encyclopedic. It calls out areas where attention is appropriate. It presents the key elements of the Basin Planning Process and describes the ongoing actions of many individuals and organizations. It focuses on surface waters, recognizing that a complete and separate process exists for ground water protection. It takes into account the findings contained in the Vermont Water Quality Reports (see Resources - search on Key Word "305b") and other pertinent documents. It contains an implementation table that presents prioritized, geographically explicit actions in support of surface water protection or restoration.
  • A Basin Plan must be considered in the issuance of permits by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits must be consistent with Basin Plans. The Plans may give guidance to Act 250 permitting, regional planning, and municipal planning and zoning.
  • A Basin Plan identifies a "continuing planning process" within each basin, including individuals and organizations who can carry out the process. It recommends incentives to ensure a continuing basin planning process and the implementation of recommendations contained in the Plan.


 

Basin Planning Process - Key Elements:

Basin Assessments

Every five years, on a rotating basis, a Basin Assessment Report is developed for each river basin. The Assessment is based on the results of water quality monitoring programs, and professional and public evaluations of the existing water quality in the basin and known threats to that water quality. The assessment process itself, for any given basin, takes about one year. The development of a Basin Plan will follow each Basin Assessment Report. To learn more about the completion status of on-going basin assessment efforts, contact the Monitoring, Assessment and Planning Program.

Basin Plans & Recommendations for Protection/Restoration/Continuing Planning

Every five years, following a Basin Assessment Report, a Basin Plan will be developed for each river basin. The Plan summarizes current and past (within five years) assessment, planning, and implementation activities at the state and local level in the basin. It identifies topics or areas of special importance in the basin, identifies available management tools to address those topics, and makes specific recommendations on how to address key topics, including recommendations for continuing community-based planning or implementation action. Each Basin Plan updates previous Basin Plans.

Management Tools

Statewide Management Strategy - A statewide strategy included with each Basin Plan provides an overview of various state regulatory and funding programs/tools available to assist with the implementation of recommendations contained in Basin Plans. Specific tools  are identified for monitoring and assessment activities, funding activities, technical assistance efforts, funding efforts, and educational activities.

Waterbody Priority Lists - Every two years, specific lakes, ponds, rivers and streams across Vermont with documented Water Quality Standards violations are identified and listed as impaired in the Clean Water Act Section 303(d) listing process. In conjunction with this federal listing process, ANR also identifies and separately lists other priority waters that need further assessment or are altered by flow regulation or exotic aquatic species. These priority listings guide the development of pollution source control strategies, TMDLs, restoration actions, and assessment actions.

TMDL Development - All waterbodies identified as impaired in the State's 303(d) list are scheduled for the development of pollution source control strategies. These control strategies identify the pollution sources, determine a numeric target to be reached to bring the waterbody into compliance with the Water Quality Standards, allocate the load of pollutants to meet that numeric target, and develop a monitoring plan to determine when compliance has been achieved and the waterbody is no longer impaired. Click here for more information on Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).

Regional and Municipal Plans - Regional plans are developed and periodically updated to coordinate and guide overall regional development. Municipal plans are developed and updated to guide development in municipalities. Every five years, in conjunction with the preparation of a Basin Plan, the regional and municipal plans associated with the basin will be reviewed to determine their consistency with "essential water protection elements" and to identify any potential conflicts or deficiencies with regard to proposed basin planning recommendations.

Permitting Programs - Numerous activities in basins need state or federal permits to proceed. If proposed projects have the potential to impact water quality, permits may contain conditions to assure that the implementation or operation of the projects will comply with state Water Quality Standards.

Public Involvement/Local Activities

All elements of the basin planning process include public involvement. Public opinion is consulted through meetings, mailings, newspaper and web notices, interviews and contact with community groups. A draft Basin Plan will be made available to interested parties for comment during the year in which it is prepared.


 

Eden Lake watercolor by Denise Cote

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