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Healthy Watersheds Protection

Healthy Watersheds Projects in Region 1

Serving CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, and VT

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Region-wide Projects

Characteristics and Classification of Least Altered Streamflows in Massachusetts USGS characterized the natural streamflow regime throughout southern New England using long-term streamflow records from 85 gaging stations considered to be least altered. Flow statistics were used to classify streams according to multiple hydrologic indices that represent different aspects of the flow regime. River basins having similar hydrological properties also had similar basin and climate characteristics.

The Active River Area: A Conservation Framework for Protecting Rivers and Streams (PDF) (64 pp, 4.49MB) The active river area framework offers a more holistic vision of a river than solely considering the river channel as it exists in one place at one particular point in time. The Active River Area represents the lands that contain both aquatic and riparian habitats and those that contain processes that interact with and contribute to a stream or river channel over time. To demonstrate the active river area modeling approach, the framework was applied to delineate the active river area throughout the Connecticut River Basin in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Watershed Forestry Resource Guide The Watershed Forestry Resource Guide provides tools and information for managing forest resources in the northeastern U.S. in both urban and rural environments with the goal of protecting and restoring water quality.

New England Greenway Vision Plan The New England Greenway Vision Plan was developed by researchers at the University of Massachusetts as a regional greenway system that preserves and links ecologically critical habitats, recreation trails and historically significant areas throughout New England. The plan identifies over 19,000 miles of greenways and trails necessary to connect public open spaces and 8 million acres of environmentally sensitive areas for protection.

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Connecticut Projects

Stream Flow: The Next Two Decades Balancing Human Use and Ecological Health This report describes Connecticut’s approach to developing and implementing stream flow standards for streams and rivers throughout the state. Connecticut’s flow standards are intended to balance stream flow needs to support human uses while maintaining the ecological health of flowing waters. In 2011, the Connecticut legislative regulations review committee approved statewide flow standards and regulations that followed the framework outlined in this report. View additional information on Connecticut stream flow standards and regulations

Connecticut's Least Disturbed Watersheds Identification (PDF) (92 pp, 3.5 MB) Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection used GIS to select 30 least disturbed watersheds in the state based on a variety of characteristics, including land use (e.g., impervious cover, natural land cover), aquatic connectivity and habitat fragmentation, and impoundments and withdrawals. The assessment resulted in identification of the best streams for preservation, "streams of hope" for active management, and urban streams for mitigation.

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Maine Projects

Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program The program trains citizen volunteers to collect water quality samples, assess invasive species coverage in lakes and determine overall watershed health.

Maine DEP Biological Monitoring Program As part of its water quality standards, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection analyzed its aquatic biomonitoring data using a probability-based statistical model to assign each of the state’s water bodies to one of three aquatic life use classes. As new biomonitoring data are collected, the state confirms that each water body is attaining its aquatic life use designation and incorporates any water bodies that are not attaining their aquatic life use designations in its 303(d) list of impaired water bodies.

Headwaters: A Collaborative Conservation Plan for the Town of Sanford The headwaters of five rivers in southern Maine that drain into two National Estuarine Research Reserves and a National Wildlife Refuge fall within the boundaries of the Town of Sanford. Workshops held at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve used Community Viz and Keypad Polling to empower members of the community to help determine water resource protection priorities for the town’s 2009 conservation plan.

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Massachusetts Projects

Strengthening the Resilience of the Taunton River Watershed: A Tool to Prioritize Local Action (PDF) (108 pp, 7.2MB) In partnership with EPA Region 1, The Nature Conservancy and local stakeholders, this project will help inform how Taunton communities decide on priority actions that would increase their overall resiliency and reduce their vulnerability to the converging impacts of climate change and development.  In addition to convening new networking opportunities among the Taunton River watershed stakeholders, the Taunton project also inventoried existing data and developed a decision making framework and a database tool. The tool for applying this framework is the focus of this report. 

The framework links specific ecosystem services to important features of the watershed landscape to create an interactive tool that should help communities find ways to maintain the functions and processes most beneficial to their specific conditions (i.e., to become more resilient). The tool itself is designed so that stakeholders and decision makers can easily weight the ecosystem factors that are of most concern to them for the protection of the various ecosystem services; generate listings of top-ranked areas; and export them for further examination, mapping, and analysis.

BioMap2: Conserving the Biodiversity of Massachusetts in a Changing World BioMap2 is designed to guide strategic biodiversity conservation in Massachusetts over the next decade by focusing land protection and stewardship on the areas that are most critical for ensuring the long-term persistence of rare and other native species and their habitats, exemplary natural communities and a diversity of ecosystems. BioMap2 identifies core forest, wetland and aquatic habitats that are critical for protecting rare, threatened and endangered species. In addition, it identifies critical natural landscapes that provide habitat for wide-ranging native species. The assessment is based on the principles of landscape ecology and ecosystem resilience, and makes use of sophisticated geographic information system methods to model ecological integrity across the landscape.

Massachusetts Water Policy The Massachusetts Water Policy, released in October 2004, seeks to advance the following environmental principles: keep water local and seek to have municipalities live within their water budgets by addressing issues from a watershed perspective; protect clean water and restore impaired waters; protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat; and promote development strategies consistent with sustainable water resource management.

Massachusetts Sustainable-Yield Estimator  The Massachusetts Sustainable-Yield Estimator is a decision-support tool that calculates a screening-level approximation of a basin’s sustainable yield, defined as the difference between natural stream flow and the flow regime required to support desired uses, such as aquatic habitat. The tool also estimates daily streamflow for ungaged stream sites based on physical and climate basin characteristics. Because this tool was developed with considerations specific to the hydrology of Massachusetts, it can potentially be adapted for use in other New England states, but may not be applicable outside this geographic region.

Factors Influencing Riverine Fish Assemblages in Massachusetts (PDF) (74 pp, 4.9MB) The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, conducted an investigation of fish assemblages in small- to medium-sized Massachusetts streams. The objective of this study was to determine relations between fish-assemblage characteristics and anthropogenic factors, including impervious cover and estimated flow alteration, relative to the effects of environmental factors, including physical-basin characteristics and land use.

Massachusetts Sustainable Water Management Initiative In 2012, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs released the Sustainable Water Management Initiative (SWMI) Framework. The SWMI framework guides permitting of water withdrawals under the Water Management Act (WMA) to support ecological needs while meeting the needs of economic growth. Major elements of the SWMI framework include maintaining Safe Yields (the maximum amount of water withdrawal that can be allowed during drought conditions) at the basin scale and seasonal streamflow criteria at the sub-basin scale to support the magnitude and timing of the natural flow regime.

Sustainable Watershed Management: Priorities for Action (PDF) (3 pp, 915K) This document from the Massachusetts Audubon Society details opportunities for improving water resource management in Massachusetts.

Water Resource Management and Planning: A Guide for Communities (PDF) This guidance from Massachusetts provides information on planning to address the full spectrum of issues that arise in water resource management including drinking water and stormwater issues. The Guide stresses the need to consider solutions that keep water local and minimize the impact on the overall water budget, the inflow and outflow of water to the community. The Guide also promotes sustainable water resource management strategies.

Massachusetts River & Stream Continuity Project Under this project, the University of Massachusetts developed the “Massachusetts River and Stream Crossing Standards” to improve aquatic connectivity and fish passage in the state's rivers and streams.

Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System (CAPS) CAPS is a computer software program designed to assess the ecological integrity and biodiversity value of every location in Massachusetts based on natural community-specific models, in order to help prioritize lands for conservation action based on their assessed ecological value.

Losing Ground Mass Audubon's Losing Ground series has analyzed land use changes and their impact on aquatic and terrestrial resources using the most up-to-date technology and methods since 1991. Losing Ground: Planning for Resilience (Fifth Edition) reports on the pace and patterns of land development and land protection in Massachusetts between 2005 and 2013. A major focus is incorporating data and tools at the local level for enhancing resiliency to climate change. The report presents an analysis of climate change resilience throughout Massachusetts that combines measures of landscape complexity and connectedness. Resilient areas are those that offer a range of well-connected microhabitats along an elevation gradient, allowing organisms to move among and seek out new areas in response to changing conditions.

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Vermont Projects

Vermont Stream Geomorphic Assessment Program Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation places a strong emphasis on fluvial geomorphology in its approach to protecting and restoring Vermont’s streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. The geomorphic assessment program collects and maintains geomorphic data for watershed planning and detailed characterization of riparian and instream habitat, stream-related erosion and flood hazards. It has produced a number of resources to explain principles of fluvial geomorphology, its relevance to aquatic ecosystem management and protocols for geomorphic assessments.

Geomorphic Assessment of the Batten Kill Main-Stem and Major Tributaries, Vermont: Phase 1 (PDF) and Phase 2 (PDF) Fluvial geomorphic studies following the Phase 1 and Phase 3 protocols of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Stream Geomorphic Assessment Program were conducted for the Batten Kill River and its tributaries to understand the varying forms and rates of channel adjustment. The results of the studies found that the channels of more than half of the streams assessed in the Batten Kill watershed are adjusting. Adjustment due to historic stream alterations may have reduced the complexity of aquatic habitats in the watershed that is needed to support the various life stages of aquatic fauna.

Vermont River Corridor Planning, Protection, and Restoration The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ River Management Program promotes the planning, designing and protecting of river corridors that will accommodate stream meander and floodplain processes as the most economically and environmentally sustainable river management alternative. The River Management Program envisions a time when the protection and wise management of river corridors will diminish the need for river restoration projects.

Vermont Guide to River Corridor Easements (PDF) (26 pp, 593K) The Guide to River Corridor Easements includes deeded land use and channel management restrictions for protecting certain reaches of river. The transfer of channel management rights is a notable aspect of this easement, offering a unique tool for restoring watersheds and reducing hazards by protecting natural river processes at key locations.

Vermont Lake Score Card Vermont’s Lake Score Card allows water resource managers and citizens to more easily assess lake condition by providing monitoring data on Google Earth map.

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