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Healthy Watersheds Protection

Healthy Watersheds Projects in Region 3

Serving DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, and WV

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Region-wide Projects

Maintaining Healthy Watersheds in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed  The 2014 Chesapeake Watershed Agreement contains a new Healthy Watersheds Goal: sustain state-identified healthy waters and watersheds recognized for their high quality and/or high ecological value with an outcome of 100 percent of state-identified currently healthy waters and watersheds remaining healthy. The Chesapeake Bay Program Maintain Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team implements strategies to achieve this goal. The Team is developing methods to track watershed health and protection status. Tracking measures are reported on the Chesapeake Stat website .

Resource Lands Assessment: Chesapeake Bay Ecological Network Model  The Ecological Network Model aims to identify the most important remaining habitats in the Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and D.C. portions of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The model applies a hubs and corridors approach that is based on principles of landscape ecology and conservation biology which emphasize size and connectivity as essential components of high integrity habitat.

Flow Recommendations for the Tributaries of the Great Lakes in New York and Pennsylvania (PDF) (182 pp, 7.7MB)  Developed by The Nature Conservancy, this report defines and quantifies the ecological processes necessary to maintain intact aquatic ecosystems in streams ranging from headwaters to large rivers, while providing sufficient water for human needs. The results of this study support decision making for management of water withdrawals and water use at a regional scale for the Tributaries of the Great Lakes in New York and Pennsylvania. This study supports the states in their effort to meet their obligations under the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Compact (the “Great Lakes Compact”) to create a management program for new or increased withdrawals and consumptive uses, in order to help prevent adverse impacts to the quantity or quality of the waters and water-dependent natural resources” of the Great Lakes Basin.

Middle Potomac River Watershed Assessment: Defining Environmentally Sustainable Flows  The Middle Potomac River Watershed Assessment (MPRWA) was a collaborative effort to assess the relationship between streamflow alteration and ecological response in the Potomac River and its tributaries in a study area defined as the Middle Potomac. The assessment is comprised of five distinct components: (1) a large river environmental flow needs assessment; (2) a stream and small rivers environmental flow needs assessment; (3) a projection of future water uses; (4) a stakeholder engagement process; and (5) development of a concept or scope for a strategic comprehensive plan for watershed management. This information can be used to balance and mitigate water use conflicts and prevent ecological degradation.

The Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership  The Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP) coordinates among various programs and organizations to create a cross-boundary commitment to protecting aquatic resources in the southeastern United States and is a partnership of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.

Southern Instream Flow Network  The Southern Instream Flow Network was created by the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership to facilitate development of protective instream flow policies among partners based in 15 southeastern US states. This is achieved by providing science-based resources, including developing regional flow-ecology relationships, hydrologic classification of streams and rivers, compilation of baseline information on hydrologic and ecologic conditions, assessment of flow alteration, and implementation of flow conservation actions in high priority areas.

Socioeconomic Value of the Delaware River Basin in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania (PDF) (103 pp, 2.0 MB)  An analysis of economic activity from recreation, water quality, water supply, hunting/fishing, ecotourism, forest, agriculture, open space and other benefits provided by the Delaware River Basin.

Ecosystem Flow Recommendations for the Susquehanna River Basin (PDF) (101 pp, 2MB)  Developed by The Nature Conservancy, this report presents a set of recommended flows to protect the species, natural communities and key ecological processes within the various stream and river types in the Susquehanna River basin. The flow recommendations address the range of flow conditions relevant to ecosystem protection, including extreme low and drought flows, seasonal (and monthly) flows and high flows. Along with magnitude of these key flows, recommendations address timing, frequency and duration of flow conditions.

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Maryland Projects

Baltimore County Forest Sustainability Program: Linking Communities to the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators  Under this program, a green infrastructure methodology was developed to assist in protecting forested areas and their ecosystem services and economic benefits.

Maryland's Green Infrastructure Assessment: Maryland GreenPrint  GreenPrint shows where Targeted Ecological Areas occur and how the many programs within the state’s government work together to protect the most ecologically valuable areas. This is an effort to keep portions of Maryland as ecologically sound as possible, to ensure healthy populations of plants and animals, and to conserve lands before they are consumed by sprawling development.

Green Infrastructure Plan for Cecil County, Maryland (PDF) (51 pp, 3.88 MB)  The Conservation Fund completed a Green Infrastructure Plan for Cecil County, Maryland, which includes four key components: 1) a green infrastructure network design; 2) water quality maintenance and environmental analysis; 3) ecosystem services assessment; and 4) implementation quilt analysis. Taken together, this set of products outlines a comprehensive approach to green infrastructure protection in Cecil County.

Anne Arundel County Greenways Master Plan  In an effort to protect its ecological, aesthetic and cultural resources from fragmentation due to scattered development, Anne Arundel County assessed its existing greenways and areas that have the potential to become part of a greenways network to prioritize them for protection. Five criteria were used to identify 100 areas that form connections between greenway hubs that are critical to ensuring the ability of the greenways network to support crucial ecological functions.

A Physical Habitat Index for Freshwater Wadeable Streams in Maryland (PDF) (150 pp, 1.28 MB)  The Maryland Biological Stream Survey undertook an effort to update their provisional physical habitat index (PHI) to investigate additional physical habitat measures for their potential to improve the characterization of habitat quality in freshwater wadeable streams. Through analysis of biological, chemical, land use, and physical habitat data the state first identified a set of reference and degraded streams for each of its ecoregion-based stream classes. Physical habitat measures were then evaluated for their ability to discern between reference and degraded conditions and a subset of measures was combined into a physical habitat index. The resulting index was tested and adjusted to account for watershed size and other sources of bias.

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Pennsylvania Projects

Pennsylvania's Aquatic Community Classification (ACC) and Watershed Conservation Prioritization  The Aquatic Community Classification (ACC) project involved systematically identifying stream community and habitat types for freshwater mussels, macroinvertebrates and fish. Information from the ACC provides baseline data for preserving instream ecological flow conditions and allows for the prioritization of high quality aquatic habitats for preservation. Multivariate ordination and cluster analysis were used to classify biological communities. This classification was then refined through an expert review and indicator species analysis. The classification resulted in 13 mussel communities, 11 fish communities, 12 macroinvertebrate communities at the genus level and eight macroinvertebrate communities at the family level.

Watershed, stream channel and water chemistry data were then used to describe community habitats, and a model of physical stream types was developed to predict community occurrence based on these channel and watershed attributes. Watershed and riparian land cover, mines and point sources, stream crossings and dams were used to assess the condition of each stream reach. Least disturbed streams and watersheds were identified and prioritized for watershed conservation actions, and the results are being used in a variety of conservation and watershed management projects in Pennsylvania.

The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Southeastern Pennsylvania (PDF) (89 pp, 9.49 MB)  This study uses cutting-edge research to quantify the economic value of southeast Pennsylvania's 200,000 acres of parks, preserved farms and natural areas in terms of property value, ecosystem services, direct use and health benefits, and economic activity. The study also includes qualitative place-based case studies that tell stories about what certain protected open spaces mean to people and communities.

Tool for Estimating Streamflow for Pennsylvania Waterways Water-resource managers use daily mean streamflows to generate streamflow statistics and analyze streamflow conditions. An in-depth evaluation of flow regimes to promote instream ecological health often requires streamflow information obtainable only from a time series hydrograph. Historically, it has been difficult to estimate daily mean streamflow for an ungaged location. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, and The Nature Conservancy, has developed the Baseline Streamflow Estimator (BaSE) to estimate baseline streamflow at a daily time scale for ungaged streams in Pennsylvania using data collected during water years 1960–2008.

Coldwater Heritage Partnership  The Pennsylvania program was developed to coordinate efforts and provide technical assistance to protect the state’s cold water streams and their fisheries.

Common Waters Healthy Forests, Healthy Watersheds Initiative  4,500 square miles of Upper Delaware River watershed, mostly forested and privately-owned, serve as source water supplies for fifteen million people (including New York City). Initiated at the beginning of 2011, the initiative strives to combat the impacts from a rapidly growing population and draw a closer connection between forest and faucet.

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Virginia Projects

Virginia Natural Landscape Assessment The Virginia Natural Landscape Assessment applies landscape-scale geospatial analysis for identifying, prioritizing and linking natural lands in Virginia. Using land cover data, patches of natural land are mapped and scored according to size, connectivity, biological diversity and other characteristics that describe ecological integrity. High scoring ecological cores can be designated as high-priority targets for protection activities such as conservation land purchases or easements.

Virginia Development Vulnerability Model The Vulnerability Model is a tool for predicting future growth and land use change with the purpose of identifying priority areas for protection and conservation.

Virginia’s Watershed Integrity Model The Virginia Watershed Integrity Model was developed to show the relative value of land as it contributes to watershed or water quality integrity. It combines datasets describing landscape condition, biological condition, riparian/wetland habitat extent, topography, and source water protection zones into an overall watershed integrity score for lands throughout the state.

Virginia’s Interactive Stream Assessment Resource (INSTAR)  Several state entities collaborated to produce the GIS-based Interactive Stream Assessment Resource (INSTAR) with the purpose of spatially organizing Virginia’s stream and river biological and physical habitat assessment data. INSTAR allows users to access a comprehensive database representing over 2,000 stream and river collections statewide. Data available for mapping and download include a multimetric stream health index for sampled reaches derived from fish, macroinvertebrate, instream habitat, and geomorphic measures. Also available is a watershed integrity score for each subwatershed in Virginia derived from a multimetric index of biotic integrity.

Green Infrastructure Plan in Hampton Roads, Virginia (PDF) (52pp, 13MB)   The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission developed a green infrastructure plan to be used by local and regional planners to ensure that high-priority conservation lands are protected in a multipurpose network. This edition of the plan updates the original green infrastructure network and rates the vulnerability of high-priority conservation lands to the negative impacts of future growth.

Green Infrastructure Planning in Virginia  The Green Infrastructure Center conducted ten field tests of green infrastructure planning across the state in a diverse set of ecoregions and different development patterns (urban, suburban and rural) to create a framework for green infrastructure mapping and assessment that can be used statewide and across the region. The Center’s website provides a guide for community green infrastructure planning and a summary of current demonstration projects.

Chesapeake Forests: Conserving the Bay’s Headwaters - A Green Infrastructure Assessment and Plan for Nelson County  The Nelson County Green Infrastructure Assessment is an evaluation of the county's forests and wildlife habitats, agricultural soils, tourism, nature based recreation and water resources. County-specific GIS data and statewide models, including Virginia’s Natural Landscape Assessment, Watershed Integrity, Forest Economics and Agricultural Resources models were used develop natural resource and watershed health maps and green infrastructure policy ideas for the county’s consideration. Community input was solicited through interviews, meetings with county staff to solicit their input and review, and a public meeting.

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