United States      Office of Water (4501F)
Environmental Protection Office of Wetlands, Oceans and
Agency          Watersheds
February 1997
"Massachusetts' Approach
               .~ .JtiM&L. ...AUL ' * *

    Since 1991, the U.S. EPA has been promoting the watershed approach as a mechanism to
    achieve the next generation of water protection. The focus on watersheds, or drainage
    areas, provides people living there a meaningful context in which to identify problems and
    solutions. Below is a description of the reorientation that is underway in the State of
    Massachusetts where its focus on watersheds is making a difference.

 In December 1993, Massachusetts' Executive
 Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA) joined
 with private conservation organizations to
 design a strategy to institute the watershed
 approach in the Commonwealth. Past legisla-
 tive actions, agency restructuring, and innova-
 tion by watershed associations set the stage for
 Massachusetts to build on successes seen in the
 Merrimack River Initiative and Stony Brook
 Watershed to become a national leader in
 applying the watershed approach. These initia-
 tives demonstrated the power of building teams
 of citizens, business, and government officials
 to set priorities and manage shared natural
 resources. The boundaries of these initiatives
 were defined by a new ecological address:
 The new partners agreed to develop and test a
 community-based watershed approach to
 strengthen local decision making and steward-
 ship without lessening standards. This will
 include the following actions:
  Improve coordination among state agencies.
  Reorient the Massachusetts Water Resources
  Commission to watersheds.
  Establish the Watershed Initiative Steering
  Committee (WISC) to develop a Massachu-
  setts watershed methodology.
  Conduct a pilot project to test the watershed
  Secure passage of the Rivers Protection Act.
  Pursue wetlands mitigation banking based
  upon watershed ecosystems.
  Focus land acquisition on a watershed basis.
  Convene a Governor's Task Force to recom-
  mend Clean Water Act changes that advance
  the watershed approach.
  Provide  grant funding to watershed associa-
  tions and other groups and regional agencies
  conducting watershed protection.
A key step forward was the reorganization of
 the Department of Environmental Protection
 (DEP), establishing an Division of Watershed
 Management (DWM) to synchronize environ-
 mental programs formerly performed in isola-
 tion. Another major impetus was the success
 that watershed associations had working with
 their communities to address local problems
 and priorities. Massachusetts is distinguished
 in having at least one citizen watershed group
 active in each of its 27 state-designated basins.

 The Neponset River Watershed was chosen as
 the pilot project area. In this basin, agencies
 from Massachusetts joined with federal agen-
 cies, citizen organizations, municipalities, and
 businesses to explore the power of working in
 watershed partnerships. Through public meet-
 ings and a strong partnership with the Neponset
 River Watershed Association, the state Basin
 Team assessed priority resource areas and
 threats to those resources.  This assessment was
 depicted on a computer-generated (GIS) map
 identifying "hot spots" where improvement was
 needed. Volunteer Stream Teams helped moni-
 tor the conditions of rivers and streams in the
 Neponset, and teachers developed science
 studies for students. The Massachusetts Depart-
 ment of Transportation placed signs in this
 highly urban watershed stating "Entering
 Neponset River Watershed Communities Con-
 nected by Water" to raise awareness among
This partnership helped improve the Neponset.
For example, a legal agreement was reached to
clean up a hazardous waste site and to remove
an illegal stormwater discharge which threat-
ened important headwaters. Owners of the site
also donated a pond to the Neponset River
Watershed Association. Li Norwood, local
officials identified a hot spot where bacteria
counts exceeded 200,000ppm (the standard is

200), and immediately took action to fix sewer
leaks that caused the problem. In addition,
owners of a race track agreed to control erosion
identified as a major source of sedimentation;
several polluted septic systems were repaired; a
landfill capped; a plan was adopted to control
sewer overflows at a cost of more than $10
million; and the city of Boston issued a contract
to eliminate hundreds of illegal sewer connec-
tions that caused over 50 direct discharges into
the Neponset estuary.


Based on the success of partnership pilots
including the Neponset Project, Merrimack
River Initiative, and other efforts in watersheds
across the state, partners expanded the use of
the watershed approach statewide. The State
policy adopts the methodology designed by a
Watershed Initiative Steering Committee
(WISC) that includes representatives of agen-
cies, businesses, watershed associations and
environmental organizations. The centerpiece
of this methodology is the eventual formation
of watershed community councils (WCC),
groups of stakeholders creating a forum for
discussion, priority setting, and decision mak-
ing in each of the 27 state-designated water-
sheds. The WCC works closely with the EOEA
Basin Team for their watershed. The Secretary
of EOEA established these Teams for each
watershed to better coordinate agency activities
and maximize resources. These teams are made
up of at least one representative from each of
the agencies of EOEA, federal agencies, and
other interests.
The four key elements of the Massachusetts
Watershed Initiative are:

1) Collaboration and shared responsibility by
    state and federal agencies, watershed groups
    and other conservation organizations,
    businesses and municipalities.
2) Watershed assessment and problem solving
    by watershed stakeholders with assistance
    from state and federal agencies.
3)  Subwatershed focus on problem identifica-
    tion and action planning/implementation.
4) Integration of local, state, and federal re-
    sources to address priorities of watershed

The Massachusetts Watershed Initiative seeks to
achieve the following goals:

1) Measurable improvements in water quality/
    environmental conditions.
2) Protection and restoration of habitats.
3) Improved public access to, and balanced use
   of, waterways.
4) Improved local capacity to protect water
5) Shared responsibility for sustainable water-
    shed protection and management.
The following describes the kinds of organiza-
tions involved and their typical roles.

A.  Environmental and other agencies -Perform
    watershed-wide water quality and habitat
    assessments and assist Watershed Technical
    Advisory Committees and Stream Teams in
    thek data and information gathering.

B.  Citizen Stream Teams-Gather information.
    energize links among citizens, agencies, and
    watershed groups, identify natural resources
    management issues, and take action to
    resolve problems and protect local water

C.  Municipal Officials (designated by city or
   townVServe on the Watershed Community
   Council, cooperate with Stream Teams and
   agencies to align municipal efforts with
   watershed problems and priorities, and
   stimulate resource protective local decision

D. Businesses-Serve on the Watershed Com-
   munity Council, participate in watershed
   management decisions and Stream Team
   activities, and provide sponsorship, re-
   sources and technical assistance.

E. EOEA Basin Teams-These teams, in col-
   laboration with the Watershed Community
   Council, work toward integrating action
   planning, public outreach, permitting and
   management decision making on the follow-
   ing five year cycle.

 Year 1 Initial outreach, including determining
       what information is available and what
       is needed, and initiate outreach to
 Year 2 Research including reviewing informa-
       tion filling data gaps.  Begin environ-
       mental monitoring.
 Year 3 Assessment, determining current
       conditions, causes and sources of pollu-
       tion, develop solutions to immediate
 Year 4 Planning and implementation including
       compliance and enforcement, and
       project funding.
 Year 5 Evaluation, analyzing program
       effectiveness, update information, and
       renew cycle.

 State and federal agencies, watershed associa-
 tions and other groups are excited about this
 new approach that not only better engages
 watershed stakeholders, but also redefines the
 role of government to support and guide water-
 shed interests. The process will assist agencies
 to do an even better job with increased constitu-
 ency support for their efforts and with addi-
 tional resources from the private and nonprofit
 sectors that will be contributed to support
 watershed-based activities.

 There are many challenges to complete the
 testing and implementation of the Massachu-
 setts Watershed Initiative. The following are
 some of the challenges and the next steps:

 1) A manual is being developed to guide water-
   shed management and to further define the
   environmental programs that will be inte-
   grated into the five-year watershed schedule.
 2) Basin Teams are expanding to involve all en-
   vironmental programs and other stakehold-
 3) To carry out the Initiative, Massachusetts
  Legislators approved $2.5 million in the
  recently enacted Open Space Bond. A
  competitive  process led to the award of
  $530,000 in  challenge grants for comprehen-
  sive planning and capacity building projects
  proposed by collaborations of local watershed
  groups, regional planning agencies and other
4) Computer mapping and modeling is under
  development to enable identification of low
   cost highly effective measures to control
 5) State agencies and watershed groups will
   collaborate to help local boards administer
   the Massachusetts Rivers Protection Act,
   which establishes 200 foot buffers on 9,000
   miles of rivers and streams, and requires that
   nine stormwater performance standards be

 For more information, contact the Massachu-
 setts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs
 (EOEA), Massachusetts Watershed Initiative at
 617-727-9800, ext 227, or the Massachusetts
 Watershed Coalition at 508-534-0379.

EPA participates on the Watershed Initiative
Steering Committee (WISC), an advisory panel
that oversees watershed management through-
out Massachusetts. EPA has supported sustain-
able watershed efforts in the Massachusetts
Bays and Buzzards Bay National Estuary
Programs, the Merrimack River Initiative, and
in other designated watersheds. In addition,
EPA regional staff serve on the EOEA Basin
Teams and are providing technical and financial
assistance and flexibility as the state converts to
a rotating basin approach in the NPDES pro-
gram.  For more information, contact Trish
Garrigan, EPA Region 1, at 617-565-4728.

Nationally, EPA has been reorienting its pro-
grams and developing tools to facilitate the
watershed approach since 1991. For more
information on the watershed approach, please
contact the EPA at Office of Wetlands, Oceans
and Watersheds, 401 M Street,  S.W 4501F,
Washington, DC 20460 (Attention: Watershed
Outreach Coordinator) or visit us on the world
wide web at URL:httD;//www.epa.gov/owow