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                                                                                        www.epa.gov/ord
                             US EPA, 960 College Station Rd, Athens GA 30605
             Watershed Health Assessment Tools Investigating Fisheries


       The  ORD/NERL Canaan  Valley  Institute (CVI) Aquatic Ecosystem  Team has  completed the  initial
development of a Windows-based toolkit for analyzing and directing fisheries management and habitat restoration in the
Mid-Atlantic  Highlands  (MAH). This  software  toolkit,  CVI-WHAT  IF  (Watershed  Health Assessment  Tools
Investigating  Fisheries),  and  associated  online  watershed  calculators are  now available  on  CVI's web  site
(www.canaanvi.org). Users interact with the software interface to frame the problem by: (1) selecting valued endpoints of
concern; (2) accessing data  and models to establish the causal relationships between stream habitat characteristics and
changes in endpoint status/trend;  and (3) performing  multiple model executions and  visualizations  of projected
outcomes so that management can evaluate associated costs and benefits.


       Training courses for the software have been given in Athens, Georgia for EPA Regional and State managers and
in a CVI-hosted "Fisheries Management and Watershed Restoration" Workshop in December 2004 attended by over 25
state, federal and nonprofit clients from the Mid-Atlantic Highlands region.

Significance for Agency Decision Making

       Stream ecosystems are common and widespread habitats in landscapes that can  support high diversity and
productivity of aquatic organisms.  As watersheds are utilized for agriculture and undergo  urbanization, water courses
accumulate pollution and aquatic organisms can be negatively affected.  Fish are often used as monitoring and assessment
endpoints  in streams by the EPA and other government agencies; they are easily measured and their  overall health is
determined by an integration of  multiple watershed stressors.  The primary stressors in most watersheds are nonpoint
source  pollution, altered  hydrologic  regimes, sedimentation and habitat degradation. Over half of the streams in the
Mid-Atlantic Highlands have fish communities that are in fair or poor condition, and the EPA concluded that physical
habitat alteration represents the greatest potential stressor in this region (USEPA, 2000).

       Management for these ecosystems involves the assessment of probable causes of impairment and management
alternatives, as well as the forecasting of future conditions in a scientifically defensible fashion to more effectively protect
and restore valued ecosystems.  Communities, watershed groups and states require decision support tools for managing
the  quality of aquatic systems. Community-based environmental management is a long-term goal of the Agency, and
providing the methods,  tools  and technical  transfer required to achieve this goal are critical roles of ORD.  Effective
client collaborations are the most efficient means to achieve this. Although there are many ecological endpoints that are
important indicators of the condition of aquatic communities and their associated watersheds, fish health is arguably one
of the most important since fishability is a principal designated use for surface waters under the Clean Water Act.

       CVI  is dedicated  to  addressing  the environmental problems in  the  MAH.  Their goal is  to  develop and
implement solutions to restore damaged areas and  protect aquatic systems.  To achieve  this goal CVI has produced its
Highlands Action Program (HAP) which details the need for a prioritization toolkit that  combines economic, social,
political and economic tools for environmental  stewardship. Productive, sustainable fisheries, i.e., trophy trout streams,
are valued aquatic endpoints. Planned restoration activities  in the region include riparian zone restoration and stream
channel design to mitigate  near stream inputs and  stabilize stream banks. WHAT  IF has been designed  as a compre-
hensive regional biological assessment and management tool for application with other components of the HAP.
                     Building a scientific foundation for sound environmental decisions

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        Implementation of regional  watershed protection  in the Mid-Atlantic  Highlands is achieved through  the
partnership with CVI (offices in West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania) and  their partners in watershed improve-
ment and riparian restoration, such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  CVI's mission in the region includes support
for a wide range of interest groups, local and state governments and nonprofit organizations.  The Institute distills the
combined needs of a diverse group of stakeholders.  Outcomes involve allocation of state and local funds to restoration
activities and fisheries  management programs in streams and  rivers  that meet ecological, socioeconomic and political
criteria. The EPA team has collaborated with CVI since the project's initial stages, when CVI delegates participated over
several days in presentations and discussions at a formal peer review. The CVI Team collaboration with its partners and
clients has been very successful in the Mid-Atlantic region due  to the essential role provided by the partners, translating
regional environmental needs into product specifications as well as translating EPA products back to its constituents.

Current Applications

        Regional projects require working across state boundaries and  should  include  all interested parties; the CVI
Team has done this with the CVI-WHAT IF Toolkit. The team has delivered a variety of products to meet client and
stakeholder needs in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands: a color brochure describing habitat suitability for a regional indicator,
the longnose dace; web-based calculators for regional habitat suitability index and fish assemblage investigations; and the
desktop CVI-WHAT IF application that installs the combined toolkit as well as the supporting regional database. The
CVI Team has also produced a suite of peer-reviewed articles and technical reports.  Feedback from all Mid-Atlantic
Highlands States and multiple nonprofit organizations (e.g., Trout Unlimited, Partners for Wildlife) on these products
and associated training workshops have led to  updates on the original toolkit in order to incorporate aspects of state
regulatory and monitoring needs. The result is that the toolkit provides a uniquely consistent regional approach.

        The  Canaan Valley Institute and the States of Virginia and Horida have requested additional  training work-
shops of the CVI Team.  Collaboration is underway with the USEPA's National Health and Environmental  Effects
Research  Laboratory for extending the  CVI-WHAT IF Toolkit  to estuaries  and coastal environments.   The CVI
environmental decision support tools have caught the attention of others with a watershed protection mission in the
Mid-Atlantic, including the Region III Environmental Information and  Analysis Division, the Mid-Atlantic  Integrated
Assessment (MALA) Program of ORD,  and the US  Fish and  Wildlife Service.  EPA Region  III is committed to the
ORD/Mid-Atlantic Integrated Assessment (MALA) program to  partner with  states towards adoption of the CVI WHAT
IF Toolkit for stream management in the Highlands, developing statewide restoration strategies.  The EPA National Risk
Management Research  Laboratory (NRMRL) Re-PLUS (Restoration Plus)  program is collecting data on best management
practice (BMP)  efficiency, and the CVI toolkit provides a  means of organizing information so that it can be assimilated,
made available, and immediately used for management and decision analysis.
For Further Information Contact:
References
                                        John M. Johnston, Ecologist,
                                        Ecosystems Research Division/NERL (706) 355-8153
                                        i ohnm.i ohnston@epa.gov
Rashleigh, B., M.C. Barber, M.J. Cyterski, J.M. Johnston, R. Parmar, and Y. Mohamoud. 2004. Population Models for
Stream Fish Response to Habitat and Hydrologic Alteration: The CVI Watershed Tool. U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, Athens, GA. EPA/600/R-04/190.
                      Building a scientific foundation for sound environmental decisions

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