PSW Region of the Forest Service About to Launch BMP Evaluation Process
Ken Roby, USDA-Forest Service, Greenville
John Rector, USDA-Forest Service, San Francisco
Mike Furniss, USDA-Forest Service, Eureka
Best Management Practices are a process, not a product. Considering the agonies of getting them developed and certified, we might be tempted to suppose that once certified, that's it, they are good forever. Not so. The Clean Water Act and various regulations that flow therefrom require that BMPs be an iterative process. After initial development and implementation, BMPs must be monitored for implementation and effectiveness, then modified to improve their efficacy, then monitored again. It's a loop, and there is no endpoint.
In early 1989, the Watershed Management Staff of the Pacific Southwest Region, began developing a system to evaluate the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (BMPs) in protecting the beneficial uses of water. [BMPs are procedural and structural practices approved by the State of California Water Quality Control Board and certified by the U.S. EPA, to be used by the Forest Service in planning and implementing all management activities.] It is through the implementation of BMPs that the Forest Service is designated as the Water Quality Management Agency on Forest Lands in the Pacific Southwest Region.
The BMP evaluation system has taken shape during the last two years, and is about to be implemented throughout Region 5.
The monitoring system has been dubbed the "Region 5 Best Management Practices Evaluation Program" (BMPEP).
The objectives of the BMP Evaluation Program are to:
Assess the degree of implementation of BMPs
Determine which BMPs are effective
Determine which BMPs need improvement or development.
Fulfill Forest Land and Resource Management Plan BMP monitoring commitments
Provide a record of performance for management of Nonpoint Source pollution on NFS lands in Region 5.
Representatives from many of the Forests in California, EPA, State and Regional Water Quality Control Boards, Universities, Industry and Environmental Groups were consulted early in 1989 to determine what the BMPEP should include. Proposals were field tested in 1989, and again in 1990 on nine Forests representing the wide range of environmental conditions and management emphasis that exist on California's National Forests. The BMPEP has three primary components: Administrative Evaluations, On-Site Evaluations, and In-Channel Evaluations.
Administrative evaluations are broad-scale subjective assessments of multiple BMP at the project level. These evaluations are used to assess administrative or process BMP (such as the Timber Sale Planning Process) as well as structural or physical practices. The evaluations are post implementation assessments conducted by teams of reviewers to document observations on BMP implementation and effectiveness. They will usually be incorporated into general project or activity reviews. Though such reviews have long been a part of Forest operations, the evaluations will provide a focus and documentation format to better capture information on BMPs.
On-Site Evaluations provide a means to gather objective data at the site of BMP implementation for specific practices. The evaluations are based on actual measurements of key criteria (groundcover, canopy closure, etc.) and ocular estimates (presence or absence of rills, presence or absence of debris at culvert inlets, etc.). Criteria were selected that related to the objective of the individual BMP, and field tested and refined to yield repeatable results by independent observers.
There are 29 different On-Site Evaluations, each assesses an individual or closely related BMP (for instance two BMPs govern water quality protection on timber skid trails, they are assessed in one procedure and on one form). On-Site Evaluations assess timber harvest, roads, recreation, minerals, fire, range and vegetation management practices.
In addition to the criteria that assess on-site effectiveness described above, an assessment of BMP implementation is also conducted. Rating implementation involves a review of project plans, environmental assessments and the actual practices on-the-ground to measure how well the implemented practice duplicated the planned practice.
Evaluations from randomly selected sites will be used to test effectiveness of BMPs. For this analysis, differences in effectiveness ratings between sites where practices were and were not implemented will be compared. Evaluations will also be conducted at additional sites pre-selected because of their sensitivity, public interest, or management interest.
All results will be stored in a relational database (developed in ORACLE) for ready retrieval and query at both the Forest and Regional level. The database development was complex and achieved with the able assistance of ace bitslinger Steve Matthews of the Six Rivers National Forest.
In-Channel Evaluations are measurements of selected parameters to assess the cumulative downstream result of project BMPs in protecting beneficial uses. These evaluations monitor condition or change in parameters indicative of the physical, chemical or biological nature of a stream channel. Parameters selected will be indicators of the beneficial use believed to be most sensitive to change as a result of the project. If drinking water is the use of concern, then turbidity or microbiological sampling might be warranted. If fisheries are the use of concern, parameters selected for measurement might include changes in residual pool volume or substrate composition.
Each In-Channel Evaluation will be described in a monitoring plan that will detail the selected parameters and data collection requirements (including timing and frequency), analytical techniques, and the hypothesis to be tested. A process of monitoring plan review by research specialists will be used to ensure the rigor and consistency of monitoring designs. Comparisons will most frequently be between stream reaches above and below the project, though comparisons between watersheds will also be used. Duration of the monitoring will be variable, dependent on the parameters selected and the watershed processes of concern.
Each BMPEP component outlines steps to be taken in the event that poor implementation or effectiveness are observed.
Currently, evaluation procedures and user guides are being finalized. Implementation of the process region-wide is targeted for the 1992 field season.
You can reach Roby at (916) 284-7126, Rector at (415) 705-2515, and Furniss at (707) 441-3551.