Watershed analysis is one of the principal analyses that will be used to meet the ecosystem management objectives of this RMP. Watershed analyses will be the mechanism to support ecosystem management at approximately the 20 to 200 square mile watershed level. Watershed analysis, as described here, focuses on its broad role in implementing the ecosystem management objectives prescribed by these standards and guidelines. The use of watershed analysis, as described in the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (see description of the RMP), is a more narrow focus and is just one aspect of its role.
Watershed analysis will focus on collecting and compiling information within the watershed that is essential for making sound management decisions. It will be an analytical process, not a decision-making process with a proposed action requiring NEPA documentation. It will serve as the basis for developing project-specific proposals, and determining monitoring and restoration needs for a watershed. Some analysis of issues or resources may be included in broader scale analyses because of their scope. The information from the watershed analyses will contribute to decision making at all levels. Project-specific NEPA planning will use information developed from watershed analysis. For example, if watershed analysis shows that restoring certain resources within a watershed could contribute to achieving landscape or ecosystem management objectives, then subsequent decisions will need to address that information.
The results of watershed analyses may include a description of the resource needs, issues, the range of natural variability, spatially explicit information that will facilitate environmental and cumulative effects analyses to comply with NEPA regulations, and the processes and functions operating within the watershed. Watershed analysis will identify potentially disjunct approaches and conflicting objectives within watersheds. The information from watershed analysis will be used to develop priorities for funding and implementing actions and projects, and will be used to develop monitoring strategies and objectives. The participation in watershed analysis of adjacent landowners, private citizens, interest groups, industry, government agencies, and others will be promoted.
Watershed analysis will be an ongoing, iterative process that will help define important resource and information needs. As watershed analysis is further developed and refined, it will describe the processes and interactions for all applicable resources. It will be an information-gathering and analysis process, but will not be a comprehensive inventory process. It will build on information collected from detailed, site-specific analyses. Information gathering and analysis will be related to management needs, and not be performed for their own sake. While generally watershed analysis will organize, collate, and describe existing information, there may be critical information needs that must be met before completing the analysis. In those instances, the additional information will be collected before completing the watershed analysis. In other instances, information needs may be identified that are not required for completing the watershed analysis but should be met for subsequent analyses, planning, or decisions.
Watershed analysis is a technically rigorous procedure with the purpose of developing and documenting a scientifically-based understanding of the ecological structures, functions, processes, and interactions occurring within a watershed. The scope of the analysis for implementing the ecosystem management objectives of these standards and guidelines may include all aspects of the ecosystem. Some of these aspects include beneficial uses; vegetative patterns and distribution; flow phenomena such as vegetation corridors, streams, and riparian corridors; wind; fire (wild and prescribed fire, and fire suppression); wildlife migration routes; dispersal habitat; terrestrial vertebrate distribution; locally significant habitats; human use patterns throughout the ecosystem; cumulative effects; and hydrology. The number and detail of these aspects considered will depend on the issues pertaining to a given watershed.
In the initial years of implementation, the process for watershed analysis is expected to evolve to meet long-term objectives. However, some projects proposed for the first few years of implementation are in areas that require watershed analysis prior to approval of the projects (e.g., Key Watersheds and Riparian Reserves). In FY 1995-96, watershed analysis done for these projects may be less detailed than analyses that are completed in later years. Regardless, analysis done during the initial years (FY 1995-96) will comply with the following guidance:
A regional pilot watershed analysis program has been initiated to develop and test an effective long-term process. A scientifically peer-reviewed Watershed Analysis Guide will be finalized based on experiences gained in the pilot program.
The results of watershed analysis will influence final decisions both on timing of land-disturbing activities such as timber sales and on application of design features and mitigating measures, including Best Management Practices (BMPs) for water quality protection. Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of BMPs is required by Oregon's Nonpoint Source Management Plan to ensure that water quality standards are achieved and that beneficial uses are maintained. When monitoring identifies previously unanticipated impacts, the information gained from that monitoring will be used in subsequent development of mitigating measures, including BMPs, and also considered in future watershed analyses.
Factored into these decisions on land-disturbing activities, where appropriate, will be an assessment of compliance with the anti-degradation policy of Oregon's Water Quality Standards (OAR 340-41-026(1)(a)). These standards apply to existing high quality waters which exceed those levels necessary to support recreation and the propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife.
Proposed timber sales and other land-disturbing activities will incorporate the interactive (adaptive management) process for developing, implementing, and evaluating nonpoint control (BMPs) to determine if water quality goals have been met. Modification of non-point-source controls, including BMPs, will be adjusted based upon sound scientific evidence. Where necessary, appropriate actions to mitigate adverse effects on water quality will be taken to protect designated beneficial uses.