I recently attended a luncheon meeting on planning for the Sebago Lake watershed, facilitated by University of Maine. Two goals were to discuss types of watershed modeling and mapping that had been done in the past—in that watershed and elsewhere in Maine—and what was important to watershed managers in the future. The group consisted of wetland scientists, code enforcement officers, town planners, representatives from conservation commissions and waterways associations.
Many of us gave examples of modeling or mapping watersheds. For example, I talked about my experience mapping water features, such as streams and wetlands, and analyzing development patterns in the Northeast Creek watershed on Mount Desert Island, as part of a larger USGS-led aquifer study. At that time, I was working at a land trust and volunteering for the Bar Harbor Conservation Commission. During the project, I learned about hydrology, groundwater recharge in a granite aquifer and the importance of understanding the limits of an aquifer when planning for development, ie. subdivisions. When a friend’s septic tank erupted, I saw (and smelled) the repercussions of exceeding those limits. It’s not polite dinner conversation.
Good thing we were only having lunch. When the subject turned to watershed modeling, a number of people, including myself, raised issues about data—because a model is only as good as the data put into it. Further, we discussed the merits of a model in the context of a constantly changing climate. Most noted the weather of 2012 and that a model based on water levels this year might be outdated by next year, and so forth. A recent report by Environment Maine on the link between extreme weather events and climate change can be found here.
When asked what important factors should be included in a watershed model, the “hot button” topics included climate change, invasive species, water quality, wetlands, conservation priorities and water quantity. For more information about University of Maine’s watershed modeling project, click here. ASWM has posted links to a number of wetland and watershed tools and resources under its Watershed heading on the main website. For example, there’s a wetlands and watershed protection tool kit, link to a “Wetlands-at-risk Protection” tool, as well as the Natural Floodplain Function Alliance. Local governments and watershed managers may be interested in ASWM’s guide, Establishing Local Government Wetlands and Watershed Management Programs by Jon Kusler, Esq. Ph.D. See the Healthy Waters Coalition’s links to resources about watersheds.
In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Virginia Tech recently launched a new website, Wetlands One-Stop, with information about wetlands and wetland mapping. Virginia Tech’s Conservation Management Institute (CMI) designed “Wetlands One-Stop” to provide online access to geospatial data on wetlands and soils produced by federal and state agencies. For more information, click here. For additional information on wetland mapping, visit ASWM’s wetland mapping page.