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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

California Nonpoint Source Program
Review of Upgraded NPS Management Program

U.S. EPA's Review of California's Upgraded Nonpoint Source Management Program, Based on the Nine Key Elements that the State Must Meet to Obtain Approval of its Upgraded Clean Water Act Section 319 Program

Prepared by Sam Ziegler, U.S. EPA Region 9, July 2000

California's upgraded nonpoint source program as described in the Plan for California's Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program (Program Plan) (SWRCB & CCC, January 2000) successfully incorporates the nine key elements that are identified in the Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidance for Fiscal Year 1997 and Future Years (EPA, May 1996). As stated in the Guidance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and State nonpoint source agencies from throughout the country have agreed that these nine key elements characterize an effective and dynamic State nonpoint source program, pursuant to the Clean Water Act Section 319 (CWA §319). Therefore, EPA approves the Program Plan submitted in accordance with the CWA §319. The Program Plan has also been prepared by California to address the requirements for a State coastal nonpoint pollution control program, pursuant to Section 6217 of the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990 (CZARA). EPA and NOAA's approval of the Program Plan under CZARA is discussed in a separate document.

The Program Plan , developed by the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB), the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs) and the California Coastal Commission (CCC), is a comprehensive statewide program that represents a significant commitment by the State to expand its efforts over the next 13 years to reduce and prevent nonpoint source pollution. Below is a summary of EPA's review of the Program Plan that identifies some of the specific strengths of the program in addressing the nine key elements pursuant to the CWA §319.

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Key Element #1 - The State program contains explicit short- and long-term goals, objectives and strategies to protect surface and ground water.

California's Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program (Program Plan) focuses and expands the State's efforts over the next 13 years to prevent and control nonpoint source pollution. Its long-term goal is to implement management measures by the year 2013 in order to ensure the protection and restoration of the State's water quality, existing and potential beneficial uses, critical coastal areas, and pristine areas. The State's nonpoint source program addresses both surface and ground water quality.

The Program Plan adopts 61 management measures as goals for six nonpoint source categories (agriculture, forestry, urban areas, marinas and recreational boating, hydromodification, and wetlands/riparian areas/vegetated treatment systems). Nested within an overall 15-year strategy are more focused 5-year implementation plans that contain objectives and actions, along with specific performance measures to be used to determine the scope and extent of implementation. Combined with other monitoring and tracking activities, this will allow the State and others to gauge the success of implementation efforts.

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Key Element #2: The State strengthens its working partnerships and linkages to appropriate State, interstate, Tribal, regional and local entities (including conservation districts), private sector groups, citizen groups and Federal agencies.

Building cooperative partnerships among agencies at every institutional level, as well as with stakeholders, is a key component of the Program Plan . As a joint effort of the SWRCB and the CCC, the nonpoint source program upgrade represents the success of a unique State partnership. The SWRCB and the RWQCBs are the lead water quality agencies in California, but the Coastal Commission now has a primary role to ensure that coastal waters are adequately protected from nonpoint source pollution. The CCC and the SWRCB have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that describes their respective roles, in cooperation with the RWQCBs, in implementing the Program Plan .

While the State's Porter-CologneWater Quality Control Act and the California Coastal Act provide the primary authority needed to implement the Program Plan , as described by the legal opinions included in the document, over twenty other state agencies have additional authorities and programs that can be used to supplement these laws. To ensure that other State agencies fully participate in implementation of the Program Plan , the Secretaries of the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Resources Agency have signed a memo directing all relevant agencies to use their respective authorities and programs to implement the Program Plan , and directing these agencies and departments to complete five-year-plans to implement the appropriate management measures. To further enhance the linkages to other agencies, the SWRCB and the CCC will initiate reviews of existing MOUs and related agreements, and will work with these other agencies to identify opportunities for new agreements.

Other significant partnership activities called for in the Program Plan include initiating an Interagency Coordinating Committee (IACC), enhancing public involvement and building on public-private partnerships. The IACC will be the primary forum for coordinating activities of the lead and implementing agencies. It will provide for a regular working forum for agencies and other stakeholders to collaborate in implementation and problem solving. Public involvement will be expanded through a variety of activities, including the participation of non-governmental organizations on the IACC, public review of program effectiveness, input on future 5-year plan development, volunteer monitoring, public outreach workshops and broader information exchange through the Internet.

Equally important is the Program's reliance on existing and expanding partnerships related to a wide range of watershed efforts. The partnerships involve both public and private entities in solving more specific water quality problems. Examples include the California Biodiversity Council, Rangeland Management Advisory Committee, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Southern California Beach Closures Workgroup, California Dairy Quality Assurance Program, Sacramento River Watershed Program, California Clean Boating Network, Calleaguas Creek Watershed Project and many more sector specific forums and local watershed efforts spread throughout California.

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Key Element #3: The State uses a balanced approach that emphasizes both statewide nonpoint source programs and on-the-ground management of individual watersheds where waters are impaired or threatened.

California uses a combination of both statewide and watershed approaches to implement the Program. Statewide activities are being undertaken to ensure interagency coordination, provide technical assistance, establish enforcement policies, build sector specific partnerships, promote public awareness, and provide for monitoring and assessment. The SWRCB and the RQWCBs have the primary responsibility for water quality in California. The SWRCB provides program guidance and oversight, allocates funds, and reviews RWQCB decisions. The nine RWQCBs have responsibility for water quality planning, permitting, inspection and enforcement actions within each of the nine hydrologic regions. The RWQCBs, established in each of California's major watersheds, provide a key means for ensuring the program can address the State's varied topography, precipitation patterns, population levels, and land use patterns.

The SWRCB and the RWQCBs are using their Watershed Management Initiative (WMI) to identify program priorities and budgets, including those for nonpoint source and watershed-based activities. The nine RWQCBs and the SWRCB have each prepared an integrated plan (also referred to as chapters) for implementing the WMI. These chapters are revised annually to ensure consistency with the Program Plan and the implementation of the management measures by 2013.

The SWRCB and the RWQCBs will continue to support community-based watershed plans to foster on-the-ground implementation and achieve measurable water quality improvements. This is consistent with the federal Clean Water Action Plan (CWAP) that directs new §319 funding to support watershed restoration action strategies. Through supporting comprehensive efforts that have community and technical support, the Program Plan is fostering extensive community-based partnerships whose leadership include Resource Conservation Districts, conservation conservancies, U.C. Cooperative Extension, local governments and others.

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Key Element #4: The State program (a) abates known water quality impairments from nonpoint source pollution and (b) prevents significant threats to water quality from present and future nonpoint source activities.

The Program Plan focuses a significant amount of effort on addressing known water quality impairments. For a number of years, CWA §319 funds have been directed to supporting activities in watersheds listed on the 303(d) list. In particular, annual solicitations for §319 projects have prioritized impaired waterbodies resulting in numerous water quality restoration projects. The Program Plan continues to target §319 funding to restore impaired water bodies and has begun to provide financial support ($1.5 million in FY'99 and $1.2 million in FY'00 of §319 funds) for the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for nonpoint source impaired waters. In addition, §319 funds and staff activities are being directed to foster implementation of TMDLs.

The Program Plan also identifies regulatory and non-regulatory activities to protect high quality waters and address foreseeable threats from future activities. While the program targets activities towards impaired water bodies, it also promotes widespread implementation of the management measures throughout the State. Program Plan activities also include special efforts to more fully minimize polluted runoff from developing areas and the identification of Critical Coastal Areas.

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Key Element #5: The State program identifies waters and watersheds impaired by nonpoint source pollution and identifies important unimpaired waters threatened or at risk. Further, the State establishes a process to progressively address these identified waters by conducting more detailed watershed assessments and developing watershed implementation plans, and then by implementing the plans.

California will continue to use the State's Water Quality Assessment, pursuant to CWA §305(b), as the primary tool for assessing NPS pollution statewide. As indicated in the Program Plan , a total of 1,700 water bodies were assessed in the 1998 CWA §305(b) Report. Of these, 509 surface waters did not meet water quality standards. The RWQCBs specified 392 water bodies (77 percent) as directly impacted by nonpoint source pollution. The assessment is used to target actions and determine their effectiveness. To improve the usefulness of these and associated assessments, the program will support the development and improvement of a geographically-based assessment system, provide consistency in listing impairments (e.g., as per the management measure categories), promote public access to the data and seek funding to increase the quality and quantity of monitoring.

The Program Plan has put special emphasis on establishing a process (referred to as "program infrastructure") that begins with assessment activities and ends with reporting program results. The three major components of the Program Plan are 61 management measures, an overall 15-year strategy, and three five-year implementation plans. Each of the implementation plans, nested within the long-term strategy, identify a series of actions related to the following process elements: (1) assess; (2) target; (3) plan; (4) coordinate; (5) implement; and (6) track and monitor.

The Program Plan relies on managing nonpoint source pollution, where feasible, at the watershed level - where local stewardship and site-specific management practices can be implemented through comprehensive watershed protection or restoration plans. The program also makes extensive use of the CWA 303(d) list to prioritize its tasks, as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) will enhance the Program's ability to implement nonpoint source control measures. By providing watershed-specific information, TMDLs will help target specific sources and corresponding corrective measures and will provide a framework for using more stringent approaches that may be necessary to achieve water quality goals and attain beneficial uses.

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Key Element #6: The State reviews, upgrades, and implements all program components required by section 319(b) of the Clean Water Act, and establishes flexible, targeted, and iterative approaches to achieve and maintain beneficial uses of water as expeditiously as practicable.

The Program Plan provides a dynamic process to ensure responsiveness to changing conditions during its fifteen-year life. The Program Plan commits the State to implementing 61 nonpoint source management measures by 2013. Implementation will be achieved through a set of activities outlined in each five-year implementation plan. A cornerstone of the Program Plan 's implementation, is the "three-tiered approach." Originally adopted in the California Nonpoint Source Management Plan (SWRCB, November 1988), this approach uses enforceable policies and mechanisms under the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act, recognizing that though nonpoint source problems may best be addressed through self-determined cooperation, applicable regulatory authorities are available to address persistent water quality problems.

At the end of each five-year implementation cycle, the State will evaluate and report on the effectiveness of the Program Plan to achieve the stated goals. Success will be determined by (1) the degree to which the performance measures have been met; (2) geographic extent of management measure implementation; (3) selected evaluation of management practices; and (4) analysis of available water quality information. Based on this information, the SWRCB and CCC, in coordination with the RWQCBs and other appropriate agencies, will make public findings and recommendations for the next five-year cycle. This planning process will also include broad-based public involvement. In cases where adequate progress is not being made, the State will consider rulemaking to ensure successful implementation of specific management measures.

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Key Element #7: The State identifies Federal lands which are not managed consistently with State nonpoint source program objectives. Where appropriate, the State seeks EPA assistance to help resolve issues.

California contains more than 100 million acres of land, almost half of which (45%) is owned or managed by federal agencies (e.g., the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management). The program relies on participation on the Interagency Coordinating Committee and through formal agreements, either Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) or Management Agency Agreements (MAA), to ensure Federal agencies manage lands consistent with the State nonpoint source Program Plan .

The SWRCB signed a MOU with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 1993 to ensure the coordination of nonpoint source policies and activities, and to pursue the development of an MAA for nonpoint source pollution control on BLM lands. The MAA with BLM is expected to be completed by 2003. A MAA was signed by the SWRCB and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in 1981. The SWRCB will work with the USFS to revise the Water Quality Management Plan called for under the MAA to ensure implementation consistent with the Program Plan .

The Program Plan also provides for the review of federal programs and projects that may have nonpoint source related impacts. The primary lead agency for review of statewide projects will be the SWRCB. The appropriate RWQCBs will review local and regional projects. The CCC will also review projects in the coastal zone as defined in the Coastal Act.

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Key Element #8: The State manages and implements its nonpoint source program efficiently and effectively, including financial management.

California has appropriate programmatic and financial systems in place to ensure that §319 funds are used consistently with its legal obligations. In addition, the program is instituting several improvements to further ensure program funds are used to maximize environmental benefits, and to leverage funds available for technical and financial assistance from other sources.

Periodic reporting that fully complies with all federal requirements associated with §319 grants has been incorporated into the Program Plan . These reports will provide a good basis for identifying program progress and for making resource allocation decisions. The State's Watershed Management Initiative is an integrated planning effort to help make better use of §319 and other funds, and to coordinate these funds with other sources to ensure maximum environmental benefits. To date the SWRCB has made significant progress in using State Revolving Fund (SRF) loans for nonpoint source projects. The Program Plan anticipates that SRF loans will play an important role in financing future nonpoint source water quality projects.

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Key Element #9: The State periodically reviews and evaluates its nonpoint source management program using environmental and functional measures of success, and revises its nonpoint source assessment and management program at least every five years.

The Program Plan includes mechanisms to track and evaluate implementation through the activities described in the five-year plans. California also intends, beginning in 2001, to begin developing its second five-year implementation plan. It further intends to repeat the same process 5 years later. The tracking program includes specific performance measures and goals and additional ones will be developed that can be used at the end of each five-year implementation period to determine the scope and extent of management measure implementation and guide the development of revised program activities.

In order to ensure that all relevant State agency activities are tracked, the State will complete development of a database that will enable State agencies to geographically track implementation of management measures and practices by August 1, 2001. This information will augment information already collected on watershed projects in California via the Natural Resources Project Inventory. A five-year review will be conducted that will be comprehensive in scope, addressing all of the management measures. Success will be determined by:

  • Degree to which performance measures have been met
  • Geographic extent of management measure implementation
  • Selected evaluation of management practices used to implement the management measures
  • Analysis of available water quality information in those areas where implementation has occurred

The State will also monitor the effectiveness of management measures in reducing pollution loads and improving water quality. The SWRCB has executed a contract with the University of California-Davis to develop a long-term, comprehensive monitoring program to assess management measure effectiveness. In addition, the State will promote community-based monitoring programs among landowners, farmers, ranchers, and community members to evaluate the effectiveness of their practices to implement the management measures and, where necessary, modify these practices.

The Program Plan contains actions that will result in consistent and timely evaluation and reporting of the Program's progress in effectively addressing nonpoint source pollution. Progress and performance in meeting the objectives and performance measures noted in the 5-year implementation plan will be determined and reported biennially. These biennial reviews will address such issues as progress in completing the activities identified in the five-year plans, performance of systems in place to track implementation, involvement of appropriate federal and state agencies in Program Plan implementation, and evaluation of overall program performance and the ability to implement all of the management measures by 2013.

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Related References

  • California Nonpoint Source Management Plan (SWRCB, November 1988)

  • California Coastal Nonpoint Program NOAA/EPA Decisions on Conditions of Approval (NOAA & EPA, July 2000)

  • Guidance Specifying Management Measures For Sources of Nonpoint Pollution in Coastal Waters (EPA, January 1993, 840-B-92-002)

  • Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidance for Fiscal Year 1997 and Future Years (EPA, May 1996)

  • Plan for California's Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program (SWRCB & CCC, January 2000)

  • Process for Approval of Upgraded State and Territorial Nonpoint Source Management Programs and Formal Recognition of Enhanced Benefit Status, Memorandum from J. Charles Fox, Assistant Administrator (EPA, January 7, 1999)
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