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Nine Element Watershed Plans


Development of watershed based management plans is a Nonpoint Source Program objective. Watershed based plans outline a strategy to improve water quality within a watershed. Total maximum daily load (TMDL) and nine element watershed (9E) plans are watershed-based plans. These plans identify and quantify sources of pollutants, determine the water quality goal(s) or target(s) and the pollutant reductions needed to meet the goal, and describe the actions (best management practices) needed to achieve the reductions that will improve water quality. TMDLs and 9E plans are almost interchangeable; there are a couple of key differences:

Comparison of 9E plans and TMDLs
Attribute 9E Plan TMDL
Pollutant sources Better for nonpoint sources Better for point sources
Implementation plan Required Optional*
Public comment period No (public participation is conducted throughout plan development) Required
Agency approval NYS DEC EPA
Funding eligibility State and federal opportunities State and federal opportunities

*TMDLs developed by NYSDEC include implementation sections. To learn more about TMDL guidelines, go to EPA's Guidelines for Reviewing TMDLs webpage (link leaves DEC's website).

NY Department of State through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant funds development of watershed plans. These plans use a watershed based approach and document point and nonpoint sources, similar to TMDLs and 9E plans. Unlike TMDLs and 9E plans, DOS funded plans may or may not quantify pollutant loads or estimate the pollutant reductions needed to achieve water quality goals--these are critical elements of TMDLs and 9E plans.

Overview of 9E Plans

Nine Element (9E) Watershed Plans are consistent with the EPA's framework to develop watershed-based plans. EPA's framework consists of nine key elements. The elements are intended to ensure that the contributing causes and sources of nonpoint source pollution are identified, that key stakeholders are involved in the planning process and that restoration and protection strategies are identified that will address the water quality concerns. An overview of EPA's framework is in Nine Minimum Elements to be included in a Watershed Plan document (PDF, 1.25 MB).

Key elements of a watershed-based plan
Key elements of a watershed-based plan that are
consistent with EPA guidelines. The elements ensure
that pollution sources are identified and quantified, key
stakeholders are involved and that protection and
restoration strategies are identified that will address
the water quality concerns. Image: NYSDEC
Summary of the nine minimum elements to be included in watershed plans
  1. Identify and quantify sources of pollution in watershed
  2. Identify water quality target or goal and pollutant reductions needed to achieve goal
  3. Identify the best management practices (BMPs) that will help to achieve reductions needed to meet water quality goal/target
  4. Describe the financial and technical assistance needed to implement BMPs identified in Element C
  5. Describe the outreach to stakeholders and how their input was incorporated and the role of stakeholders to implement the plan
  6. Estimate a schedule to implement BMPs identified in plan
  7. Describe the milestones and estimated time frames for the implementation of BMPs
  8. Identify the criteria that will be used to assess water quality improvement as the plan is implemented
  9. Describe the monitoring plan that will collect water quality data need to measure water quality improvement (criteria identified in Element H)

Why watershed management plans are important

9E plans use adaptive management, have strong implementation sections, are effective plans for restoration or protection, and projects identified in 9E plans are eligible for federal and state funding. Applications submitted to DEC's Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) grant program that identify projects from a 9E watershed plan receive higher points.

NYSDEC Approved Nine Element Plans:

9E Plan Resources

To assist watershed communities to evaluate existing planning documents and to better understand 9E plan report requirements, DEC has drafted the following (please note, these documents will be updated as DEC continues to develop additional resources):

Communities are strongly encouraged to contact DEC before starting to prepare a plan. DEC staff can assist communities to determine data needs, provide technical assistance and discuss other planning considerations to help communities prepare plans efficiently. Contact information is right-hand column on the Nonpoint Source (NPS) Program webpage.

EPA Resources

(all links leave DEC's website)