By Tom Damm
Ralph Spagnolo and Ellen Bryson know their way around the state capitals in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. The regional Water Protection Division employees have been on the road helping states launch an innovative online mapping tool that prioritizes sites for watershed preservation or restoration.
They were in Dover, Delaware recently to debut the Watershed Resources Registry for state employees and others. In past months, they’ve led registry launches in other states in the region, and when Virginia unveils its version of the tool, it will be a clean sweep in the Mid-Atlantic.
What’s all the fuss about?
Volumes of data and information are entered by federal, state and local agencies and non-profit groups into a user-friendly Geographic Information System (GIS). The GIS tool scores sites from one to five stars and lets decision-makers zero in on the best areas for protecting and restoring watershed lands and improving stormwater management.
The data fed into the system ranges from soil type, land cover and flood plains to impaired and high-quality streams, protected lands and wetlands inventories. The tool allows users to identify locations, assess and compare potential projects and their environmental impacts, print site maps for field visits, and share information. It also helps to streamline the permitting process and provide transparency in site selection.
The registry is especially useful for developers, natural resource and transportation planners and others who are required to avoid impacting natural areas or to provide mitigation for any unavoidable impacts.
In February, an updated registry was made available to the public. Check it out and see how teams of partners are working to protect watershed lands.
About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.