2023 report

Value-aligned planning objectives for restoring North Carolina aquatic resources

By: A. García, M. Eaton*, G. Sanchez, J. Keisman, K. Ullman & J. Blackwell

Source: ORCID
Added: June 16, 2023

First posted April 11, 2023 For additional information, contact: South Atlantic Water Science CenterU.S. Geological Survey3916 Sunset Ridge RoadRaleigh, NC 27607Contact Pubs Warehouse Rapid population growth and development in the southeastern United States have resulted in substantial impairment to freshwater aquatic ecosystems. National or regional restoration policies strive to address impaired ecosystems but can suffer from inconsistent and opaque processes. The Clean Water Act, for example, establishes reallocation mechanisms to transfer ecosystem services from sites of disturbance to compensation sites to offset aquatic resource functions that are unavoidably lost through land development. However, planning for the prioritization of compensatory mitigation areas is often hampered by unstructured decision-making processes that are narrowly framed because they are not co-produced with stakeholders affected by, or having an interest in, the impacts and mitigation. This summary report represents the collaborative efforts of the U.S. Geological Survey and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Mitigation Services, to co-develop an applied decision framework following the principles of structured decision-making for prioritizing watershed catchments by their potential for realizing a range of beneficial outcomes from future mitigation projects. The framework focuses on supporting the State’s nationally recognized stream and wetlands compensatory mitigation program by clarifying a discrete decision problem and specifying agency and stakeholder values to formulate fundamental and means objectives for prioritizing restoration sites. The co-development of this decision framework resulted in a number of useful insights from the perspective of the decision maker, including recognition (1) that the problem is a multi-objective decision driven by values beyond restoring lost functionality of ecosystems (that is, biogeophysical goals), (2) that the decision comprises a linked and sequential planning-to-implementation process, and (3) that future risk associated with land-use and climate change must be considered. The outcomes of this collaboration can serve as a systematic and transparent framework to prioritize a wide range of restoration, conservation, and resource-allocation activities in similar environmental contexts across the Nation.