SMP Nuts and Bolts

Define Purpose and Scope

Determine Motivaton

With an understanding of current knowledge and data, stakeholders may find multiple reasons to embark on a planning effort. Motivation can be anticipatory, reactionary or exploratory, or a combination of these. It is important to have a sense of the motivation early in the process to help guide selection of key stakeholders and make a case to potential funders. The motivation can shift or expand during planning due to input from additional stakeholders or new information from the conditions assessment.

Examining the goals and methods of existing SMPs reveals how the planning motivation can influence which stakeholders to engage and which assessment methods to select. 

Below are three examples of SMPs with different planning motivations.

Anticipatory Plan

South Platte River (Chatfield)

In response to increasing urban water needs, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that Chatfield Reservoir could accommodate an additional 20,600 acre-feet of storage without compromising its primary flood control function. A portion of this additional storage was earmarked as an environmental pool. This plan by the Denver Chapter of Trout Unlimited evaluates the opportunities to enhance aquatic habitat in the South Platte downstream of Chatfield Reservoir with the newly created 2,100 acre-foot Chatfield Environmental Pool.

Reactionary Plan

Yampa through Steamboat Springs

In the last 10 years, the Yampa River through the City of Steamboat Springs has periodically suffered significantly depleted flows and such warm stream temperatures as to degrade water quality, aquatic habitat, and recreational value. These conditions led to a listing on the state’s impaired waters list for temperature and closure of the river to tubing and fishing. This plan developed an energy balance model for water temperature to help identify the types and locations of management activities most likely to yield decreased mid-and late-summer river temperatures. 

Exploratory Plan

Saint Vrain and Left Hand Creeks

This plan seeks to build upon the collaboration built and large financial investment in river resiliency after the 2013 floods. Water users want to use the plan to discuss water management activities that can maximize post-flood projects to further benefit environmental, recreational, agricultural and domestic uses. Phase 1 of this plan will assess existing conditions and gather stakeholders to better understand environmental conditions and community values. Phase 2 of planning will set specific management objectives by reach and create an implementation plan.


  1. This table identifies common SMP goals and possible key questions for anticipatory, reactionary and exploratory planning processes
  2. The following pre-planning questions may help uncover your initial motivation and goals for planning.

Are there acute or chronic problems that planning could address?


Are there aspects of the river system that are functioning well that should be preserved and protected from future changes or risks?


Are there trends or future water management or land use scenarios that planning should include?


Have you undertaken conversations with key stakeholders to highlight and prioritize possible goals and narrow your focus?


Have you identified the types of products that the SMP process could produce? Who is the audience for these products?


Once the SMP is complete, how do you want to use it?

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