Stream management plans (SMP) and integrated water management plans (IWMP) should recommend actions, projects and processes to support stream health, ideally in concert with other benefits the river provides to the community. Data gathered during the assess conditions step can inform the opportunities, locations and priorities for projects or actions.
Objectives and measurable results help transform data into a usable format from which stakeholders can make decisions. This step is where the SMP becomes as much an art as science.
The following steps will set objectives and measurable results to create a bridge from data assessment to the implementation plan:
Foster Understanding of Data Among Stakeholders
Identify Planning Objectives
Identify Metrics for Evaluation
Tips for a Successful Objective Setting Process:
Be responsive to the stakeholders and design the objective setting process to consider the specific culture and dynamic of the group and planning process to date. The people, relationships, size of group are all aspects to consider. Use the leadership/planning team to provide context and evaluate alternative approaches for the process.
Ensure that the group has had time to share and understand each other’s interests in the river. A successful objective setting process starts with the stakeholder engagement process.
Prepare stakeholders with in-depth discussions early on. Engage stakeholders in tough conversations as a way to build trust and comfort with each other. This helps prepare them for decision-making conversations down the line. Structure meetings around water education topics that affect the basin and promote dialogue around how those topics impact each stakeholder.
Start with goal setting. Use the information gathered in the conditions assessment and through stakeholder dialogue to set general, unmeasurable goals that characterize priority issues and geographies (e.g., promote recreational use of the Colorado River between Rifle and DuBeque). It is useful to have this dialogue with the entire stakeholder group.
Objectives are measurable (as opposed to general goal statements) and should align with issues on specific river sections, as revealed through the conditions assessment. One approach could be to break stakeholders into small groups, allowing them to focus on issues or reaches that are most important to them or where they have expertise. Once objectives are drafted in small groups, stakeholders can then vet the results as a large group.
Objectives are subject to current priorities. It’s important to document all potential objectives even if they are not agreed/prioritized upon by all stakeholders. Priorities may change over time, which is why it is important not to compromise on the science behind the data.
Consider setting objectives by reach rather than the entire planning area. This can tease out similar properties of desired river function and position the conversation within how stakeholders might already view the river. In the end, some objectives may overlap multiple reaches.
Make sure stakeholders are aligned on their expectations/goals for which condition to return the river to (e.g., if the river segment is below a mine with a 303d listing, it may not be realistic to return the water to pre-mining quality, even with interventions).
Rely on trusted technical experts (e.g., Colorado Parks and Wildlife) that are part of your stakeholder team to help with discussions on technical aspects of the process. Spending time engaging them in the stakeholder team and building relationships can help position them as a trusted source for expertise among stakeholders.
SMP leaders have found that, without careful process, this phase often leads to conflict within the stakeholder group. The key to success is a solid and clear process, complete with facilitation, clear roles/expectations for stakeholders, meeting agreements, and clear outcomes. Be prepared to adapt the process and be responsive to change as stakeholder relationships develop/evolve and lessons are learned.