The Water Quality Improvement Grant funds will be used to identify and mitigate sources of E. coli bacteria loading within the Oak Creek watershed so that this pollutant can be removed from Arizona’s “impaired” waters list. This will be accomplished in two phases.
Phase I is a year-long process that begins with the primary objective of developing a watershed improvement coalition, a grassroots organization based on bio-social ecosystem management principles comprised of public and private sector stakeholders. Since the primary source of sources of E. coli contamination are poorly understood, the Coalition will provide oversight in identifying key problem areas in the Oak Creek watershed that are causing impairment, resulting in the development of a comprehensive watershed improvement plan (hereafter, Plan).
Once the Plan is completed, an on-the-ground water quality improvement project(s) will be selected, submitted to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality ADEQ for review and approval, and implemented as Phase II. In summary, Phase II is the implementation of the Plan and is also a year-long process but includes effectiveness monitoring and adaptive management of the improvement project(s) after mitigation measures are implemented.
At the conclusion of the second year, results of our efforts will be assessed to develop Phase III grant and match funding for large-scale and/or multiple mitigation efforts.
We envision that establishment of the Coalition by the Oak Creek Watershed Council (OCWC) will serve as the foundation for future watershed-scale restoration efforts in Oak Creek, and that our partnership with the ADEQ will result in a multi-year, multi-objective effort that will satisfy the objectives of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for watershed-based management and restoration.
Future efforts will focus on restoration of ecological structure and function within the riparian corridor and may include management for invasive species and restoration and habitat enhancement for native species, including imperiled and federally-listed threatened and endangered species. To accomplish future restoration, the OCWC will prioritize identifying funding opportunities and combining resources with a number or private and public sector partners, a strategy that is crucial to enhancing the effectiveness of government in the environmental arena.