Adaptive Governance

Going with the Flow: Governance Options for Clean Water Act Compliance

How to best govern and protect our abundant water resources was the focus of the 2007 Road to Excellence Conference entitled Going with the Flow: Governance Options for Clean Water Act Compliance. Sponsored by Comcast, this daylong conference was held Thursday, May 3, 2007 at the Sheraton Station Square. The event featured Keynote Speaker Bruce Stiftel, Ph.D, of Florida State University. He is the co-editor of Adaptive Governance and Water Conflict: New Institutions for Collaborative Planning.

Richwiki.JPGAs the conference began, Rich Emenecker of Comcast highlighted the importance of the conference topic when he said, “You just have to travel around the country to recognize that the availability of water is a critically important issue in many, many parts of our country, and indeed, the world.” Click here to listen to Rich Emenecker welcome participants to the conference.

In our region, water governance reflects our history. The resulting system is focused on industrial or economic benefits. “But as concerns for the quality of water have increased, adapting governance to protect and sustain environmental systems has become a priority.” Those concerns have gained momentum with EPA enforcement of the Clean Water Act. ALCOSAN and the 83 municipalities in their service area are currently under mandate to reduce pollution that results in the region’s rivers being frequently declared dangerous for recreation due to wet weather discharges.

John Schombert from 3 Rivers Wet Weather opened the conference by defining the geographic, economic, and political proJohnwiki.JPGblems of wet weather issues in the southwestern Pennsylvania region and the Ohio River Basin. He gave an overview of the Consent Orders enforced by DEP and the Allegheny Department of Health, and then cited two examples of regional collaboration in a manhole mapping project and a flow monitoring plan, showing that the notion of “adapting governance” has succeeded in the past. Finally, Schombert closed by predicting the economic impact on the region and the burden placed on future generations if wet weather problems are not addressed regionally, and he suggested sustainable solutions to the problem that would require efforts in adaptive governance. Click here to listen to John's tutorial on the water management problems in southwestern Pennsylvania

What, exactly, is adaptive governance? According to Dr. Bruce Stiftel and John T. Scholz, co-editors of Adaptive Governance and Water Conflict: New Institutions for Collaborative Planning, adaptive governance is, “…a new generation of governance institutions for resolving collective action problems that occur between different types of resource users.” In the case of water, Stiftel and Scholz explain that new water conflicts between stakeholders necessitate innovative approaches to policy making and changes in water management institutions.

Keynote Speaker Dr. Bruce Stiftel shared his experiences in Florida, a region with great water access challenges and history of contention over water. Stiftel noted that the planet is 75% water and each of us is 60% water. “Anything that is that ubiquitous in our world, in our cells, and all the life around us is going to touch an enormous number of the things we do, the policies we set, the institutions that we have,” Stiftel declared, as he begin explaining the many uses of water and the different agencies and stakeholders that interact and conflict over its management and use. He cited examples from his home state of Florida to illustrate the context for discussions of adaptive governance.
Click here to listen to Dr. Stiftel speak about the uses of water

Water management in Florida needed new, innovative approaches, which became apparent when conflicts over the Everglades region were heating up. The region spreads across county and watershed lines, and the responsibilities and management issues facing the stakeholders in the Everglades first inspired regional conflict assessment and subsequent discussions. Stiftel presented two examples of Florida regions attempting to overcome challenges to adaptive governance where overuse and degradation of watersheds were at issue: one in the Tampa Bay area where the road to regionalization was rough, and one in East Central Florida where neutral facilitators helped to smoothly mediate cooperation.
Dr. Stiftel contrasted the ways in which the stakeholders in the two regions have attempted to adapt to deal with their water supply problems. In the “Tampa Bay Water Wars”, a growing population in the three-county area led to overpumping. The Southwest Florida Water Management District (WMD) began to deny water use permits and issued Water Shortage Orders which had a severe effect on development. The WMD was sued in excess of $10 million, and the conflict was fueled on by the media. A first attempt at a long-term plan failed, creating embarrassment for political leaders and governmental entities. Negotiations finally began to take place when the Conflict Resolution Consortium was brought in to mediate and an incentive was provided by the WMD to pay for a new desalinization plant. Tampa Bay Water is in existence today, and seems to be working so far.

Where negotiations in the Tampa Bay Water Wars were largely encouraged by the governor and legislators who wanted to stop the embarrassment of the ongoing problems, conflict resolution in the case of East Central Florida was encouraged by a desire to avert the crisis altogether. Facilitators and experts were consulted immediately to assess a potential conflict that could occur with a projected shortage of water across three water management districts. Together, the stakeholders compiled a prioritized list of projects and devised a long-term plan for the East Central Florida region that is currently waiting for approval. Click here to listen to Dr. Stiftel present his case studies from Florida on water conflict

Bruce3wiki.JPGTechniques of conflict resolution to balance the interests of stakeholders are incorporated in efforts to adapt government. Facilitating conflict naturally produces challenges to cooperation and communication. Dr. Stiftel presented five challenges to adaptive governance that were identified by the contributors to the study of water management in Florida, which help explain that the concept of adaptive governance is in its early stages and that these challenges are “key to creating successful second-order institutions capable of adaptive governance.” Click here to listen to Dr. Stiftel explain the five challenges of adaptive governance

Stakeholder identification can be difficult, because all parties involved need to be effectively represented, and the process of the design has to involve all stakeholders and authorities so that policy agreements can be reached. Two areas of learning also present challenges to adaptive governance. Scientific learning must be regarded by stakeholders as indefinite, and there needs to be an understanding that answers will not be readily available from scientific study. Discussions of public learning highlight the necessity for transparency of the decision-making process. The public has a right to information so that they understand the alternatives available to them in managing a resource as valuable as water. Finally, a major challenge to the concept of adaptive governance is the ability to respond to the problems of resource management and to achieve the goals of sustainability, equity, and efficiency. Dr. Stiftel explained that, “We have to reinvent government over and over again…” in order to accommodate different agencies dealing with new problems in water management.
Click here to listen to Dr. Stiftel's conclusions for adapting government for water management Adaptive Governance and Water Conflict: New Institutions for Collaborative Planning

Over lunch, DEP Deputy Secretary, Office of Water Management Cathleen Curran Myers spoke of the hope that the DEP has to be involved with regional water management efforts in southwestern Pennsylvania. Meyers talked about the nature of Pennsylvania's government infrastructures, and explained that although they are not supportive of adaptive governance, she saw opportunitiemeyers2wiki.JPGs for cooperation to achieve the desired end result of better water quality in the state and region. Myers contended that more monitoring will only tell us what we already know, which is that, “when it rains, we have pathogens everywhere and we can’t meet the water quality standards.” Instead of more monitoring, she advocated for better monitoring combined with modeling for adaptive governance efforts. Meyers drew laughs when she sympathized with municipalities over the complicated processes that they have to follow in order to be in compliance withDEP and Health Department regulations. She presented the idea of having one water resources management plan with a template to follow in order to save each municipality from an unreasonable amount of planning, and requested help from officials to work towards the comprehensive plan. Click here to listen to Cathy's presentation about the DEP's role in water management in Pennsylvania

cindywiki.JPGModerated by Cindy Hasenjager of 3 Rivers Wet Weather, a panel of local experts provided perspectives on adaptive governance options and water management issues that they have handled in their communities. Douglas Watkins of Upper St. Clair Township gave the perspective of a middle watershed and spoke of the success that they have had with collaboration in dealing with the Painters Run and Chartiers Creek watersheds. Watkins noted that Upper St. Clair, through bond issues, has incurred millions of dollars in debt because they are committed to fixing the water management problems, and explained that intergovernmemaryellenanddougwiki.JPGntal cooperation can assure local interest, responsibility, and essential services. Click here to listen to Doug speak about water management and collaboration in Upper St. Clair

Mary Ellen Ramage of the Borough of Etna described the ongoing and persistent problems faced by lower watersheds affected by upstream communities’ runoff, citing the specific example of the flooding of Etna after Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Ramage noted that the Consent Order process proved that neighboring communities can get along, and said that working together with the four watersheds in their COG has yielded progress in managing flooding and stormwater issues. Click here to listen to Mary Ellen's account of flooding in Etna and the need for regional attention to the issue

Michael Dufallo of Indiana County Municipal Services Authority talked about the challenges of cooperation and infrastructure repair in a rural, upper watershed. He spoke of the County Municipal Services Authority that governs the water management issues in Indiana County, and mentioned that a county authority takes away from a lot of the politics involved with getting municipalities to work together. He also said it provides for planning and better service. Duffalo conveyed to the audience how the incentives for lower user fees and for newer, better infrastructure and treatment plants in member municipalities inspires them to join county authorities. Click to hear Mike Duffalo explain why a municipal authority works for Indiana County

duffalo&garberwiki.JPGKevin Garber of Babst, Calland, Clements and Zomnir, P.C. offered some legal incentives to adapting government, like the ability to self-regulate taps, availability of resources, and long-term planning. He also spoke of some practical ways to adapting, like making sure all agencies are on the same page, ensuring that the plans are achievable, getting the citizens involved, and creating management ease with one group overseeing compliance with regulations. Garber advocated for bringing wet weather water quality standards into the forefront of discussion,gourley&garberwiki.JPG and performing supplemental environmental work in lieu of incurring penalties to show good faith. Click here to listen to Kevin talk about legal incentives for clean water

Ty Gourley of the Institute of Politics promoted the work the Regional Water Management Task Force is doing to provide models for multi-municipal collaboration in water management, and to educate local governments and regional leaders on the water quality and economic benefits of regional collaboration (Click here to view the Task Force's video overview of the region's significant water-related problems). Gourley acknowledged the balancing act involved between local control and governmental efficiency, and explained that regional collaboration must seek to achieve multiple positive objectives for Southwestern Pennsylvania. Cooperation can take many forms, and according to Gourley, the Task Force is dedicated to producing achievable recommendations with detailed implementation strategies. Click here to listen to Ty Gourley explain the Regional Water Management Task Force's work in the region

danwiki.JPGThe day concluded with an appearance from Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato. He noted that the consent orders were moving into the “fix it” phase, and said that he was determined to lobby for federal and state dollars with a collective, regional plan for how the money will be used. Onorato expressed the feeling that the quality control and contracting processes would be adversely affected if separate contracts for each municipality were drawn instead of one regional contract, but conceded that there is not one certain entity that should oversee the process. He stated that economic status should not matter, because a regional approach means that all communities should be involved in water management and should have stable infrastructure to support it. Onorato explained the comprehensive plan for Allegheny County and long-term planning for the future, and how a sustainable plan for water and sewer management would fit into the bigger picture. The audience was given the opportunity to ask questions of Onorato, where the consent orders and the comprehensive regional plan were discussed further. Click to listen to Dan Onorato speak about the importance of regional planning
When asked if he felt that the water management issues faced in the state of Florida were similar to those in Pennsylvania, Dr. Bruce Stiftel replied, “I think the high profile issues are different, but I think the underlying dynamics are very similar. I think the political landscape and the challenges of dealing with them are very similar.” Stiftel said that his hope is that the lessons learned from the adaptive governance project in Florida can be applied within the context of the southwestern Pennsylvania region. Cathleen Curran Myers was enthusiastic when talking about the DEP assisting in creating a comprehensive water management plan, saying that the agency was “seriously ready” to tackle the issue and make it easier for municipalities to comply with regulations. “This is something that has to be fixed, and fixed the right way,” announced Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato. “This is something that I’m excited about getting involved with.”