Fish and Wildlife Agencies: Are You Missing Out?

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Written by: Brian Bohnsack

Is your utility taking full advantage of partnerships with your local fish and wildlife agencies? Are you missing out?

Enhanced watershed pollution control, reduced chemical treatment costs and improved water quality are just some of the benefits that may be achieved by partnering with these agencies and leveraging their programs, resources and expertise.

Cost Savings and Fish Freedom in West Virginia

The Clarksburg Water Board in West Virginia treats an average of 7.5 million gallons of surface water daily from the nearby West Fork River to service their 52,509 customers. In 2015, the Water Board agreed to participate in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish Passage Program, along with other partners, to remove three dams along the river. The last of the dams were removed in 2016, making 40 miles of the river unobstructed. This has proven to be a boon for migratory fish, local recreation and the Water Board. The free-flowing water is resulting in annual savings of $50,000 to $60,000 in water treatment chemicals for the Water Board! To learn more about this specific program, visit the National Fish Passage Program website (https://www.fws.gov/fisheries/fish-passage.html).

Boat Program Helps Improve Water Quality 

Is boaters’ sewage a concern for your source water? The state of Washington estimates that 10 million gallons of boaters’ sewage are pumped annually by their Clean Vessel Act program partners in their state alone. If your utility is impacted by rivers or lakes with frequent boating opportunities, and thus their sewage, the Clean Vessel Act Grant Program may be a resource for you to consider or promote with your partners. This federal grant program is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and provides grants to state agencies for the purpose of the safe disposal of boaters’ sewage. Participating states typically provide subgrants from the program to local agencies and organizations. Fixed and mobile sewage pumpout machines, pumpout boats, floating restrooms and educational materials are some of the eligible activities that may be funded. A designated state agency is responsible for the program, which varies by state. Your designated agency may be the department of health and environment, the fish and wildlife agency, the boating agency or others. For more information on this program, visit the Clean Vessel Act Program website (https://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/GrantPrograms/CVA/CVA.htm).  If your state is not participating in this program, then encourage them to consider it. Participation comes with multiple benefits including public health, ecosystem health, nonpoint source pollution reduction, wildlife protection and quality of life.

Stream Health Partnerships

Healthy stream riparian zones help reduce water treatment costs. These zones are also critical areas for many fish and wildlife species and a focus area for many fish and wildlife agency programs. The National Fish Habitat Partnership program is an example of one of these efforts. This program’s mission is to protect, restore and enhance the nation’s fish and aquatic communities through partnerships that foster fish habitat conservation and improve the quality of life for the American people.  There are currently 20 fish habitat partnerships nationwide and their efforts range from in-stream flow removal to working collaboratively with farmers to improve watershed health. The program’s success extends from Alaska to Florida. If your utility is in a focus area of one of the existing partnerships, you may benefit from the expertise and resources of the program and you may also bring expertise and resources that are needed to advance the efforts. For more information on this program, see their website: (http://www.fishhabitat.org).

Fish and wildlife agencies’ programs, resources and expertise may be an untapped opportunity for your utility. Their mission extends beyond the regulatory compliance aspects that you are probably familiar with and their programs are trying to protect, provide and maintain clean water nationwide. So reach out and see if they can be another resource in your toolkit to provide clean, safe drinking water.