2005 Regular Session
To: Environment Prot, Cons and Water Res
By: Senator(s) Dawkins
AN ACT TO REQUIRE WATERSHED HEALTH MONITORING AND ASSESSMENTS; TO CREATE AN EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. The Legislature finds that a comprehensive program of monitoring is fundamental to making sound public policy and programmatic decisions regarding watershed health. Monitoring provides accountability for results of management actions and provides the data upon which an adaptive management framework can lead to improvement of strategies and programs. Monitoring is also a required element of any watershed plan submitted to the federal government for approval. While numerous agencies and citizen organizations are engaged in monitoring a wide range of watershed health parameters, there is a greater need for coordination of monitoring efforts, for using limited monitoring resources to obtain information most useful for achieving relevant local, state and federal requirements regarding watershed health, and for making the information more accessible to those agencies and organizations implementing watershed health programs and projects.
It is the intent of the Legislature to encourage the refocusing of existing agency monitoring activities necessary to implement a comprehensive watershed health monitoring program. The program should: be based on a framework of greater coordination of existing monitoring activities; require monitoring activities most relevant to adopted local, state and federal watershed health objectives; and facilitate the exchange of monitoring information with agencies and organizations carrying out watershed health, and water resources management planning and programs.
SECTION 2. (1) A monitoring oversight committee is hereby established. The committee shall be comprised of the directors or their designated representatives of:
(a) The Department of Environmental Quality;
(b) The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks;
(c) The Soil and Water Conservation Commission;
(d) The Department of Marine Resources;
(e) The Department of Transportation; and
(f) The Department of Health.
(2) The Executive Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, or his designee, shall chair the committee. The chair shall convene the committee as necessary to develop, for the consideration of the Governor and Legislature, a comprehensive and coordinated monitoring strategy and action plan on watershed health. In addition, the committee shall invite participation by other state, local and federal agencies, universities and other entities as appropriate.
(3) A legislative oversight committee is created consisting of four (4) legislators. Two (2) of the legislators shall be members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The other two (2) legislators shall be members of the Senate appointed by the President of the Senate. The monitoring oversight committee shall provide briefings to the legislative oversight committee on a quarterly basis on the progress of the monitoring oversight committee is making on the development of the coordinated monitoring strategy and action plan, and the establishment of an adaptive management framework. The briefings shall include information on how the monitoring strategy will be coordinated with other government efforts, expected benefits and efficiencies that will be achieved, recommended funding sources and funding levels that will ensure stable sources of funding for monitoring, and the efforts and cooperation provided by agencies to improve coordination of their activities.
(4) The monitoring committee shall make recommendations to individual agencies to improve coordination of monitoring activities.
(5) The committee shall:
(a) Define the monitoring goals, objections and questions that must be addressed as part of a comprehensive statewide monitoring and adaptive management framework;
(b) Identify and evaluate existing monitoring activities for inclusion in the framework, while ensuring data consistency and coordination and the filling of monitoring gaps;
(c) Recommend statistical designs appropriate to the objectives;
(d) Recommend performance measures appropriate to the objections and targeted to the appropriate geographical, temporal and biological scales;
(e) Recommend standardized monitoring protocols for watershed health;
(f) Recommend procedures to ensure quality assurance and quality control of all relevant data;
(g) Recommend data transfer protocols to support easy access, sharing and coordination among different collectors and users;
(h) Recommend ways to integrate monitoring information into decision making;
(i) Recommend organizational and governance structures for oversight and implementation of the coordinated monitoring framework;
(j) Recommend stable sources of funding that will ensure the continued operation and maintenance of the state's watershed health monitoring programs, once established; and
(k) Identify administrative actions that will be undertaken by state agencies to implement elements of the coordinated monitoring program.
(6) In developing the coordinated monitoring strategy, the monitoring committee shall coordinate with other appropriate state, federal and local monitoring efforts, including, but not limited to, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The committee shall also consult with water management planning districts, professional organizations and other appropriate groups.
(7) The chair shall provide an interim report to the Governor and the members of the appropriate legislative committees by March 1, 2006, on the progress made in implementing this section. By December 1, 2006, the committee shall provide a monitoring strategy and action plan to the Governor, and the members of the appropriate legislative committees for achieving a comprehensive watershed health monitoring program. The strategy and action plan shall document the results of the committee's actions in addressing the responsibilities described in subsection (5) of this section. In addition, the monitoring strategy and action plan shall include an assessment of existing state agency operations related to a monitoring, evaluation and adaptive management of watershed health and shall recommend any operational or statutory changes and funding necessary to fully implement the enhanced coordination program developed under this section. The plan shall make recommendations based upon the goal of fully realizing an enhanced and coordinated monitoring program by June 30, 2008.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2005.