Critical Elements of State Bioassessment Programs: A Process to Evaluate Program Rigor and Comparability 2012 SWPBA Conference. Lake Guntersville S.P. Guntersville, AL November 14, 2012. Chris O. Yoder Center for Applied Bioassessment & Biocriteria Midwest Biodiversity Institute
Critical Elements of State Bioassessment Programs: A Process to Evaluate Program Rigor and Comparability
2012 SWPBA Conference
Lake Guntersville S.P.
November 14, 2012
Chris O. Yoder
Center for Applied Bioassessment & Biocriteria
Midwest Biodiversity Institute
EPA “Primer” Released in 2011
Accuracy: Biological assessments should produce sufficiently accurate delineations to minimize Type I and II assessment errors.
Comparability:technically different approaches should produce comparable assessments in terms of condition ratings, impairment thresholds, & diagnostic properties.
Comprehensiveness: biological response is evaluated in conjunction with other stressor/exposure information to understand the key limiting factors & spur mgmt. actions.
Cost-Effectiveness:having reliable biological data to support management decisions outweighs the intrinsic costs of development and implementation (NRC 2001).
Aquatic Life Use
ALUs inherently “drive” the determination of status & management responses, thus they are a critical determinant of overall program effectiveness.
A designation (classification) assigned to a waterbody based on the aquatic assemblage that can realistically be sustained given the regional reference condition and the level of protection afforded by the applicable criteria.
How will (do) we assure accuracy in the process of setting and measuring attainment & attainability of ALUs?
Is a single statewide threshold an effective restoration or protection goal for all rivers and streams?
“Exceptional” uses assure protection of existing high quality & preserve actual improvements
“Modified” uses where “legacy” modifications preclude CWA goal attainment (UAA required).
CWA “Minimum”- the principal restoration goal
BIOLOGICAL CONDITION GRADIENT (BCG)
BIOLOGICAL CONDITION GRADIENT (BCG)
CAPACITY TO EXPRESS INCREMENTALCONDITION
(RESOLUTION OF ASSESSMENT)
The capacity to measure incremental condition along the y-axis is a critical need for this process.
Desirable for biological assessment tools to express 5-6 increments of condition – a critical need for refined ALUs and to spur management beyond pass/fail responses.
Process initiated in 2002; developed via regional pilot in 2003-4; applied as formal program evaluation since 2004.
State/Tribal Program Evaluation: Key Steps
The Critical Elements process is one part of the overall program evaluation.
22 States Evaluated Since 2004:
Region I: CT,ME,RI,MA,NH,VT
Region IV: AL,FL
Region V: IL,IN,MI,MN,WI,OH
Region VI: NM,TX,OK*
Region VII: MO,IA
Region VIII: CO,MT
Region IX: AZ,CA
plus one Tribe & 3 Federal Labs**
*- scheduled in 2013
**- U.S. ACE-LTRMP; U.S. EPA-GRE; U.S ACE-ERDC
Reviews are conducted at the request of the State and/or EPA Region
New CE document revision employs modified element terminology – process & content are essentially unchanged.
States consistently score highest for methods elements
Elements having the most direct relationship to BCG concepts & attributes
Critical (Key) Technical Elements
Dependent on Other Elements
Thresholds for Determining Levels of Rigor: Max. Loss of Points Allowed
LEVEL OF RIGOR
What Do the Levels Mean?
Level 1produces general assessments - not amenable to supporting most tasks i.e., status, severity/magnitude, causal associations.
Level 2 includes pass/fail to multiple condition assessments (3-4 categories); capable of general causal determinations.
Level 3 is capable of incremental condition assessment along the BCG and for most causal associations; single assemblage limitations.
Level 4 provides full program support & reasonably robust, accurate, & complete assessments including scientific certainty, accuracy, relevancy of condition, severity & extent, and causal associations.
Checklist is completed with state staff – consensus based process
Recommendations acknowledge in progress improvements and can be used to develop a plan for making specific program improvements aimed at elevating the overall level of rigor.
The principal product of the review process is a technical memorandum that communicates program strengths and documents specific areas for improvement. These have evolved since 2004 from “a few” pages to 40-50 pp.
State CE & ALU Status
CE LevelRefined ALU1In DevelopmentNone
Level 4 2--
Level 3+ 12-
Level 3 -32
Level 2 --12
Level 1 ---
1 – Biologically based ALUs in WQS.
What really matters – how states use M&A and Refined ALUs to support WQ management decisions and set program direction.