Watershed Health Assessment Framework

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2019 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$336,306
2018 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$318,607
2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$301,962
2016 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$316,000
2015 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$258,755
2014 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$100,000
2013 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$100,000
2012 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$100,000
2011 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$118,000
2010 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$110,500
Fund Source
Clean Water Fund
Status
In Progress
Start Date
July 2009
Activity Type
Assessment/Evaluation
Mapping
Planning
Education/Outreach/Engagement
Analysis/Interpretation
Monitoring
Counties Affected
Statewide
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2017 Regular Session Ch. 91 Art. 2 Sec. 6(d)
Appropriation Language

$1886000 the first year and $1886000 the second year are for developing targeted science-based watershed restoration and protection strategies.

2019 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$336,306
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY19 DNR will complete the transition to version 2.0 of the Watershed Health Assessment Framework (WHAF) interactive web map. The watershed health scores website and map will be synced to match updated watershed boundaries. The 80 watershed health report cards will be updated and delivered online. Staff will complete four special projects: A project with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to prioritize streams for protection with the results delivered in the WHAF; A decision support tool in the WHAF to help DNR staff and local partners prioritize and target more intensive stream erosion studies; Integrating more groundwater and drinking water data in WHAF in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Health; and collaborating with the State Climatology Office to determine appropriate climate change data to deliver in the WHAF. Staff will continue to support WHAF users via direct email trainings and presentations; and a quarterly newsletter.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2017 Regular Session Ch. 91 Art. 2 Sec. 6(d)
Appropriation Language

$1886000 the first year and $1886000 the second year are for developing targeted science-based watershed restoration and protection strategies.

2018 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$318,607
Direct expenses
$297,495
Administration costs
$21,112
Number of full time equivalents funded
2.0
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY18 Watershed Health Assessment Framework (WHAF) staff will update and re-organize the WHAF website for a more intuitive user experience and to meet accessibility requirements. We will update WHAF Watershed Context Reports for all major watersheds and deliver them online. We will recalculate all average WHAF health index scores and update biology health scores. We will continue to coordinate on water quality analyses with the MN Pollution Control Agency and finalize our work on protection strategies for streams.

We will develop and test the new WHAF 2.0 map application. We will update user support materials to reflect changes to the WHAF map. We will add modules for the Decision Support System to the WHAF 2.0 map. We will add WHAF use cases and user guidance documents.

We will continue to assist Clean Water Fund-supported staff through training and outreach events. The interagency WHAF cohort group formed in FY17 will meet up to three times in FY18. We will continue publishing a quarterly WHAF Newsletter to support our growing subscriber list of public and private partners.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2015 First Special Session Ch. 2 Art. 2 Sec. 6(d)
Appropriation Language

(d) $1940000 the first year and $1940000 the second year are for developing targeted science-based watershed restoration and protection strategies.

2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$301,962
Direct expenses
$271,849
Administration costs
$30,086
Number of full time equivalents funded
2.0
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY17 we will continue to update health index scores to incorporate new data. Updates are planned for the Terrestrial Habitat Quality Groundwater Contamination Susceptibility and Species Richness health scores. We will coordinate with DNR Climate Change staff to add new data for climate vulnerability work.

We will coordinate with MPCA to share water quality data and model results in the WHAF map. We will enhance the WHAF map to include saving and printing of individual health explorations. We will support agency staff working on WRAPS and 1W1P as requested. The WHAF will provide inputs for standard deliverables as part of a larger DNR effort to support WRAPS development. We will continue to bring additional modules of the Decision Support System online including guides for users as they evaluate watershed health and analyze trade-offs for decision making.

We will continue to develop products that build a shared understanding of watershed health concepts including: updating and expanding three to five WHAF web pages with new content; training other DNR staff and key audiences; and publishing a quarterly WHAF newsletter to communicate with a growing user base.

Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY17 WHAF staff updated several health index scores and revised the Groundwater Susceptibility index using new groundwater data. Staff continued on biology health scores and climate change and made the MN Wildlife Action Plan available in online maps. They coordinated with the MN Pollution Control Agency to provide GIS analysis of watershed characteristics for a nutrient study and prioritization of streams for the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies process. They developed and distributed to DNR staff a GIS toolbox for custom land cover charts.

Staff created a web platform that allows advanced WHAF users to view the statistical relationship between WHAF health scores and the quality of aquatic communities in Minnesota streams.

A new web programmer on the WHAF staff improved map functions compliance with accessibility requirements and guidelines and the overall stability of the application. Upgraded LiDAR-based topography was added to the online map. Staff developed and tested additional modules of the WHAF Decision Support System including beta testing of an online interface.

Staff provided support to WHAF users by presenting at 10 training and outreach events and with one-on-one assistance. One training session was attended by 15 Clean Water Fund-supported staff from multiple state agencies. We formed a cohort of Clean Water Fund-supported staff from three agencies to guide WHAF development. We developed a story map explaining watershed concepts. We reorganized and updated content and navigation for our web pages to be implemented in FY18. We continued to publish a quarterly WHAF newsletter to communicate with 1 900 subscribers.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2015 First Special Session Ch. 2 Art. 2 Sec. 6(d)
Appropriation Language

(d) $1940000 the first year and $1940000 the second year are for developing targeted science-based watershed restoration and protection strategies.

2016 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$316,000
Direct expenses
$201,865
Administration costs
$24,165
Number of full time equivalents funded
2.0
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY16 we will continue to refine and expand the suite of health index scores: update the non-point source and water quality assessments indices; add a metric of phosphorus risk; update the stream species index with current MPCA data; and calculate index trends over time. We will publish watershed health report cards for the 81 major watersheds.

We will enhance the online WHAF site and map application with new functions to include: access to major watershed health report cards; health score trends over time; user selected health score comparisons; user map views that can be stored and shared; and watershed ecological context reports. We will work directly with DNR and MPCA staff working on WRAPS and watershed plans as requested and the WHAF will be used to provide inputs for standard deliverables as part of a larger DNR effort to systematically support WRAPS development. We will make the online Decision Support System live including guides that will walk users through an analysis of watershed health and provide a framework for decision making.

We continue developing products that build a shared understanding of watershed health including: updating and expanding three to five WHAF web pages with new content; training other DNR staff and key audiences; and publishing a quarterly WHAF newsletter to communicate with a growing user base.

Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY16 we refined and expanded the suite of health index scores. The work included updates to: Non-Point Source Index and Metric of Phosphorus Risk; Localized Pollution Source Index and six Pollution Metric Scores; Water Quality Assessment Index; Stream Species Quality Index and Metrics for Fish Macroinvertebrates and Mussels; Loss of Hydrologic Storage Index and Loss of Wetland Storage Metric. We provided access to GIS data layers related to each health score.

We published watershed health report cards and ecological context reports for Minnesota’s 81 major watersheds. We enhanced the WHAF map so users can store and share map views and create a slideshow of maps. We worked with DNR and MPCA staff on WRAPS protection strategies and 1W1P pilot projects as requested. We participated in development of standard deliverables as part of a DNR effort to support WRAPS development. We enhanced watershed specific information such as land use summaries google earth flyovers and health summaries including expanded guidance to assist users.

We completed a beta version of an online Decision Support System available for preliminary use by DNR staff. Three modules of the DSS will move to the WHAF website in FY17 based on hiring a new web programmer. Additional DSS modules will continue in development in FY17 to facilitate input and review by Subject Matter Experts.

We continued developing products that build a shared understanding of watershed health including expanded WHAF web content; training other DNR staff and key audiences; and published a quarterly WHAF newsletter for our subscriber list of more than 1400 users.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2013 Ch. 137 Art. 2 Sec. 6(d)
Appropriation Language

$1850000 the first year and $1850000
the second year are for developing targeted
science-based watershed restoration and
protection strategies including regional
technical assistance for TMDL plans and
development of a watershed assessment tool
in cooperation with the commissioner of the
Pollution Control Agency. By January 15
2016 the commissioner shall submit a report
to the chairs and ranking minority members
of the senate and house of representatives
committees and divisions with jurisdiction
over environment and natural resources
policy and finance providing the outcomes
to lakes rivers streams and groundwater
achieved with this appropriation and
recommendations.

2015 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$258,755
Direct expenses
$226,481
Administration costs
$1,220
Number of full time equivalents funded
1.8
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY15 the WHAF team will review all 18 of the WHAF Health index scores add at least two new indices and update four to six indices using new data. Trends in health over time will be generated at the watershed and catchment scale and a web-based delivery mechanism will be designed.
A decision support system for applying the Watershed Health Assessment Framework by diverse resource managers will be delivered online. Ongoing direct outreach using the WHAF to support clean water work by the DNR and agency partners will continue. WHAF program staff will coordinate with Information Technology staff to deliver updated watershed health information when new input data becomes available.

Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY15 the WHAF team added five new index scores in the water quality component ad updated five watershed health index scores with new data and improved analysis. We made index updates available to the public through the WHAF online map. The updated index scores are also available as GIS data directly for use by DNR staff and for the public via download from MN Geospatial Commons.

We calculated trends over time for land use and crop trends over time (2001 2006 and 2011) and designed a way to show those trends for any watershed the user selects. The trend data is also available for download from the MN Geospatial Commons.

We re-designed the WHAF online map to improve the user interface and to add new features including buttons for navigating between watershed scales. We created narrated instructional videos and other guides to help WHAF users tap into the WHAF’s new features. We also started a WHAF newsletter which now has over 1000 subscribers.

We designed a preliminary Decision Support System (DSS) which is not yet ready to go online. Some products that support the DSS (including the land use summary charts and enhanced access to additional data and web services) have been developed and are available now. Members of our team took training on Structured Decision Making which provides a framework for designing the DSS. This training slowed our delivery timeline but will make the final product more rigorous and consistent.

We directly supported WRAPS work by the DNR and our agency partners and the WHAF was used without direct support in a number of WRAPS – one example is DNR and MPCA staff involved in Stressor ID using the WHAF together to diagnose problems where the fish community indicates poor stream health. We also helped DNR staff use WHAF for One Watershed One Plan pilot planning efforts in the North Fork Crow River Yellow Medicine and Root River watersheds.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2013 Ch. 137 Art. 2 Sec. 6(d)
Appropriation Language

$1850000 the first year and $1850000
the second year are for developing targeted
science-based watershed restoration and
protection strategies including regional
technical assistance for TMDL plans and
development of a watershed assessment tool
in cooperation with the commissioner of the
Pollution Control Agency. By January 15
2016 the commissioner shall submit a report
to the chairs and ranking minority members
of the senate and house of representatives
committees and divisions with jurisdiction
over environment and natural resources
policy and finance providing the outcomes
to lakes rivers streams and groundwater
achieved with this appropriation and
recommendations.

2014 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$100,000
Direct expenses
$81,502
Administration costs
$1,219
Number of full time equivalents funded
1.0
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY14 new outreach tools will help users apply health index scores and principles to planning and decision making. Explanatory video text and graphics will explain healthy watershed principles at multiple scales. Outreach materials will be available to help users apply health assessments at various scales from statewide to major river basin major watershed and local projects. Health trend data will be developed for several health indices to show changes in the health of Minnesota’s watersheds over time. Staff will participate directly with DNR and PCA staff in applying healthy watershed principles for 3 to 5 projects.

Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY14 the Watershed Health Assessment Framework (WHAF) online web application was introduced to diverse citizen and agency audiences. This resulted in the WHAF being used for: training of civic leaders involved in watershed issues; internal DNR projects and processes; coordination with MPCA and other agency partners; and reporting watershed health status by a variety of agency and citizen watershed organizations.

Resources were added to the WHAF website to ensure ease of use. Instructional videos were posted at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/whaf/explore/index.html to help users apply health assessments at various scales from statewide to major river basin major watershed and local projects.

Staff started updating health scores based on the new (2011) National Land Cover Data. Changes in health scores over time are currently in review and developers are working on delivering health trends through the web application. Three additional health indices were downscaled and/or improved in FY 14 including Hydrologic Storage Terrestrial Habitat Quality and Stream Species Quality.

Staff worked with MPCA to apply healthy watershed principles to stressor identification reports Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies DNR planning processes (Groundwater Management Areas Parks and Trails Whitewater Watershed Learning Center Park Plan Update Process) and water quality work for the Snake River Pomme de Terre Lower Minnesota River and Pine River watersheds.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2011 First Special Session Ch. 6 Art. 2 Sec. 6(d)
Appropriation Language

$1730000 the first year and $1730000 the second year are for TMDL development and TMDL implementation plans for waters listed on the United States Environmental Protection Agency approved impaired waters list in accordance with Minnesota Statutes chapter 114D and for development of a watershed assessment tool.

2013 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$100,000
Direct expenses
$144,058
Administration costs
$924
Number of full time equivalents funded
1.0
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY 13 DNR will deliver Watershed Health Assessment scores and to a smaller watershed (catchment) scale to support the exploration of watershed systems at more local level. Guidance Documents will lead users through a consistent approach for applying Watershed Health Assessment Framework products. A new web interface is in development that will enhance the exploration of complex systems information for resource managers and interested citizens.

Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY 13 half of the watershed health index scores (9 of 18) were calculated statewide to the subwatershed (catchment) scale providing health scores for more than 10 000 individual catchments. A newly designed web interface released at the end of the FY13 allows users to explore health assessment scores and 30 additional GIS data layers at multiple scales. An additional online tool uses MN DNR watershed delineations to instantly identify the upstream area for a selected catchment providing summary information about land use in the upstream area. The WHAF team also completed new health assessment work using data collected by MN DNR Statewide Mussel Survey MPCA Stream Survey IBI Data State Water Use Data and USGS Stream Flow Data.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2011 First Special Session Ch. 6 Art. 2 Sec. 6(d)
Appropriation Language

$1730000 the first year and $1730000 the second year are for TMDL development and TMDL implementation plans for waters listed on the United States Environmental Protection Agency approved impaired waters list in accordance with Minnesota Statutes chapter 114D and for development of a watershed assessment tool.

2012 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$100,000
Direct expenses
$74,542
Administration costs
$21,159
Number of full time equivalents funded
1.0
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY12 DNR will deliver a Decision Support Tool to assist managers in applying the watershed health scores to strategic planning and decision making. The GIS Data used for health scores will be readily available to users. Innovative outreach products will bring a systems perspective to a broad audience. Data access will improve the coordination of efforts to improve watershed health.

Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY12 DNR completed web delivery of Watershed Health Assessment scores and explanatory text. The Watershed Health Assessment Framework was delivered in a series of workshops to assist DNR managers in applying the watershed health scores to strategic planning and decision making. The GIS Data used for health scores is readily available to users. Innovative outreach products are in development that will bring a systems perspective to a broad audience. Data access will improve the coordination of efforts to improve watershed health.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2009 Ch. 172 Art. 2 Sec. 5(c)
Appropriation Language

$1050000 the first year and $1050000 the second year are for TMDL development and TMDL implementation plans for waters listed on the United States Environmental Protection Agency approved Impaired Waters List in accordance with Minnesota Statutes chapter 114D.

2011 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$118,000
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY 11 DNR will deliver Watershed Health Scores for all 81 major watersheds available through the DNR website including a map interface for scores supporting explanatory text and downloadable products. Products will inform managers and citizens using a systems framework to compare watershed health across Minnesota.

Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY 11 DNR delivered Watershed Health Scores for all 81 major watersheds on the DNR website. A map interface supporting explanatory text and downloadable products are available to managers and citizens. The WAT is being used by resource managers and others to apply an ecological systems approach to understand and address health challenges in our watersheds.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2009 Ch. 172 Art. 2 Sec. 5(c)
Appropriation Language

$1050000 the first year and $1050000 the second year are for TMDL development and TMDL implementation plans for waters listed on the United States Environmental Protection Agency approved Impaired Waters List in accordance with Minnesota Statutes chapter 114D.

2010 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$110,500
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY10 DNR will develop health scores for all 81 major watersheds in Minnesota web-based delivery and interpretation of scores 5 year cycle of score generation for monitoring trends implementation plans based on scoring.

Measurable Outcome(s)

In FY 10 DNR completed health scores for all major watersheds. The scores were prepared for release and a basic web map interface was completed. Project staff also drafted text for the Watershed Assessment Tool website and compiled an extensive literature review and supporting documentation in a database.

Project Overview

The Watershed Health Assessment Framework is a web-based tool for resource managers and others interested in the ecological health of Minnesota’s watersheds. The framework uses five ecological components to organize and deliver information about watershed health conditions in Minnesota. The five components are: hydrology, connectivity, biology, geomorphology, and water quality.

The WHAF website strives to make complex issues easier to visualize. An interactive map delivers 27 health scores organized by the five components. Statewide GIS data from DNR and partner agencies is used to calculate health scores that reveal similarities and differences between watersheds. Patterns at the major watershed and sub-watershed (catchment) scale help resource managers identify vulnerabilities and target efforts for the greatest benefit. Extensive text, watershed health report cards, ecological context reports and data summaries are also easy to access from the WHAF. Detailed supporting information about each health score explains the analysis methods and identifies gaps in data collection and monitoring. Additionally, WHAF health scores are available through Minnesota’s GeoCommons for agency staff and others to use their own GIS analysis.

In early 2012, the data layers, literature review, explanatory text, scores and web-based mapping application became available on-line for resource managers and interested citizens in Minnesota. In 2014, an extensive map revision added tools for comparing and contrasting catchment scores, adding related data layers. In 2015, training materials and user support expanded to guide users through a growing number of health index scores, the addition of health scores over time and navigating across spatial scales. In 2016, the number of water quality health scores expanded, and an ‘impairment viewer’ was added for users to map streams and lakes based on impairment type. New tools let WHAF users save and share their watershed health maps with colleagues and constituents.

About the Issue

The DNR and agency partners have been charged with creating Healthier Watersheds for Minnesota. The Watershed Health Assessment 5-component Framework creates health scores that compare the ecological health of Minnesota's watersheds. This baseline assessment is important for organizing our efforts internally and with our partners as we work to improve the ecological health of Minnesota. Following health trends over time will help managers adapt to the complex ecological relationships that interact to create healthy watersheds.

Project Manager
First Name
Beth
Last Name
Knudsen
Organization Name
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Street Address
801 South Oak Street
City
Lake City, MN
State
MN
Zip Code
55041
Phone
(651) 345-3331
Email
beth.knudsen@state.mn.us