Watershed initiatives in the Skagit River and Tillamook Bay Watersheds: An exploratory analysis of planning, implementation, and integration


Morlock, S.M. 2005. Watershed initiatives in the Skagit River and Tillamook Bay Watersheds: An exploratory analysis of planning, implementation, and integration. M.S. thesis, School of Marine Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle.


Watershed initiatives in the United States have grown substantially over the last decade, and due to several perceived benefits are likely to remain an important method of planning into the future. These efforts are receiving considerable federal, state, and local support; therefore, it is crucial that we understand how they are functioning and seek ways to maximize their effectiveness.

One method of increasing this effectiveness is to reduce the vulnerability of watershed planning to significant drivers, such as environmental variation and change (e.g., climate impacts). This study involves an exploratory analysis of the planning, implementation, and integration of various watershed-wide planning efforts to provide preliminary information regarding how to best address climate impacts. Findings from this research show that the work of watershed initiatives and other stakeholders in the Skagit River and Tillamook Bay watersheds provides important opportunities to begin to confront these impacts. The initiatives and their partners are playing a valuable role in addressing watershed resource issues that were either previously unaddressed or addressed in a limited way.

While these initiatives have made impressive progress and achievements, this research identified potential constraints to their ability to effectively respond to climate impacts, which included a lack of complete plan ownership, needs to strengthen adaptive management mechanisms, implementation barriers, variable levels of trust and leadership, conflicts, and variable levels of stakeholder and watershed integration. For example, while many stakeholders believed watershed integration was improving, neither watershed was perceived as especially well integrated.

Major barriers to furthering comprehensive watershed planning included politics, stakeholder relations, and diverse land use policies. In addition, the Skagit River watershed lacked a local facilitator. The Tillamook Bay watershed had such a facilitator, but issues of competition and confusion between the roles of local stakeholders need to be further resolved. The results of this research can be used to help develop a strategy to address climate impacts in these watersheds, to reduce the vulnerabilities of local resources and improve the effectiveness of planning and implementation.