Multi-Benefit Projects: The Focus of Water Management in California

Introduction to Summer 2014 Ecesis, Volume 24, Issue 2

This issue of Ecesis highlights integrated, multi-benefit projects with on-the-ground testimony on how to factor multiple benefits into a project, with ecological restoration as one of a multitude of objectives. A multi-benefit project is planned, designed, implemented, and maintained with the intended purpose of providing two or more benefits; they can also effectively minimize the potential impacts from other project elements (i.e., they can be self-mitigating).

State and Federal agencies are tying substantial water management funding to the development of Integrated Regional Water Management Plans (IRWMPs), such as State bond propositions 50 & 84 and other sources. These programs emphasize and give priority to integrated, multi-benefit projects and strategies. For example, the bond measure language of Prop 84, which established $1 billion to implement regional water management plans, states that eligible plans shall “use an integrated, multi-benefit approach to project selection and design,” and “projects that may be funded … must provide multiple benefits.”

The North Bay Watershed Association (NBWA) found that obstacles to implementing multi-benefit projects include: not thinking about the big picture, staffing constraints, poor communication, and benefits being difficult to quantify. Still, NBWA and some of its member agencies have adopted policies to promote multi-benefit projects. — by Gregory Andrew, Fishery Program Manager, Marin Municipal Water District