The Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts (AISWCD) assisted the formation of 10 watershed planning groups throughout the state of Illinois. Each Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) received a mini-grant funded through the AISWCD, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA)through section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act. In addition to financial assistance the planning groups were assisted by the association in the organization and development of a watershed based plan.
The Watershed Liaison was the primary contact between the AISWCD and IEPA (a function now handled by the AISWCD's Urban Stormwater Specialist). This position provided a point of contact for the SWCDS and IEPA. This bridge between the districts and the agency is valuable for both organizations because it creates a one stop information source for both parties. If IEPA wants to communicate a new program or important information about their grants program, the they can rely on the association pass that message along to the SWCDs. The districts in turn may have questions for the agency that are similar to each other’s questions but at different phases of planning. In this case the Liaison can act as a clearing house for general information on IEPA policies as they relate to watershed planning, invoicing for general Nonpoint Source Pollution grants, impaired waters within specific watersheds, and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) guidance.
Many of the sponsored watershed plans were developed in TMDL watersheds. The EPA is charged with conducting TMDL studies which are meant to locate the source of pollutants and calculate pollutant load reductions necessary for watersheds to meet Clean Water Act standards. A common challenge with the TMDL process is that the studies are often performed by consultants, hired by IEPA, who are unfamiliar with the watersheds. In fact many of the consultants are from other states. In these situations, SWCDs play an important role of informing the consultants about what is really going on in their counties regarding pollutants. The SWCDs’ assistance may come in the form of identifying where and how many conservation practices are installed in the watershed, providing land use data, sources of pollution, and in soliciting participation from landowners and other stakeholders.