Since watersheds span multiple jurisdictions, it is essential to establish a steering committee, or a group of high level stakeholders and experts, who provide guidance on key issues. The steering committee members do not take the place of a sponsor, but help to spread the strategic input and buy-in to a larger portion of the organization.
Responsibilities for ALL steering committees:
- Develop by-laws and ground rules for how the meetings will be run;
- Establish a group mission and/or vision;
- Elect leaders/officers including a chair, vice chair, and recorder (Note: the watershed coordinator should not be elected to any of these positions);
- Receive information, reports, and updates from the watershed coordinator;
- Determine meeting schedule (i.e. monthly, bimonthly, quarterly); and,
- Make decisions.
Responsibilities for a steering committee when developing a watershed management plan:
- Summarize concerns gathered from the public;
- Participate in the watershed inventory (could include a windshield survey; analysis of water quality data and maps, etc);
- Identify water quality problems;
- Confirm sources that contribute to the problems;
- Map areas that are most critical for restoration; and,
- Develop goals and objectives that will resolve the public concerns and problems identified.
Responsibilities for a steering committee when implementing a watershed management plan:
- Review the watershed management plan on an annual basis and assess which goals are being met;
- Review cost-share applications and approve financial allocation;
- Determine which best management practices will have the most benefit to water quality and will be readily adopted by landowners; and,
- Host field days to promote best management practices.
Often times the amount of responsibilities for one steering committee is too much to be handled at a monthly meeting. It is not uncommon for subcommittees to take responsibility for specific tasks. A chair should be elected for each subcommittee who will be responsible for leading the group and reporting back to the steering committee on progress and decisions that need to be made. The steering committee is ultimately responsible to review and approve the work produced by each subcommittee. Utilizing subcommittees allows more people to be involved in watershed efforts without making the steering committee unreasonably large.
Examples of subcommittees include:
- Water Quality Monitoring Committee;
- Education and Outreach Committee; and,
- Technical Committee.
Information on how to organize and run efficient committee meetings is available in the Watershed Toolkit.