During this initial step, a representative(s) of the planning group should consult with the Water Resources Department for the purposes of: defining the planning scale, convening the process, involving state agencies as partners, inviting and involving diverse interests, and ensuring a public process with consensus decision‐making.
Define the Planning Scale
Planning groups have the flexibility of establishing their own geographic planning scale, so long as it meets certain criteria. The Water Resources Department’s existing administrative drainage basins are a good starting point for identifying the planning scale (see Figure 1). These administrative boundaries are further divided into smaller geographic areas within the Department’s basin programs (refer to OAR Chapter 690, Divisions 500‐520). Planning groups can chose to focus on smaller geographic areas, such as a sub‐ basin, or a group of sub‐basins, within these boundaries. For example, planning groups could focus on the upper, middle, or lower section of a basin. To the extent possible, planning groups should utilize watershed‐based boundaries, accounting for both groundwater and surface water, and situations where the source of water for certain uses (e.g., drinking water or irrigation) originates in an adjacent basin or sub‐basin.
Convene the Process
Since developing a place‐based plan is completely voluntary, local partners will need to initiate the effort and convene the process. These guidelines do not suggest who the convener should be, but rather, describe the role and responsibilities of a convener(s). Oregon’s Policy Consensus Initiative (PCI) provides resources to help facilitate collaborative planning and has developed basic principles to help conveners understand their role in the planning process. Planning groups should refer to PCI’s resources, particularly the “Role of a Convener,” an excerpt of which is included as Appendix B. Conveners, and any sponsoring entities, should communicate to the Water Resources Department of their intentions to organize a planning group and to develop a place‐based plan.
Involve Agencies as Partners
The role of state agencies in development of a place‐based plan is to provide data and information, and generally, offer support, advice and direction throughout development of the plan. The Water Resources Department and its sister agencies can help planning groups incorporate the goals and objectives of the Integrated Water Resources Strategy at the local level, and understand the regulatory structures in place today. If resources allow, the Water Resources Department could serve as a planning member or act as a liaison for other natural resources agencies not able to commit staff resources to participate in planning‐related activities, such as face‐to‐face meetings. At a minimum, planning groups should consult with other agencies, such as the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Oregon Department of Agriculture to determine agency participation. A state agency could serve as a facilitator or play a co‐convening role, if requested by local communities and if resources allow. If federal projects or land management programs exist within the planning area, groups should reach out to federal agencies to determine participation as well.
Invite & Involve Diverse Interests
The planning group will need to decide its own structure for involving diverse interests and should describe this approach within its plan. Most importantly, the structure needs to ensure that the planning body represents a balance of interests from different sectors. Diverse representation is a key tenet of integrated water resources management.
Each basin will be unique in terms of the actual distribution of interests and stakeholders. Having diverse interests engaged and invested from the beginning will help ensure a process that meets both instream and out‐of‐stream water needs. Remember that these needs encompass water quantity, water quality, and ecosystem needs, considering both surface water and groundwater resources. In determining the composition of a planning group, it is important to ensure that all persons potentially affected by a place‐based plan have a voice in the decision‐making process. This includes environmental justice communities, particularly members of minority or low‐income communities, tribal communities, and those traditionally under‐represented in public processes. The place‐based plan should describe how the planning members were determined, including a list of those that were invited to participate.
Interest groups will need to decide for themselves what individual(s) best represents their interests for planning group participation. The plan should describe those responsible for its development and implementation. The description should contain enough detail to help stakeholders and the public understand how to communicate with the planning group and participate in plan development.
Generally, interests in any given place will include:
- Local governments (cities and counties)
- Tribal governments
- Municipal water and wastewater utilities
- Major industries or employers
- Self‐supplied water users
- Conservation/environmental groups
- Power companies
- Small businesses
- Private landowners
- Special districts (e.g., irrigation, public utilities, flood control, parks/recreation, drainage, ports, etc.)
- State and federal agencies (natural resources, land management, business development)
Ensure a Public Process & Consensus Decision-Making
Reaching decisions within the planning group must be an inclusive and transparent process. Making decisions by consensus is an effective technique, meaning that one or two in the group may dissent, while the rest of the group supports the decision—or can “live with it.” Getting to consensus provides a solid foundation upon which to build a plan and subsequent related actions, because it signals long‐ term support and commitment from a diverse set of stakeholders and partners. Any place‐based plan needs to employ a strong communication strategy, not only to ensure public participation in plan development, but to also engage the broader community on implementation of the plan. Publicize, in advance, meetings of the planning group, and accept public comment during every meeting. Ensure a means of online communication as well, by setting up a website and posting materials regularly. Consider using a list‐serve, and/or email account that can be used to quickly and widely disseminate information. Use these media, as well as print or other venues, to advertise upcoming meetings and public comment opportunities. Planning groups should comply with the state’s Public Meetings Law. Refer to Appendix C for references, including a “quick guide” developed in 2010 for local and state officials, members of Oregon boards and commissions, citizens, and non‐profit groups.