Action 27 of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan calls for the Estuary Partnership, with its partners, to implement a sustained long term monitoring program in order to understand river conditions and evaulate trends and the impacts of management actions over time. Volume 2 of the Management Plan outlines the Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring Strategy which was created to carry out this program.
The strategy identifies four general monitoring areas:
- water column
- toxics in sediments
- toxics in tissues
- habitat and biological integrity
Implementing the Monitoring Strategy has involved a phased approach. Key decision factors include: funding, priority ranking, availability of existing programs and resources, critical information needs, and the existence of established protocols and procedures for measuring desired parameters. The phased approach called for initially establishing a coordination structure and developing cooperative agreements among agencies. As the program got underway, other proposed actions began based on available resources. Over time, as sustained funding was secured, the entire program has been implemented.
The collaborative development of the Monitoring Strategy represents an important precedent in developing an integrated, comprehensive monitoring program for the lower Columbia River. It shows a clear commitment among key partners to the concept of studying the ecosystem as a whole rather than as a number of independent parts. The Estuary Partnership plays a critical role in assuring long term monitoring is implemented, through supporting the continuation and enhancement of existing monitoring programs, initiation of new monitoring efforts, and providing the structure to ensure there is an ongoing, comprehensive approach to ecosystem monitoring.