DOEE has developed a Rapid Stream Assessment (RSA) Program to collect a myriad of stream and riparian corridor data characterizing the wadable streams in the District of Columbia. Instead of selecting just 18 wadable stream sites as required by the permit, DOEE committed to physically walking the entire length of wadeable District streams (~100 miles!) to assess them as part of the RSA Program. Instead of collecting just the data specified in the permit, DOEE elected to take things a step further and expand the RSA data collection to include information about channel width, water depth, streambed composition, presence of aquatic vegetation, algae, oil sheens, bank armoring, and other stream and riparian corridor characteristics.
By going ‘above and beyond’ the specified requirements in District’s Phase I MS4 permit, the RSA Program has identified pollution sources and environmental degradation stressors, partnered with DC Water for more timely infrastructure repair, helped to identify previously unmapped wetlands, ground-truthed their enhanced NHD dataset, grown the subject matter expertise of staff, and expanded the technical GIS capabilities of DOEE. An online, interactive map makes all RSA data, including ~3,000 photographs, available to staff anytime, anywhere and has been used to help facilitate everything from large-scale watershed assessments to pinpointing potential pollutant sources. Although customized specifically for DOEE and the RSA Program, this novel tool is packed with QAQC features, models best practices for data collection, and is transferable to other programs and/or jurisdictions. In fact, it’s already been adapted for Illicit Discharge Monitoring activities in Maryland and the RSA team has received inquiries from individuals across the Country interested in learning more.