Interplay of science and stakeholder values in Neuse River total maximum daily load process
Successful engagement of stakeholders and scientists is essential when regulatory agencies want public input to environmental policy decisions that are technically complex. Standards of good practice for public involvement in regulatory decision making derived from the literature were used to evaluate stakeholder interactions with water quality models and modelers in the Neuse River total maximum daily load (TMDL) process. Some aspects of this interaction went well: stakeholders were involved early in the development of at least some of the models; presentations from modelers enhanced stakeholders' scientific knowledge; and the regulatory agencies accepted stakeholder input as having a strong advisory role in their decisions. Some elements did not go so well: delays in delivery of modeling results prevented their full consideration by stakeholders; and incompatible timeframes for data collection, modeling, and regulatory decision making diminished confidence in the integrated modeling and monitoring framework that had been developed for the Neuse. Most importantly, the TMDL regulatory process was defined much too narrowly to encompass the stakeholders' wide-ranging concerns for equity, cost effectiveness, and deliberate adjudication of the tradeoffs between costs and benefits of water quality regulation. Water quality monitoring and modeling emphasizing concentrations of chlorophyll did not begin to address the social, economic, and cultural concerns of the stakeholders. The most serious shortcomings of the Neuse TMDL process thus rest not with the scientists or the stakeholders, but with the too narrow structure of the regulatory process itself.
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