Why you may need help
A watershed organization may become quickly overwhelmed by the complex and numerous problems plaguing its watershed, not to mention the questions of where or how to begin solving them. An environmental consultant can be a useful resource for new groups looking for a starting point, as well as for established groups looking to take on large, complicated, and timely watershed endeavors.
Although consultants can be expensive, they offer professional quality design and technical services to less experienced organizations, playing an important role in complex projects' success. A consultant assisting with a watershed assessment can train association members on how to properly collect flow, take water samples and identify aquatic life. A consultant can also interpret complex water-quality data compiled through an assessment. They also have the know-how to provide final reports, which makes additional funding for remediation and conservation projects more easily obtained.
Picking the right consultant
Watershed organizations need to pick their consultant carefully, making sure to hire the right consultant for the job. Organizations should inquire about a consulting firm's training, experience, and support staff. If your organization is looking into AMD abatement, it is a good idea to hire a consultant with a successful track record. Because many restoration approaches are relatively new, standard design criteria are sometimes lacking and organizations may receive differing opinions on how to approach their project. If you are not planning a cut and dry project, it would be advisable to seek numerous proposals for your project and then compare ideas and prices.
Watershed organizations should also be aware of what service they are actually buying from a consultant. Will the consultant provide you with a detailed or conceptual design? Will they conduct sampling or just train watershed members to sample correctly? How many hours will the consultant spend on your project for the agreed-upon fee? Make sure your watershed organization knows what it needs from a consultant, before signing a contract. If the deadline is approaching, but you are still not sure which consultant is the best choice, consider contacting your county's watershed specialist or a DEP watershed manager for advice. Contacting other local groups that have done similar projects may also be helpful. Ask for their consultant success stories as well as examples of the problems they encountered.
Some of the tips above were compiled with information from the seminar "The Stewardship Process- Charting the Course," presented by the Penn State Center for Watershed Stewardship and The Northcentral Regional Office of the PA DEP