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Developing Watershed Management in the Dominican Republic Through Shared Vision Planning

Guayubin River sub-basin of the Yaque del Norte basin

Published April 9, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA.   A team from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Institute for Water Resources (IWR) is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop a participatory watershed plan in the Guayubin River sub-basin of the Yaque del Norte basin in the Dominican Republic using Shared Vision Planning (SVP) principles. SVP is a collaborative approach to formulating water management solutions that combines three disparate practices: 1) traditional water resources planning, 2) structured public participation and 3) collaborative modeling. The goal is to facilitate a holistic approach to basin planning that improves the economic, environmental and social outcomes of water management decisions.  The SVP approach supports an existing USAID initiative to achieve sustainable economic, social and environmental development in Yaque Del Norte basin.

The IWR team consists of Dr. Will Logan, Dr. Guillermo Mendoza, and Dr. Jennifer Olszewski, joined by Dr. Jaime Graulau-Santiago from USACE’s Jacksonville District, who leads the modelling efforts, and his colleague, Dr. Fawen Zheng.  The group is working with the Yaque Del Norte River Commission (CRYN), which was founded by presidential decree for the sustainable development of the Yaque del Norte River Basin.

In February, several of the team members traveled to Santiago de los Caballeros and Sabaneta in northwestern Dominican Republic. There they met with Guayubin sub-basin decision makers and stakeholders who represent the private sector, government agencies, and communities.  During the meetings the team gathered data, presented on the SVP process, roles and responsibilities, and timeline to be undertaken in FY20.  An important part of the process was to gather input on the scope, clarify expectations of the SVP study, and to avoid redundancy in modeling efforts.

Decision-makers in Santiago del los Caballeros provided input on the timeline of engagement and recommended a first workshop with in-country planning teams to review data and information. In Sabaneta, a town in the Guayubín basin near a proposed dam on the Guayubin River, Drs. Mendoza and Olszewski hosted a series of meetings with stakeholders representing the private sector, community interests, and local/regional government agencies that included the Province Governor, Ministry of Environment, and Ministry of Planning and Rural Development. About 10 participants represented the private sector including banana plantation owners, cattle ranchers, and a large water bottling company, Industria San Miguel (ISM). About 40 participants attended representing community interests in municipal water supply, health, and irrigation. 

The other half of the team stayed in Santo Domingo for a series of meetings with government officials, coordinated by the Instituto Nacional de Recursos Hidraulicos (INDRHI). First, they met with the Empresa de Generación Hidroeléctrica Dominicana (EGEHID), the entity building a dam in the lower part of the sub-basin for agricultural water supply. They also met with the Oficina Nacional de Meteorologia (ONAMET), who offered to share their considerable hydroclimatic data for the region. A third meeting was with the Centro de Operaciones de Emergencias (COE), which manages a “risk atlas” for the country and maintains map layers of zones vulnerable to flooding. Discussions were also held with the Servicio Geologico Nacional (SGN), who provided many of the GIS map layers needed for the project. Summary discussions were held with IHDRHI leadership and personnel to discuss data integration, additional data and information needs, and future opportunities for capacity building and collaboration.

Overall, the numerous meetings provided the USACE team with key pieces of information to initiate the technical analysis in support of this USAID funded project and help formulate the scope and direction of the shared vision planning study.  Some of the main issues identified included deforestation, upper watershed cattle ranching, timber harvesting, and irrigation demands.  There is also a limited water supply in the upper watershed (mostly because of the lack of resources for capturing water before it moves downstream), as well as potential downstream flood risk management. These issues cause problems with sedimentation, water quality, diminishing base flow, and public safety.

The forthcoming watershed study will likely center around the development of a 50Mm3 reservoir to provide irrigation to beneficiaries downstream of the sub-basin. The issue regarding dam benefits being provided to irrigators outside the sub-basin was a concern by all stakeholders. Additionally, it was determined that reforestation as a strategic activity in the upper portion of the sub-basin would result in enhanced baseflow and reduce delivery of sediment to the new reservoir.

The team and USAID hope that the SVP study can facilitate a funding of an ecosystem services (PES) program whereby reservoir beneficiaries could support watershed restoration efforts. In this sense, the hydrology model developed through SVP would enable the coupling of land-use change with baseflows and sediment transport. A PES planning study would also be consistent with Dominican Republic PES being led by EGEHID, the national Hydropower authority. 

An additional workshop will be held during the upcoming months to focus on a review of all existing information and data, as well as to develop the project scope for development of a system model. This workshop will be held with the planning team to include USACE, CRYN technical experts, REDDOM technical experts, universities, and other industry technical experts.

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