The N.C. Division of Mitigation Services uses a watershed approach to determine priority areas for implementation of mitigation projects. The purpose of this approach is to concentrate mitigation resources in areas where they will have the greatest benefit to local watershed functions. The DMS watershed approach applies multi-scale watershed planning to set and achieve goals for maintaining and improving aquatic resources throughout NC.

River Basin Restoration Priorities 

DMS develops River Basin Restoration Priorities (RBRPs) for each of the seventeen river basins by conducting a detailed screening for each eight-digit catalog unit (500-2000 square miles) within a river basin (1000-10,000 square miles). RBRPs identify priority clusters of catchments (individuals catchments range from 0.1-1 square mile) that exhibit an need for restoration and protection of wetlands, streams and riparian buffers. 

DMS has recently developed a new watershed prioritization methodology. This new prioritization process utilizes updated and additional datasets and assesses watersheds at the catchment scale. Priorities for Water Quality, Habitat and Hydrology improvement are identified through this assessment and are called Targeted Resource Areas (TRAs). TRAs receive priority for DMS planning and restoration project funds.

DMS is in the process of finalizing TRAs for the entire state and anticipates this will be complete in Spring 2023. The service areas that currently have TRAs identified can be found at the following location: DMS Targeted Resource Areas.

Regional Watershed Plans

Regional Watershed Plans (RWPs) typically encompass approximately 500 square miles and build upon existing planning efforts, including Local Watershed Plans and RBRP priorities, as well as stakeholder momentum. RWPs evaluate aquatic resource conditions and identify priorities based upon watershed functions. The RWP includes management strategies and implementation recommendations that may be applied to smaller catchment areas (2 to 5 sq mi) based upon existing data and modeled watershed conditions.  This allows DMS to focus implementation of compensatory-mitigation projects in watersheds that exhibit the greatest opportunity for improvement. 

Local Watershed Plans

Local Watershed Plans (LWPs) are a more comprehensive examination of the factors contributing to degradation of watersheds and typically average 100 square miles in area.   LWPs are developed in RBRP priority areas that exhibit large mitigation needs.  LWPs incorporate field assessments and data collection as well as a comprehensive stakeholder process with representatives of local governments, environmental resource professionals, nonprofit organizations and local communities. 

LWPs are conducted in four phases:  1) Watershed Characterization, 2) Watershed Assessment, 3) Watershed Management Plan and 4) Plan Implementation. Details on DMS local water planning methodology are provided in the LWP Planning Manual.