York waters.11 Many other states also collect mercury data.12 If NAWQA does not undertake these activities, the states, other federal agencies, and possibly academia might provide data, and in some cases, significantly more data, than NAWQA.

It is essential that the evaluation of trade-offs continues as the Science Plan evolves and throughout Cycle 3. The discussion presented here has merely scratched the surface and provides only a high-level evaluation of science priorities, because the actual details of Cycle 3 will be developed as part of the Implementation Plan. The NAWQA team should continue to evaluate what is essential for the program and why during Cycle 3, and use this evaluation to guide investments and effort.


The Statement of Task (bullet 4) reads:

Review strategic science and implementation plans for Cycle 3 for technical soundness and ability to meet stated objectives. [Emphasis added]

Although the Implementation Plan for Cycle 3 was not yet prepared at the time of this review, the Science Plan contained a preliminary discussion of how to implement the scientific agenda within. The preliminary design elements of Cycle 3 appear to be technically sound (NRC, 2010 and the discussion below). In the Science Plan, NAWQA proposes to increase coverage (i.e., increase the number of sampling sites) to better meet national needs assessment (Table 4-2, Cycle 3 (planned)). This increased coverage would bring the NAWQA sampling network closer to the number of sites proposed in the original design. But, the design elements for collecting data in Cycle 3 should also be cast in the context of the inevitable trade-offs that will occur to implement the program under current fiscal conditions.

Robust Sampling Plan for Status and Trends Monitoring in Cycle 3

The National Fixed Site Network (NFSN)13 has been the core component of NAWQA through Cycle 1 and 2, underpinning status and trends


11 The state of New York analyzed data from a New York State Department of Health comprehensive database of mercury levels in New York State sportfish (analyzed as standard fillets). The New York State Department of Health database compiles data sets provided by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York State agency that monitors contaminant levels in fish.

12 See http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishshellfish/fishadvisories/index.cfm.

13 The NFSN is defined in the Science Plan as “a national network of monitoring sites that serves as the foundation for systematic tracking of the status and trends of stream and river water quality and for supporting and linking shorter-term studies at smaller scales.” In Cycle 2, this network was referred to as the National Trend Networks.

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