FALMOUTH — The town has received a $15,000 grant to help evaluate the health of its watersheds and provide a foundation for future management.

The funding came from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and will be administered by the Greater Portland Council of Governments.

The hope is that this work will provide a case study for other municipalities to follow, according to a press release.

The goal is to create “a list of metrics to serve as indicators of watershed health (and) establish (ways to) measure or predict (future) watershed health,” the release said.

Other partners on the project include the Falmouth Conservation Commission, the Interlocal Stormwater Working Group and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

“Like most communities in our area, Falmouth has water bodies that do not meet state water quality standards, including Mussel Cove and Hobbs Brook,” said Theo Holtwijk, the town’s director of long-range planning and economic development.

“This is a problem for many reasons, (including) Clean Water Act permitting, legal implications and property tax consequences, and Falmouth wishes to be proactive in prioritizing efforts and resources.”

“By compiling and analyzing available data on the numerous watersheds in Falmouth,” Holtwijk added, “we will strive to develop an approach to help town staff and decision-makers guide the prioritization of efforts.”

Holtwijk said it would most likely take public-private partnerships to fully implement the town’s watershed management plans and bring overall water quality up to state standards.

He also anticipates that protecting and upgrading the town’s watersheds will require eventual changes in policy around land use management, including implementation of new conservation and development techniques.

Holtwijk said the key to watershed management efforts will be ensuring the data used is “science-based.”

Principally, “this project will help Falmouth to prioritize which watersheds need attention sooner rather than later,” he said.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (and) this grant will help the town and our region make meaningful decisions on investment of public funds to protect watershed health and, subsequently, Casco Bay.”

The first step in the process, according to Holtwijk, will be to “properly analyze each watershed and understand the (specific) threats.”

This information will then be used, along with public input, to create a strategic plan for Falmouth, including long-term land use management and resiliency efforts, Holtwijk said. The aim is to finish the project by early winter of 2020.

Holtwijk said the planning project would not take the place of any specific restoration work that may already be underway or needed in each watershed.

In addition, other local municipalities will be invited to join Falmouth in its effort to protect key watersheds, he said, and the town will also engage in an outreach effort to keep residents, business owners and local decision-makers informed.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Mussel Cove in Falmouth is listed as a threatened waterway by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Finding the best way to upgrade the water quality in the cove and other watersheds in town is the goal of a new planning grant.