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Civic participation in watershed management: assessing a deliberative process

Congress: 2008

Keyword(s): watershed planning, stakeholders, deliberative democracy, assessment
AbstractIn Quebec, watershed management is in its beginnings, launched as a result of the Quebec Water Policy, in 2002. Watershed agencies, made up of various stakeholders representing government agencies, industry proponents and interest groups, have been mandated jointly to develop an approach to integrated watershed management for the promotion of water quality, ecosystem protection and sustainable development, and to develop, implement and monitor a watershed management plan built on the principles of stakeholder dialogue and collaboration for each of thirty-three major river basins in Quebec. One of these is the Comité de gestion du bassin versant de la rivière Saint-François (COGESAF), responsible for the 10 230 km2 Saint-Francois watershed – the third largest in Quebec. Using principles derived from deliberative democratic theory, and empirical data gathered from meetings observations and interviews with stakeholders, my research focuses on stakeholder participation in the planning process, including: 1) issues of stakeholder representativeness, access, communication and trust; 2) the tensions caused by the need for technical and scientific knowledge in an open participation process; 3) the difficulties of information sharing and the breadth of stakeholder learning, and 4) reasons for stakeholder abandonment or continuation in the planning process. Preliminary results reveals practical and theoretical insights about the strengths and weaknesses of incorporating stakeholder participation into watershed planning, and point the way toward improvements in stakeholder relationships, competence and responsibility.
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