Onondaga Lake Water Quality Model Scientific Peer Review

Goal: OEI administers the scientific peer review of the development of a mechanistic model of Onondaga Lake water quality (OLWQM). The goal of the peer review panel activity is to secure the creation of a functional and effective water quality model intended to be used for the formulation of public policy. State and federal regulators anticipate using the OLWQM model to evaluate Total Daily Maximum Load (TMDL) standards for phosphorus in Onondaga Lake. Onondaga County, New York State DEC, and Federal US EPA intend to use the finalized OLWQM model to establish management procedures that improve the water quality of Onondaga Lake.

Activities or products: OEI provided a work plan for phased development of the water quality model. This work plan was accepted by the Onondaga Lake Partnership (OLP), a federally-mandated assemblage of federal, state and local government representatives. Phase 1: Development of the modeling work plan Phase 2: Development, calibration, and preliminary application of the Lake model Phase 3: Model validation, integration and application OEI hired a Technical Coordinator experienced in water quality models, and who in turn selected a Panel of six academic experts on fresh water lake models in North America. OEI administers payment for the panel’s services. OEI communicates regularly with the OLP regarding the peer review. OEI prepares for meetings at local hotel and conference centers at which modelers, panel and regulators may confer at each phase of model development. OEI’s role requires familiarity with the regulatory components of peer review process.

Successful Outcomes and future expectations: OEI has nurtured effective communications among panel, modelers and regulators, while protecting the independence of the panel’s review. OEI is coordinating a peer review process for a lake model that is likely to affect major policy decisions involving millions of dollars of public funds. At this time renegotiation of an Amended Consent Judgment (ACJ) is pending. When resolved it may affect the regulatory and legal context of the lake model’s implementation as a management tool, when the model is complete.

OEI Organizational Capability: OEI is coordinating a process that must support the standards of a scientific review, protect the academic freedom of the panelists, and observe government regulations.