Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015ID204B

A study of social network among stakeholders in the South Fork Coeur d'Alene subbasin watershed

Institute: Idaho
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $15,016 Total Non-Federal Funds: $29,191

Principal Investigators: Manoj Shrestha

Abstract: For more than a decade, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with the Coeur dAlene Basin Environmental Improvement Project Commission (BEIPC) has been leading remedial efforts to improve the human health and environment of the Coeur dAlene River Basin, including the South Fork Coeur dAlene (SFCRD) watershed, damaged by years of extraction activities (primarily mining) in the area (EPA 2001, 2002, 2004). Periodic assessment reports suggest that remedial activities have been effective to turn around the damage (EPA 2010, Clark and Mebane 2014). While significant attempt has been made to track the impact of physical activities on the human and environmental health of the watershed, little has been done to examine the role of interactions among stakeholders and the emergent network structures, in particular, that might have facilitated or hindered the results. Stakeholder organizations often engage with each other in managing watersheds because social and ecological issues in the watershed and their solutions are diverse and interlinked. In addition, the scope of issues and solutions do not only span political and organizational boundaries but also go beyond the capacity and authority of a single entity. Therefore, it is important to know the governing network structure of watersheds that accounts for overlaps across issues and boundaries as well as diverse interests and power brought into bear by heterogeneous stakeholders at multiple scales. The aim of this research is to understand the properties of communication network that stakeholders in the SFCRD Watershed create to improve the human and environmental health of the watershed. Despite the benefits of networking, limited resources and information, diverse interests, and potential free-riding can pose barriers to working together for the stakeholders. By strategically creating specific patterns of links for different issues, stakeholders can minimize those barriers preventing cooperative solutions. For example, when organizations require outside information or resources to implement shared activities, they can create bridging networks whereas when they face problems of free-riding or protecting their turf, they can create bonding networks. Accordingly, this study proposes to examine two hypotheses: (1) The structures of communication links are likely to reflect bridging and bonding networks, and (2) Stakeholder organizations are likely to use cross links across multiple issues to facilitate or strengthen bridging and bonding networks. The study will follow quantitative research design with particular application of social network analysis. First, following Ostrom (2009) and Osterblom et. al. (2013), the social and environmental features of the watershed will be defined. Second, key stakeholders engaged in the watershed will be listed. These stakeholders include public entities, non-profits, tribes, businesses, interest groups, and community organizations. Secondary sources and snowball sampling will be used to ensure that no major stakeholders are missed. Next, a survey will be carried out to gather data on contacts or links the stakeholders created with various forums and with other stakeholders to seek information or other resources needed for implementing their activities. The survey will also collect data on the barriers to collaboration and on the perceived level of success of their engagement. Finally, social network analysis and standard statistical techniques will be used to analyze the network data and to assess the hypotheses.