Project Goal: To develop an implementation plan for the Cape Fear River Basin Action Plan for Migratory Fish (2013). The purpose of an implementation plan is to provide a roadmap for the members of the Cape Fear River Partnership to carry out the Action Plan with a more focused and streamlined approach. This implementation plan bridges the gap between the three sub-basins (lower, middle and upper) and working groups to ensure communication is streamlined across all committees. Specifically, the implementation plan has the following components:

  1. clearly defined shared outcomes for the partners to work towards;
  2. a set of high priority actions that are critical to focus on in order to achieve the desired outcomes;
  3. clearly defined roles and responsibilities for members of the partnership to lead and implement actions,
  4. a timeline for the next 5 years for high priority actions, key results, and ultimate outcomes;
  5. an assessment of the capacity and resources needed for implementation and potential sources; and
  6. recommendations for tools and processes to improve strategic information-sharing that enables more effective implementation and targeted partner and stakeholder outreach.

Why this? Why now?

The Cape Fear River Partnership was formed in 2011 with a vision of a healthy Cape Fear River for fish and people. The Partnership’s mission is to restore and demonstrate the value of robust, productive, and self-sustaining stocks of migratory fish in the Cape Fear River. Building on the momentum of a fish passage constructed at Lock & Dam #1, this partnership of key federal, state, local, academic, and other organizations in the region is working together on a multi-year action plan that was completed in 2013. While the Partnership has achieved many successes, there was a sense among the partners that they could work more effectively and efficiently to implement their Action Plan. In particular, they identified a need to focus on a key set of actions and improve the productivity of the working committees and full Partnership. Development of an implementation plan has helped the group agree upon the most critical actions to achieve shared goals and the means to carry out those actions.

Meaningful stakeholder engagement requires additional capacity. Increased collaboration with partners will provide stakeholders with information about the Cape Fear River Basin watershed ecosystem and diadromous fish in order to increase awareness and interest in habitat restoration and protection activities.


Geophysical scope: Cape Fear River Basin

What’s in an implementation plan?

A clear set of activities (high level, outcome oriented, action + result i.e. Do X to achieve Y)

  • What set of actions are most critical to achieving our desired outcomes?
  • Are there collective actions, so that the partnership is more than the sum of its parts?
  • Do we need a tool to guide where actions are implemented for greatest effectiveness?
  • What are known risks or challenges to carrying out these actions?

Clearly defined roles & responsibilities (leaders, contributors, partners)

  • What roles are required to implement actions and make decisions?
  • What are the responsibilities and how do we show accountability?

Timeline (focus on near-term, start date, estimated end date, key milestones)

  • When will specific conservation outcomes be achieved?
  • When will critical intermediate steps or milestones be achieved?
  • What are the actions that we need to focus on in the near term (1-5 years)?

Capacity and resources (needs)

  • Where is additional capacity or resources needed?
  • How will we be build or obtain these capacity/resource needs?

Costs (budget)

  • What will it cost to implement actions?
  • Where will funding come from?

Information dissemination (knowledge needs, audience, actions, tools, timeline)

  • Prioritize what information needs to be shared with whom for what purpose and how


  • The process has been participatory and collaborative: team leads were responsible for being involved in the development of the implementation plan and continue to work towards carrying it out.
  • The process was transparent and systematic: use of an existing framework from TNC, based on the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation.
  • Process is flexible and adaptable: the framework can guide the partners, but ultimately it’s a tool for the team leads to make the decisions that are best for the partnership, partners’ needs and specific context drive the plan.

Dawn York, the Partnership Coordinator as well as The Nature Conservancy, specifically Jodie LaPoint, Assistant Director of Conservation, guided and assisted with the process for development of the implementation plan.

Staff worked to:

  1. determine the overall planning process in collaboration with the Team Leads;
  2. define objectives, priority activities and performance measures through committee- and partner-led input;
  3. prepare for meetings and workshops with the Committee Team Leads and other members of the Partnership;
  4. facilitate Team Lead meetings and a full Partnership workshop;
  5. prepare a report used to document the agreed-upon implementation plan;
  6. create website online mapping tools to communicate the implementation plan and engage stakeholders; and
  7. develop and enact a plan for targeted partner and stakeholder outreach including active participants in the Cape Fear River Basin but not formal partners within the Partnership by use of a website, project fact sheets, presentations and training webinars. Outreach will be targeted toward particular communities and/or stakeholder groups on a project-specific basis.


July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017

July – Aug. 2016: This initial planning effort was conducted through informal meetings with TNC staff, Team Leads, Committees, and other interested parties such as NOAA and FWS.

Sept. – Oct. 2016: Met in-person with Team Leads in September to get agreement on the planning process and potential components of the implementation plan. Subsequently, Team Leads worked with committees to inform them of the planning process.

Jan 2016: A workshop with Team Leads was held and facilitated by TNC. The objectives were to (1) refine the ultimate desired conservation outcomes and key intermediate results, (2) agree upon a set of high priority actions that the partners believe are critical for achieving the outcomes, and (3) begin identifying roles, timeline, and capacity or resource needs to implement priority actions.

Feb. 2017: Team Leads worked with committees to solicit feedback on the results of the workshop.

March – April 2017: Generated first draft of the implementation plan and prepared for the annual meeting of the Partnership.

May 2017: The annual meeting for the Cape Fear River Partnership. Included a session to engage all partners in providing feedback on the draft implementation plan.

June – July 2017: Incorporated feedback from the annual meeting into a final version of the plan. Identified next steps, including but not limited to addressing other needs for communication, outreach, and committee effectiveness.

March 2018: Distributed the Implementation Plan to the full Partnership and external partners, including NOAA Headquarters, political leaders and other watershed coalitions.


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