Minutes of the
Environmental Management Program
Crowne Plaza Riverfront Hotel
Charlie Wooley of the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service called the meeting to order at 8:03 a.m. on November 15,
2007. Other EMP-CC representative
Minutes from the August 23, 2007 Meeting
Gretchen Benjamin moved and Tim Schlagenhaft seconded a motion to approve the draft minutes of the August 23, 2007 EMP-CC meeting as written. The motion carried unanimously.
FY 07 Year-End Report
Marv Hubbell reported that the EMP completed a very successful fiscal year in September 2007. From an allocation of almost $22 million, only $127,000 was not obligated. Hubbell noted that the districts’ flexibility in transferring money within the program, but between districts, was one key in achieving this high obligation rate.
Hubbell reviewed several FY 07 highlights, including the LTRMP’s receipt of an Interior Department Cooperative Conservation Award and J.F. Brennen’s receipt of a Corps National Partnering Award for its work on the Pool 11 Islands project. Major FY 07 initiatives for the EMP included the LTRMP Strategic Planning effort, enhanced public outreach, and a pilot effort to enhance the use of LTRMP data and information for habitat projects. HREPs completed in FY 07 were Long Meadow Slough, Pool Slough, and Pool 8 Islands Stage 1. Contract awards included Pool 8 Islands Phase III, Batchtown, and Lake Odessa Stage 1 Options and Stage 2A.
FY 08 Appropriations Outlook
Hubbell noted that the Corps, along with most of the federal government, is currently operating under a continuing resolution authority. Thus, the FY 08 appropriation for EMP is not yet known. Hubbell explained that the House-passed energy and water appropriations measure includes $23.464 million for the EMP. This is the same amount requested by the Administration. While the full Senate has not yet acted on its bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $18.0 million for the EMP. For planning purposes, the Corps is assuming the EMP’s FY 08 appropriation will be approximately $20.0 million, with no savings and slippage or recission. Under this planning assumption, the LTRMP would receive $6.084 million and HREPs would receive $13.291 million. Approximately $625,000 would go to regional administrative costs, including $100,000 for the System Ecological Team (SET); $50,000 for public outreach; and $150,000 for various program initiatives, including the effort to increase the HREP component’s use of LTRMP data. [NOTE: Subsequent to this meeting, an FY 08 omnibus spending measure was enacted, including $16.851 million for the EMP.]
MVP priorities will include awarding
the Pool 8 Islands Stage 3 Options in FY 08, according to Don Powell. He explained that MVP did not have sufficient
funding to award the options in FY 07.
Powell said MVP will also be trying to do more baseline and performance
monitoring this year to enhance its project evaluation capabilities. Brian Markert explained that MVS has
structured the Batchtown contracts for maximum flexibility to accommodate
different funding scenarios. Hubbell
reported that MVR has five projects in the planning stage, with three nearing
Tim Schlagenhaft asked
whether there is a standard process for monitoring HREPs. Hubbell explained that there are some
variations in approach across the three districts. Each district spends approximately $200,000
annually on performance evaluations. All
three districts do a post-construction survey to confirm that the project was
built according to plan. In addition,
the districts’ water quality monitoring efforts on the projects are fairly
similar. However, their practices when
it comes to bio-response monitoring are more variable. Of note, MVS spent approximately $300,000 on
bio-response monitoring for
Public Involvement and Outreach
Hubbell reported that Justine
Barati from MVR is taking the lead on several EMP outreach efforts. FY 08 priorities will include updating
the program web site and developing a mobile museum display. In response to a question from
Long Term Resource Monitoring Program
Key Findings/Products from Q4 of FY 07
Mike Jawson reported that
fourth quarter highlights for the LTRMP include three project completion
reports and three manuscripts. These
reports and manuscripts address a range of topics, including floodplain forest
response to large-scale flood disturbance, aquatic macrophyte response to island
construction, aquatic vegetation abundance on the
In response to a question from Gretchen Benjamin, Jawson explained that an LTRMP technical report is a publication of the LTRM program, whereas an open-file report is a USGS publication. Open-file reports are the typical way within USGS of getting information out in a timely manner. They are used for projects still in progress, information that is not ready for publication in a peer review journal, or in instances where the delay associated with journal publication is not acceptable. Jawson explained that all USGS publications, including open-file reports, go through multiple layers of review. This includes review by two peers, the appropriate Center Director, and USGS Headquarters for any report on which a USGS employee is an author. Tim Schlagenhaft asked how much time this review process typically adds to the publication process. Jawson replied that the time required is variable, but is generally at least one month.
Janet Sternburg asked whether contract completion reports might serve as a way of providing information to key partners in a more timely manner. Jawson said this is in active discussion. Under the current system, where distribution of the completion reports is limited essentially to the Corps of Engineers, the USGS review requirements do not apply. If, however, the completion reports are going to be publicly available, then the review process would have to be followed.
Marv Hubbell noted that the completion report fulfills a contractual requirement. He said he recognizes that the authors often have a need or desire to publish their work in peer reviewed journals. However, this can introduce a considerable time lag in making their findings available. Hubbell stressed the importance of finding a way to accommodate the publication process while still making important information available to the program partnership in a timely manner. Jawson said the completion report could be expanded to essentially be a draft of the journal manuscript, so long as distribution is restricted. However, if the draft is circulated publicly, then the article would no longer be publishable. Jawson estimated that publication in a peer reviewed journal adds 18-36 months to the timeline, after completion of the USGS internal review process.
Benjamin asked whether a project status sheet would interfere with journal publication. She emphasized the need to get information to managers in a timely manner. Jawson acknowledged the need for information access, while also meeting publication needs. Hubbell said there appears to be a fundamental tension between what serves the needs of managers and authors.
Martin Konrad asked whether the intent is for all APE projects to be publishable. Jawson said this is not the goal and stressed the need to identify the anticipated products for each APE project. If nothing beyond a contract completion report is needed, then there is no reason not to release that report. Jawson suggested that some kind of status report might indeed be a way of sharing important information about findings that will ultimately be published. Jawson said USGS would develop a series of potential options for balancing the need for timely access to information with the need to publish in journals. These options will be presented to the EMP-CC for its consideration.
Benjamin observed that there will be many retirements among LTRMP staff in the coming years. With this in mind, she stressed the need for centralized documentation of the questions that have been asked under the LTRMP and the resulting answers, before considerable institutional memory is lost. Jawson observed that most of what has been produced is in the UMESC library. Barry Johnson acknowledged that there is not currently a comprehensive collection of LTRMP findings in a single location. Moreover, there is no comprehensive list of the questions and answers. Benjamin advocated for creation of such a centralized list that would be updated annually in the future. Without such a record, Benjamin cautioned that the program risks re-asking questions unnecessarily. Jawson observed that creation of such a database, or enhanced bibliography, would not be a trivial undertaking. Noting that it would take considerable effort to capture the last 20 years of inquiries in this fashion, Jawson suggested that this might be a candidate for an administrative APE project. He said USGS would estimate the resources required to develop a consolidated record of LTRMP research questions and results over the program’s history and then present that estimate to the LTRMP Strategic Planning Team and the EMP‑CC.
Marv Hubbell suggested that it is important for the partners to understand how publication in peer reviewed journals relates to professional development for USGS scientists. Without this insight, Hubbell said it will be difficult for the partners to strike the right balance between timely access to information and staff development needs. Jawson explained that there are two classes of scientists within USGS. For Factor 9 scientists, career advancement is determined entirely by their local managers, though there are still expectations that they will publish in peer reviewed journals. Advancement for Factor 4 scientists is determined largely by an outside peer panel. To advance, Factor 4 scientists must meet the standards of the scientific community. Jawson noted that the LTRMP component specialists are all Factor 4 scientists. Jeff Stoner explained that the emphasis on journal publication stems from USGS’s fundamental mission to provide independent science for the public.
FY 08 Scope of Work
Jawson reported that the LTRMP’s FY 08 scope of work is under development and should be completed in December. The Minimum Sustainable Program (MSP) will consist of its standard components of monitoring, analysis and reporting, statistical evaluation, data management, GIS support, and bathymetry support. The MSP will cost $4.3 million in FY 08.
According to Jawson, USGS, the Corps, and the A-Team chair recently completed their final consolidated ranking of technical Additional Program Element (APE) proposals. Noting the high level of concurrence regarding the rankings, Jawson said the partners generally seem pleased with the changes in the APE selection process this year. He said the development of focal questions and the expectation for increased coordination among investigators combined to produce the highest quality APE proposals thus far. The consolidated rankings resulted in five projects ranked as high, 1 medium-high, 5 medium, 1 medium-low, and 3 low. Jawson noted that the projects ranked as low were not of low quality and would quite possibly be viable projects under a less constrained funding scenario. However, they were of relatively low priority compared with the other proposals. The five highly ranked projects total approximately $500,000, while the 11 projects ranked medium or above total slightly more than $1 million. Jawson explained that actual funding decisions on the technical APEs will not be made until the LTRMP’s FY 08 budget allocation is determined. The technical and administrative APEs will share the difference between the LTRMP allocation and the $4.3 million required for the MSP.
Jawson reported that the Status and Trends Report has gone to USGS editorial staff, who are responsible for layout and formatting, as well as a final editorial review. Johnson estimated that the editorial staff will likely complete their work by January 2008.
Hubbell recounted that the development and review process for administrative APEs differs from that used for the technical APEs. Of particular note, there is not a broad solicitation for administrative APE proposals. Moreover, the EMP-CC, rather than the A-Team, is the forum for partner review and prioritization of the administrative APEs. Potential administrative APEs and their estimated costs for FY 08 include the following:
· Status and Trends Report — $20,000 — modest funding to complete report
· Restoration of monitoring — $62-65,000 — field work has been completed, assume will be funded if required report is furnished on schedule in December
· Data visualization tools — $50-55,000 — to maintain the ability to serve data on the web effectively
· Equipment refreshment — $60,000 — MSP does not include equipment refreshment; items proposed for FY 08 are part of a five-year priority plan
· LTRMP strategic planning — no firm estimate, but likely less than $100,000 — USGS staff time to support the strategic planning process
· Bathymetry — efforts to do off-channel bathymetry through USACE districts over the past three years have not been successful
approximately $700,000 required to complete the system consistent with the
pilot approach USACE and
Martin Konrad asked about the value and application of LiDAR and bathymetry coverages. Hubbell explained that both can provide a system look at landscape ecology, which is of great value in planning HREPs. Jawson said it is important to talk with managers and see what information they would value most.
Charlie Wooley asked Hubbell how and when USACE wants EMP-CC input concerning the administrative APEs. Barb Naramore observed that there are many variables and options in the administrative APE information just presented. She suggested that an overview, summarizing options and estimated costs, would facilitate the EMP-CC members’ internal coordination and response. Hubbell said Corps and USGS staff would prepare a fact sheet detailing the estimated costs of various administrative APE options, describing the scope and applicability of the LiDAR and bathymetry options, and identifying which HREPs would likely benefit from new LiDAR and/or bathymetry data and when those data would be most useful in project planning. It was agreed that each EMP-CC member would then coordinate internally, with a target response back to the Corps by early January, contingent upon receipt of the fact sheet.
Benjamin and Konrad expressed their potential willingness to forego some technical APEs in favor of completing the LiDAR coverage. Jawson said he is not sure the tradeoff is an obvious one. Johnson stressed the need for both LiDAR and bathymetry in order to have a seamless elevation database for the system.
Sternburg distributed a written A-Team report. She emphasized that the A-Team is very pleased with the quality of the FY 08 technical APE proposals, and with the collaborative process used in focusing, developing, and prioritizing those proposals. Sternburg said the A-Team received an excellent report on LiDAR that might help the EMP-CC in its deliberations. She also noted that the team had a very good discussion concerning options for outpool sampling, with a focus on what information is most desired and what would be done with that information. Sternburg said A-Team members will be providing feedback concerning outpool sampling to Barry Johnson for the LTRMP Strategic Planning Team’s consideration.
Hubbell provided a brief overview of the LTRMP strategic planning process thus far, noting that the Planning Team took a deliberately unconstrained approach at its first meeting, then sought initial partner input on these broad ideas. Subsequent meetings and work have involved a gradual process of narrowing and refining. The Planning Team held its third meeting on October 17-19, at which the team further explored and elaborated on the six draft outcomes (i.e., goals) and their associated outputs (i.e., specific products that support the goals). Hubbell reported that the team made good progress in clarifying and focusing the outcomes, reducing them to five. He explained that the team anticipated prioritizing those outcomes at its next meeting, scheduled for December 17-19. Between now and then, small groups from within the Planning Team will be working further on each outcome, including defining its associated outputs, optional scenarios for achieving the outcomes and outputs, necessary inputs (e.g., personnel, equipment, etc.), and cost estimates. The team anticipates distributing the core of a draft strategic plan for initial partner and stakeholder review in early 2008.
satisfaction that the Planning Team’s deliberations thus far have been very
effective in opening lines of communication and exploring critical issues that
have not been meaningfully addressed previously, such as the relationship
between the LTRMP and HREP components or the right balance between journal
publication and timely access to information.
Hubbell voiced the team’s deep appreciation for the contributions of its
facilitators from Minnesota DNR, Brian Stenquist and
Tim Schlagenhaft noted that
the Planning Team appreciates the need to consider the LTRMP’s future in the
context of NESP as well as the EMP, including the potential for a larger
program in the future.
EMP/NESP Integration Issues
Marv Hubbell reported that
the House and Senate voted to override the President’s veto of the 2007 Water
Resources Development Act (H.R. 1495, P.L. 110-114). The measure includes authorization of the
Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) for the UMRS. Hubbell explained that implementation
guidance for the various new authorities, including NESP, is under development
within the Corps.
Gretchen Benjamin said the
In response to questions from
Tim Schlagenhaft expressed some frustration with the Corps’ reluctance to discuss integration issues. He asked what the appropriate mechanism and forum for this discussion would be. Smith said the Corps will not be in a position to join its partners in making recommendations regarding integration of the two programs. With two authorities, the Corps must simply remain prepared to implement both until such time as it is directed by the Administration and/or Congress to do something different. In response to a question from Konrad, Smith clarified that the Corps is willing to discuss the issues raised in the states’ vision, but is constrained in terms of adopting a position or plan until the Administration issues implementation guidance interpreting the new NESP authority.
Konrad said he would like to see the states’ vision statement discussed at the February NECC/ECC meeting, with an effort to open lines of communication between NECC and the EMP-CC concerning these issues. Ken Barr expressed willingness to coordinate between the NECC and EMP-CC when there are common issues to be addressed. However, he stressed his need to focus on issues and questions directly before the NECC/ECC. Barr said he would defer to Smith on questions related to integration.
Konrad observed that the EMP-CC has a structure to it that does not appear to exist within the NECC/ECC. He expressed a preference for the EMP-CC’s more structured, transparent approach, and said he would like the partners to begin discussions on how they will operate in the future. Barr said USACE could engage in some such discussion, but said it would be limited until the implementation guidance is issued.
Smith said he expects the implementation guidance to be issued relatively soon, after which the Corps will be prepared to discuss a range of issues with the partners. Charlie Wooley concurred, noting that the Corps and other federal agencies need to await the implementation guidance before addressing questions related to the future of the two programs.
Goals and Objectives for Ecosystem Restoration on the UMRS
Marv Hubbell reviewed the history of the System Ecological Team’s (SET’s) efforts and recommendations concerning HREP planning and sequencing. In particular, he recalled the SET’s difficulty in comparing fact sheets across districts when it attempted to evaluate proposed projects early in 2007. According to Hubbell, there was simply too much variation among the fact sheets to compare and distinguish projects. As previously reported at the EMP-CC’s May and August meetings, SET members were very intrigued with the potential to apply a structured decision making model to HREP planning and sequencing. More specifically, the SET recommended using this decision model, in combination with objectives set with reference to seven non-overlapping habitat types, to evaluate HREP proposals.
Since the August EMP-CC meeting, various Corps staff and the NESP Science Panel have been considering the SET’s recommendations in the broader context of the need for system goals and objectives for ecosystem restoration—i.e., goals and objectives that can guide both NESP and EMP, as well as other related efforts on the system. Hubbell said the Science Panel’s focus has been on function and process, while the SET has looked at habitat structure. However, Hubbell stressed his belief that these two approaches are fundamentally reconcilable.
Hubbell announced that the Corps intends to hold a January 9-10 workshop that will look at tools and approaches for establishing goals and objectives by geomorphic reach. This workshop will not attempt to determine what those goals and objectives should be, but rather will seek to develop an approach that can then be implemented through a series of workshops for each of the 12 geomorphic reaches. Members of the EMP-CC, NECC, and Science Panel will be encouraged to attend the January workshop. Hubbell said the Corps hopes to hold the reach workshops in the spring through fall of 2008.
Tim Schlagenhaft asked for an example of the kinds of tools and approaches that will be under consideration at the January workshop. Ken Barr explained that the Corps wants to look at the SET’s structured decision making model and the Science Panel’s system-level, top-down approach to establishing structure and function objectives for the system. The question being asked, according to Barr, is whether these tools can help us arrive at quantified goals and objectives.
Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Projects
Novak highlighted the
following lessons learned from the
Janet Sternburg asked what
particular factors led to the selection of
Follow-Up on HREP Policy Questions
Marv Hubbell announced that,
with enactment of the NESP authorization as part of WRDA 07, the Corps no
longer intends to explore policy questions related to water level management
and threatened and endangered (T&E) species projects under EMP. Instead, MVP has developed a water level
management proposal for Pool 3 that will be advanced under NESP. Similarly, the Schenimann Chute project,
which had raised questions about 100 percent federal funding under EMP based on
T&E species benefits, will instead be pursued as a NESP project.
Janet Sternburg asked about the Corps’ increasing emphasis on aquatic restoration work and asked whether this is likely to present impediments for the floodplain restoration work authorized under NESP. Smith emphasized that the Corps’ ecosystem restoration mission is indeed focused on aquatic systems, noting that there are several other federal agencies charged with managing and restoring terrestrial systems. That being said, incidental benefits to terrestrial systems should not present a problem, according to Smith.
Sternburg asked for clarification regarding how the Corps defines an aquatic ecosystem. Hubbell said the working definition includes all areas within a floodplain. Smith acknowledged that the distinction between aquatic and terrestrial systems is a gray area and is in a state of transition. Schlagenhaft observed that some of the anticipated NESP projects will definitely raise these kinds of boundary issues. If the implementation guidance does not clearly address the distinction, then the partners will have to explore the issues in the context of individual projects. As examples, Schlagenhaft cited questions about 1) the boundary between the mainstem and a tributary and 2) benefits to floodplain forests. Smith observed that the Corps frequently finds itself in competition with other federal agencies as it moves further up into the floodplain.
HREP Database and NESP Decision Support System
Hubbell reported that Corps staff have completed work to link the GIS and Access components of the HREP database. Plans remain to make the database available to partners and stakeholders via the web, but this will take some additional time. In the interim, Hubbell said the Corps remains willing to run custom queries to meet people’s information needs. He also indicated that the content of the HREP database will be made available to the Corps and USGS staff working to develop the ecosystem restoration decision support system (DSS) for NESP.
Section 8(a) Contracting
Marv Hubbell recalled that
Mike Griffin had raised questions concerning Section 8(a) contracting at the
August EMP-CC meeting. In particular,
Don Powell observed that all federal agencies have Section 8(a) contracting requirements. He said EMP projects can be good candidates for 8(a) contracts because HREPs are relatively small, compared with many Corps projects. However, Powell emphasized that all Corps projects are subject to consideration for Section 8(a) contracting.
Brian Markert identified increased flexibility and communication as one of the advantages of Section 8(a) contracting. Compared with the standard request for proposals and low bid contracting process, there is a much more direct negotiating process with prospective 8(a) contractors. Markert said this produces better communication and enhances the contractor’s understanding of the project. Also of note, the 8(a) contractor can talk with contractors who have done similar projects in the past, according to Markert.
Hubbell said he appreciates
February 2008 —
o UMRBA—February 20
o EMP-CC—February 21 (a joint EMP-CC/NECC session was subsequently added to the afternoon of February 21)
o NECC/ECC—February 22
· May 2008 — Twin Cities (note change from previously announced location)
o UMRBA—May 20
o NECC/ECC—May 21
o EMP-CC—May 22
August 2008 —
o UMRBA—August 5
o EMP-CC—August 6
o NECC/ECC—August 7
With no further business, the meeting adjourned at 12:15 p.m.
EMP-CC Attendance List
November 15, 2007
Charlie Wooley U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3
Rick Mollahan Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Martin Konrad Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Tim Schlagenhaft Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Janet Sternburg Missouri Department of Conservation
Gretchen Benjamin Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Others in Attendance
Brian Stenquist Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Emmett Mullin Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Dru Buntin Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Dan McGuiness Audubon
Roger Pederson Ducks Unlimited
Tom Boland MACTEC