Minutes of the

Upper Mississippi River System

Environmental Management Program

Coordinating Committee

 

February 28, 2001

Winter Quarterly Meeting

 

DoubleTree Hotel

Bloomington, Minnesota

 

 

 

Charlie Wooley of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called the meeting to order at 8:05 a.m. on Wednesday, February 28, 2001.  Other EMP-CC members present were Gary Loss (USACE), Leslie Holland-Bartels (USGS), Kevin Szcodronski (IA DNR), Steve Johnson (MN DNR), Ken Brummett (MO DOC), and Terry Moe (WI DNR).  A complete list of attendees is attached.

 

Announcements

 

Ken Brummett announced that Gordon Farabee retired from Missouri DOC effective February 1, 2001.  Gary Christoff will be replacing Farabee as Missouri’s EMP-CC member.  Gary Loss reported on efforts to fill the positions vacated by Dusty Rhodes and Leo Foley.  Kevin Szcodronski announced that Jeff Vonk has been named as the new Iowa DNR Director.  Terry Moe reported that Wisconsin’s new Governor, Scott McCallum, has appointed Darrell Bazzell as Secretary of Wisconsin DNR.

 

Minutes of the November Meeting

 

Kevin Szcodronski moved and Steve Johnson seconded a motion to approve the minutes of the November 16, 2000 EMP-CC meeting as written.  The motion carried unanimously.

 

Program Management

 

FY 01 Fiscal Performance Update

 

Teresa Kincaid reported that, as of December 31, 2000, the EMP’s FY 01 allocation totaled $17.940 million.  This figure includes the original allocation of $17.640 million plus $300,000 in restored savings and slippage.  Scheduled expenditures for the year total $16.533 million.  However, this figure will increase once $1.6 million transferred out of MVP’s HREP program is rescheduled.  Kincaid explained that the MVP money was transferred to MVS for HREPs and to UMESC for the LTRMP.  Don Powell said MVP transferred the funds due to delays in its HREP construction schedule. 

 

In response to a question from Jeff Stein, Kincaid said the savings and slippage rate for the construction general account is 16 percent this year, compared with 10 percent in FY 00.  She said the rate is set nationally and attributed the increase to many factors.  Jan Hodges reported that a nationwide recission in the construction general account also resulted in a $41,000 cut to the EMP.  Kincaid said the Corps plans to seek restoration of additional savings and slippage money in FY 01.

 

Kincaid explained that MVR had made several changes to the spreadsheet format in an effort to focus on information concerning the current fiscal year.  A supplemental sheet providing historical program information will be updated annually.  In addition, an effort was made to more clearly identify administrative costs.  Kincaid said she understands people’s concerns with such costs and said the Corps is making every effort to keep administrative costs to reasonable levels.  However, she emphasized that implementing the program effectively does entail a certain level of administrative spending. 

 

Terry Moe expressed appreciation for the new format and said he particularly likes the ability to identify administrative costs.  However, he said the LTRMP funding transferred to USGS should not be classified as a program coordination expense.  Barb Naramore suggested either modifying the title or content of the program coordination expense page to avoid potential misunderstandings.  Steve Johnson and Moe also expressed concern with the difficulty in tracking some expenses from the individual district pages to the cumulative program pages.  They requested modifications to clarify the connections between various line items on the spreadsheets.

 

Kincaid said completed projects have been taken off the individual district spreadsheets, which now detail only active projects.  The habitat total line on the district sheets, however, includes the costs of completed projects.  The sheet with historical information will include details regarding completed projects, including amount spent and basic information such as acreage affected.  In response to a question from Jim Harrison, Don Powell reported that MVP anticipates letting the Ambrough Slough contract this year and doing repair work at the Trempealeau Refuge project.  Terry Moe expressed surprise regarding the cost figures for the Pool 11 Island project.  Scott Whitney said the entire project is estimated to total $12-13 million. 

 

Assuming construction goes well, Kincaid projected that both MVR and MVS will be able to demonstrate need for restored savings and slippage this year.  While the EMP will clearly be able to show overtarget capability, Kincaid said it is impossible to predict how successfully the program will compete for additional funds.  Gary Loss said FY 00 was atypical in that there was little overtarget funding available in the construction general account.  Loss said this may continue to be the case in FY 01.  In response to a question from Jeff Stein, Kincaid said restored savings and slippage is generally directed to both HREPs and the LTRMP.  However, she emphasized that such decisions are based on need and ability to spend, not a set allocation formula. 

 

Stein asked about the Corps’ FY 02 capability.  Kincaid said the Corps has not released any capability figures yet.  Loss said the Corps is still reviewing its capabilities and reported that the President’s budget request is scheduled for release on April 3.  According to Loss, the Corps may not release official capability numbers.  Holly Stoerker and Stein emphasized that understanding the Corps’ capability is important to other entities wishing to offer budget testimony.  Robin Grawe asked whether the Corps has the authority to shift funding between the LTRMP and HREP components if the LTRMP has capability in excess of its approximately one-third share under the standard allocation formula.  Kincaid said the EMP legislation permits the Corps to transfer up to 20 percent of the funding appropriated for one component to the other component.

 

SOW for Service Tasks

 

Kincaid reported that the scope of work for Service HREP planning activities is not yet complete.  The Corps and Service hope to finalize the SOW soon and will distribute the final scope to the other EMP partner agencies.  In response to a question from Terry Moe, Kincaid said the SOW will be specific to the EMP – i.e., it will not cover non-EMP tasks for which the Corps also transfers money to the Service.  The scope will include a single dollar amount, rather than detailing the costs of individual tasks.

 

Model PCA

 

Kincaid said MVS will develop a template for EMP project cooperation agreements (PCAs) using the PCA from its most recent cost-shared project.  HREP PCAs will continue to be approved at the Washington level, but the template should streamline the process somewhat.  Kincaid noted that divisions do currently have delegated authority to approve PCAs for projects under the Corps’ continuing authorities programs.  While MVD could explore the possibility of delegated authority for HREP PCAs, Greg Ruff cautioned that such authority would only be granted for a “fill-in-the-blank” PCA form.  Such a model PCA cannot be modified to fit the circumstances of a particular project, obviously limiting flexibility.  Ruff said he is not sure that such an approach would be well suited to the EMP.  He suggested developing the template first and seeing how effective that is in expediting HQ/ASA approval.  Based on that experience, the partners can then consider whether to pursue delegated authority for a model PCA.

 

EMP Guidance Compendium

 

Kincaid reported that Kara Mitvalsky has been working to upgrade the EMP web site.  As part of this effort, MVR will develop an on-line guidance compendium, which will include the EMP authorizing legislation, policy memos, and other materials.  Kincaid said UMRBA staff has offered to assist in this effort.

 

Long Term Resource Monitoring Program

 

Statistical Analyses of Monitoring Data

 

Leslie Holland-Bartels announced that a revised version of the HNA Query Tool is complete.  The new version includes expanded data sets and does not require users to have any particular software.  The tool will be distributed to program partners and will be available on UMESC’s web site.

 

Holland-Bartels presented highlights from the continuing review of LTRMP monitoring data and protocols.  Brian Ickes and Barry Johnson are now leading the fisheries gear assessment, which may result in substantial changes to the monitoring protocol.  Holland-Bartels emphasized that this assessment is being done in close consultation with field station staff and other fisheries experts.  The Open River Field Station is leading analyses and a workshop regarding restructuring monitoring protocols and objectives for the Open River.  This effort includes analyses of fisheries, invertebrate, and water quality data.   Holland-Bartels is leading an assessment of general inventory and monitoring issues.  She contracted with WEST, Inc. as part of this general assessment.  WEST’s findings, which will be released soon in a report, include praise for the program’s written protocols and high level of partner support.  WEST’s report will also highlight a number of issues for consideration.  Jenny Sauer is leading a systemic analysis of the invertebrate sampling protocol, which currently yields many “zeros” on some parts of the system.  Sauer is examining the potential implications of a protocol that focuses more on presence/absence.  The Alton field station has the lead on out-pool fisheries analyses.  Data for this work were collected last year with overtarget funding.

 

Holland-Bartels emphasized that the statistical analysis work is complex.  It involves enormous amounts a data and thus requires substantial computer processing time.  However, she expressed optimism that the analyses will allow the LTRMP to minimize the collection of data that does not provide useful information, thereby reducing collection, storage, and analysis costs. 

 

Holland-Bartels noted that Todd Kool initially recommended eliminating passive gears based on his review of the fish monitoring data.  While she does not agree that such a dramatic change is appropriate, Holland-Bartels briefly reviewed data from Pools 4 and 26 to illustrate the fact that some gears clearly provide much more information than others.  Before dropping any gear, Holland-Bartels said it is important to ask what unique species information, habitat insight, and/or statistical power would be lost. 

 

Holland-Bartels emphasized that the analyses so far have focused on the science of the monitoring data and the value of the information that is being collected.  Questions that have not yet been asked include:

 

 

In answer to a question from Terry Moe, Holland-Bartels said the analyses will be shared with field station staff, A-Team members, and others as they become available.  She emphasized that significant dialogue still needs to take place and that no decisions regarding modifications to monitoring protocols are imminent.  Charlie Wooley asked whether the LTRMP fisheries data provide useful insights into questions surrounding fish passage on the UMR.  Holland-Bartels said only cursory work had been done with the data relative to fish passage but said LTRMP staff will be considering the issue further as they do their analyses.  Jim Harrison asked how the lack of deep channel fish monitoring might be addressed.  Holland-Bartels said navigation study and LTRMP funds were combined last year to restart the deep channel fish collection effort.  This work should provide some useful insights regarding how best to sample in the main channel.

 

Overtarget Work Items

 

Holland-Bartels identified the following FY 01 overtarget work items:

 

 

Holland-Bartels described progress on the 2000 LCU aquatic areas GIS and the FY 01 bathymetry projects. 

 

Moe asked whether the FY 01 overtarget list includes provisions to address delays in areas such as serving data and doing data analyses.  Holland-Bartels said she has a long list of potential overtarget items submitted by field staff and is working to refine and prioritize that list.  Moe asked whether staff levels are limiting the ability to accomplish overtarget work.  Holland-Bartels said agreements with various universities provide a flexible way of increasing capacity.  In addition, she noted that the Minnesota and Missouri field stations are seeking to fill vacant positions with personnel who would augment the LTRMP’s analytical capabilities.  She expressed confidence that staffing will not constrain UMESC’s ability to make effective use of overtarget funding.

 

Independent Technical Advisory Committee

 

Greg Ruff explained that, due to various reform-related proposals last year, MVD deferred implementation of the Independent Technical Advisory Committee called for in WRDA 99.  However, WRDA 00 did not include any specific reform directives, other than a provision for a National Academy of Sciences study of independent review.  Ruff said the Corps is anxiously awaiting the results of that study.  Meanwhile, MVD will begin considering how to implement the Independent Technical Advisory Committee.  Ruff noted that HQ guidance directs MVD to develop a proposal in cooperation with the EMP-CC and with input from other parties.  In addition, the guidance calls for a counsel opinion regarding whether the Technical Committee is subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and directs that the implementation plan be submitted to HQ for approval.

 

Ruff outlined the following schedule developing the implementation plan:

 

 

According to Ruff, MVD views the $350,000 in authorized appropriations as an upper limit and does not anticipate that the Technical Committee will require this level of resources.  He said MVD sees the Technical Committee as a relatively small group of nationally recognized experts that will focus on program-level issues.  MVD does not anticipate that the group will become involved in the HREP approval process.  Input from the Technical Committee will be reflected in the December 2004 Report to Congress and in subsequent RTCs.  In response to a question from Terry Moe, Ruff said MVD will ask MVR to develop a draft implementation plan in keeping with these considerations.

 

Moe stressed the importance of clearly articulating what the Technical Committee is being asked to do.  Ruff invited input on this question.  In response to Moe’s observation that the states did not advocate for the Technical Committee provision, Ruff noted that there is a trend in Washington toward establishing such groups at the program level to provide oversight and guidance from people with national perspectives and reputations.

 

Holly Stoerker suggested that the Corps’ Environmental Advisory Board might serve as something of a model.  According to Stoerker, the Corps poses specific questions to the Board, rather than simply convening it and asking members to provide input as they see fit.  Stoerker said asking the Technical Committee for advice on major EMP issues would likely be far more productive than having members review specific projects or focus on program management details.  Moe urged the Corps to consider previous efforts, including the LTRMP Science Review Committee and EMP Program Review Committee, in developing its implementation plan for the Technical Committee.  Kevin Szcodronski said he is comfortable with the general approach outlined by Ruff.  Szcodronski recommended that the Committee include both people from outside the region and people with experience on the UMRS.  He observed that the Committee could provide a valuable service by considering how various efforts and recommendations fit together, including the HNA, HREP prioritization, interest in natural river processes, and pool planning.

 

Jim Harrison asked about the status of the LTRMP Science Review Committee.  Leslie Holland-Bartels said the group is still an existing body and will likely be reconvened when sufficient information from the on-going data analyses is available.  Moe suggested that the Independent Technical Committee could be asked to do LTRMP science review, noting that this might require fewer LTRMP resources.

 

In response to a question from Jeff Stein, Ruff said he is the POC for the Technical Committee proposal.  Stein asked Ruff to elaborate on his earlier comments concerning the Technical Committee’s lack of involvement in the HREP process.  Ruff said MVD does not envision the Committee being involved in the HREP approval process or the details of individual projects.  However, he does foresee the Committee providing valuable program-level input regarding the HREP component.  Stein said he is not necessarily uncomfortable with such an approach, but emphasized that the Technical Committee needs to have input into the prioritization process.  He cautioned that, if the Committee operates entirely separately from the program partnership’s prioritization efforts, two separate visions for the program will emerge.

 

Habitat Needs Assessment

 

Trempealeau Award

 

Don Powell reported that the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers selected the Trempealeau Refuge HREP as one of the Seven Wonders of Engineering in Minnesota for 2001.  Powell explained that, while the project itself is located in Wisconsin, most of the design work was done in Minnesota, thus qualifying the project for the competition.  The award was given jointly to the Corps and Service.  Powell said a special display concerning the project was developed for the awards ceremony and will be displayed at the Refuge Visitors Center.  Keith Beseke said the Corps and its contractor did excellent work on the Trempealeau project.

 

Habitat Needs Assessment

 

Deb Foley reported that the HNA report is complete.  She thanked Steve Johnson, Terry Moe, and UMRBA staff for their efforts to resolve the outstanding issues from the previous draft.  Foley said an initial mailing of HNA reports is complete and a second round distribution is scheduled for the week of March 5.  The full report consists of the following four documents:  Summary Report, Technical Report (includes CDs with the Technical Report and Appendices and Public Information Report), Public Information Report, and Query Tool User’s Manual (includes the tool on CD).  Each state will receive 10 copies of the Summary and Technical Reports and the User’s Manual, and three copies of the Public Information Report.  All participants in the public information focus groups and the resource manager meetings will receive the Summary Report, which includes information on how to access other HNA documents.  Steve Johnson recommended that the Corps distribute the HNA report to public libraries.

 

EMP Workshop

 

Mike Kruckeberg reported that the Corps is planning a two-day EMP workshop for this fall, the primary purpose of which will be to share “lessons learned” concerning both HREPs and the LTRMP.  Kruckeberg said he anticipates between 80 and 100 participants representing the Corps, Service, USGS, states, and NGOs.  After some discussion, October 15 to November 9 was identified as the target timeframe for the workshop.

 

Kruckeberg asked partner agencies to identify a point of contact to participate in workshop planning.  Holly Stoerker asked whether the workshop is intended to reach beyond those already involved in the EMP.  She noted that there are many other agency people who could benefit from learning about the EMP, including water quality and wetlands staff.  Scott Whitney said that this is one of the issues that those involved in planning the workshop will be asked to address.  Foley observed that the agenda could certainly be structured to accommodate people with varying levels of involvement, perhaps by devoting one day to more technical discussions and the other to issues of broader interest.  Jon Duyvejonck said that interdisciplinary exchanges have been one of the key benefits of previous workshops.

 

HREP Prioritization Process

 

Teresa Kincaid reported that the Corps has modified the HNA prioritization framework endorsed by the EMP-CC at its August meeting.  The revised process, reflected in the flowchart provided in the agenda packet, starts with consideration of ecological factors and needs, as identified in the HNA, pool plans, etc.  By contrast, the previously endorsed process started with completed fact sheets and did not address how these fact sheets were to be developed. 

 

Kincaid explained that the Corps wants the three district-level groups to employ similar approaches in developing pool plan goals and objectives.  She stressed that this does not mean the groups need to employ precisely the same process or produce the same outcomes.  She suggested piloting a proposed common process in a test pool and refining it as necessary.  Charlie Wooley said the Service wants to be closely involved in pool planning.  Several meeting participants voiced concern that the desire for a common process might reverse progress that has already been made in pool planning for some areas.  Don Powell noted that there are draft plans for every pool in MVP and that the agencies are ready to seek public comment on those plans.  Terry Moe cautioned against trying to design the perfect process and urged that the draft plans be allowed to move forward.  He said they can be refined as needed based on experience.  Kincaid emphasized that she wants to capture and build upon the good work that has already been done.  She said the Corps is not asking the district-level groups to undo progress they have already made. 

 

Scott Whitney expressed concern that there is a lack of quantitative information and a lack of input from key disciplines in some of the initial pool planning efforts.  Dan McGuiness said the MVP pool planning effort has used the UMRCC Report’s 9 ecological objectives.  He urged MVR and MVS pool planners to use this same framework.  Jon Duyvejonck noted that pool planning is further along in some areas than others.  He cautioned that different rates of progress must not result in some areas being left out of the systemic HREP prioritization effort.  Dick Steinbach said the group working in MVS wants to consider the full range of needs and authorities and will not develop EMP-specific plans.  Duyvejonck noted that the pool planning teams would benefit from technical assistance in mapping and data analysis.  EMP-CC members recommended that the chairs of the FWWG, FWIC, and RRAT meet to discuss approaches to pool planning and the resources that are needed. 

 

Jim Fisher expressed concern with the new prioritization flowchart, observing that the Service and the states appear to drop out after the initial stage of the process.  Keith Beseke said Service involvement is key at the later stages to account for factors such as distributing the HREP workload within the Service.  Steve Johnson observed that the flowchart combines interagency coordination and internal Corps coordination in a confusing way.  Kincaid acknowledged the potential for confusion and said MVR would attempt to clarify the flowchart, but noted that there are certain internal coordination functions that the Corps must accomplish at various stages of the process.  Regarding agency participation, Kincaid emphasized that the Service and states are members of the district-level teams and the
EMP-CC and thus will be involved through those groups throughout the process.  Ken Barr stressed the need to ensure that the agency representatives on those groups represent the full ranges of their agencies’ interests.

 

Kincaid said the Corps anticipates that the HREP prioritization process will be conducted every other year and wants to initiate the new process in FY 02.  In the interim, the Corps will also consult with program partners to select a few projects for planning starts.  Kincaid explained that this is intended to ensure that the transition to the new prioritization process does not result in a gap of projects available for construction.  These projects will be discussed by the RRF, RRCT, and RRAT.  Kincaid requested comments on the proposed flowchart by March 19.  She said she anticipates that MVR will distribute a text description of the proposed process shortly thereafter.

 

EMP Public Involvement Strategy

 

Teresa Kincaid reviewed the HQ implementation guidance concerning development of an EMP public involvement strategy.  She noted that the guidance came in response to the partnership Report to Congress, which called for enhanced public involvement.  Last fall, MVR staff developed a list of potential public involvement tools.  That list was presented at the EMP-CC’s November meeting.  EMP-CC members recommended that the goals and objectives of the strategy be clarified before specific tools were considered.  As a result, Kincaid conferred with an ad-hoc group of program partners and developed the draft goals and objectives write-up included in the agenda packet.

 

Kincaid reviewed the draft goals and objectives and invited input.  Steve Johnson said he would submit comments on the document.  He observed that much of what the EMP needs is not public involvement, but rather public awareness and education. 

 

Rick Frietsche said the FWWG’s pool planning approach started as an effort among biologists to identify what is needed for various portions of the river.  He expressed doubt regarding how that effort can be integrated with the Corps’ EMP-driven approach, the Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission’s public involvement needs, and other efforts.  Kincaid agreed that this is an issue.

 

Terry Moe said Kincaid’s write-up is a good reflection of the ad-hoc group’s conference call regarding public involvement.  He suggested that “increase public awareness” be removed from the list of potential tools on page 4, noting that this is an objective, not a tool.  Moe said that the costs and the means of implementation remain to be determined.  He suggested that various program partners can facilitate implementation by integrating the EMP public involvement strategy into other work they are already doing.  Dan McGuiness said he likes the matrix Kincaid developed and recommended adding a time dimension, noting that not everything can be accomplished at once.  In the short-term, McGuiness recommended concentrating on the upper left portion of the matrix – i.e., program-level awareness and education activities. 

 

Robin Grawe observed that the EMP already does some good public involvement work and that those activities should not be dismissed but rather augmented and improved.  Charlie Wooley stressed the importance of communicating the benefits of the EMP to the public.  Barb Naramore emphasized the importance of effective public involvement in the pool planning and HREP prioritization processes.  She characterized this as an immediate need that should not await creation of a fully developed EMP public involvement strategy.  Kevin Szcodronski recommended that Jim Harrison and Dan McGuiness both be consulted in development of the EMP public involvement strategy.  Kincaid requested comments on the draft goals and objectives by March 19. 

 

Other Business

 

Terry Moe thanked the Corps for modifying its activity reports to highlight changes and new information.

 

With no further business, the meeting adjourned at 11:37 a.m. 

 

[The EMP-CC’s future schedule includes meetings on May 16 in Davenport, August 8 in La Crosse, and November 15 in St. Louis.]

 


 

EMP-CC Attendance List

February 28, 2001

 

 

Gary Loss

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVD

Charlie Wooley

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3

Leslie Holland-Bartels

U.S. Geological Survey, UMESC

Kevin Szcodronski

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Steve Johnson

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Ken Brummett

Missouri Department of Conservation

Terry Moe

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Greg Ruff

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVD

Don Powell

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVP

Teresa Kincaid

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Ken Barr

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Scott Whitney

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Janet Hodges

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Dan Holmes

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Kara Mitvalsky

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Mark Cornish

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Deb Foley

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Mike Kruckeberg

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Dan Stinnett

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3

Lynn Lewis

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3

Jon Duyvejonck

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/UMRCC

Pam Thiel

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, La Crosse Fisheries

Jim Fisher

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UMR Refuge

Keith Beseke

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UMR Refuge

Rick Frietsche

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Dick Steinbach

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mark Twain NWR

Karen Westphall

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mark Twain NWR

Jon Kauffeld

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Amy Denz

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Jerry Vineyard

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Larry Shepard

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 7

Jim Harrison

Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission

Robin Grawe

Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission

Jeff Stein

American Rivers

Dan McGuiness

National Audubon Society

Holly Stoerker

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Barb Naramore

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association