Minutes of the

Upper Mississippi River System

Environmental Management Program

Coordinating Committee

 

May 15, 2003

Spring Quarterly Meeting

 

Sheraton West Port Hotel

St. Louis, Missouri

 

 

Steve Cobb of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers called the meeting to order at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 15, 2003.  Other EMP-CC members present were Charlie Wooley (USFWS), Scott Stuewe (IL DNR), Kevin Szcodronski (IA DNR), Steve Johnson (MN DNR), Gary Christoff (MO DOC), Gretchen Benjamin (WI DNR), and Leslie Holland-Bartels (USGS).  A complete list of attendees follows the minutes.

 

Minutes of the February Meeting

 

Scott Stuewe moved and Gretchen Benjamin seconded a motion to approve the draft minutes of the February 27, 2003 meeting as written.  The motion carried unanimously.

 

Program Management

 

Roger Perk reported that, as of March 31, the EMP had expended $4.586 million since the start of FY 03.  This is 45 percent of the program’s $10.15 million in scheduled expenditures for the year.  Perk explained that the EMP has approximately $3 million in additional funding needs for FY 03.  The St. Paul District has transferred approximately $300,000 to the St. Louis and Rock Island Districts to cover short term contract obligations.  In the meanwhile, Perk is working with MVD and Headquarters in an effort to obtain the additional funds.  Steve Cobb said the staff from Headquarters and the Divisions are scheduled to meet next week concerning fiscal issues.  Cobb said he expects to have a sense of the EMP’s prospects for additional FY 03 funding relatively soon.

 

HREP Funding Allocation Among Districts

 

Roger Perk said the Corps is considering modifying the formula currently used to allocate HREP funding among the districts for out-year planning purposes.  The allocation would shift from MVP 35%, MVR 40%, and MVS 25% to MVP 30%, MVR 40%, and MVS 30%.  Perk said that the Corps would like the EMP-CC to endorse this change.  Mike Thompson explained that the current allocation limits the St. Louis District’s ability to plan projects, a problem that will be exacerbated if funding levels increase.  Perk and Thompson said the recommended formula would more closely parallel the actual funding split among the districts in recent years.  Perk explained that the actual annual allocation decisions will continue to be made by Corps personnel based on program needs and in consultation with program partners.  He noted that recommendations from the new HREP planning and sequencing process will be an important part of the annual allocation decisions.

 

Steve Johnson said that the Corps’ recommended change to the allocation formula for planning purposes appears to be reasonable.  He noted that the existing formula is based on river miles, but that there are no HREPs being pursued in the portion of the St. Paul District that is upstream of the UMR Refuge.  Moreover, Johnson observed that the St. Louis District’s projects, while fewer in number, tend to be substantially more expensive due to the nature of the river.  Gretchen Benjamin said Wisconsin would be comfortable with the change, as long as the allocation formula remains a planning tool and the program retains the flexibility to make annual allocations based on need and project merits.  No EMP-CC member expressed opposition to the Corps’ recommended change.

 

Report to Congress

 

Roger Perk reported that work continues on the first three sections of the Report to Congress.  Perk said he delayed distribution of these draft sections in order to allow time for further work.  He said the draft material will be distributed for partner review within the next few weeks. 

 

According to Perk, the August meeting will be devoted to resolution of any outstanding issues, fine tuning the conclusions and recommendations, and discussion of the first three draft RTC sections.  He estimated that additional chapters will be distributed for partner comment in September or October.  The schedule calls for forwarding the draft report to MVD in January 2004. 

 

LTRMP Funding Mechanism

 

Perk noted that the LTRMP funding mechanism issue was not finally resolved at the February EMP-CC meeting.  At its November meeting, the EMP-CC had dismissed all but one option from further consideration.  However, the committee requested additional information concerning possible use of SF-1151 for funding transfers from the Corps to USGS.  MVR and USGS staff have concluded that SF-1151 does not offer any advantages over the  current fund transfer method.  More specifically, Perk noted that SF-1151 would not offer any cost savings and is more complicated.  EMP-CC members concurred that this option should not be pursued and that the RTC should not address the LTRMP funding mechanism, given that there is no recommended action associated with the issue.

 

Delegated Authority for HREPs

 

Perk summarized a new issue statement that the Corps prepared concerning delegated authority for HREP approval.  Currently, District Commanders are authorized to approve HREPs under $1 million and the MVD Commander may approve projects under $5 million.  Approval authority remains at the Washington level for projects over $5 million and for all projects that raise policy issues.  Perk said the Corps program staff would like to see delegated authority expanded.  More specifically, Corps staff recommend having HREP planning and design approval occur at the District level for projects that cost less than $5 million and use relatively standard restoration practices.  Authority to approve projects greater than $5 million or incorporating untested practices or policies would reside at MVD.  Projects that influence nationwide policy norms would be reviewed and approved at Headquarters.  Perk estimated that this approach could reduce project approval time by four to six months. 

 

Steve Cobb offered a modification to the issue paper, describing the provision for Headquarters approval of certain projects as unnecessary.  Instead, he said, all projects could be approved at either the District or Division level.  Cobb emphasized that, as a matter of standard practice, MVD would consult with Washington on any projects raising major policy issues.  He noted that his approach has been used in other programs.

 

Gary Christoff noted that all projects are approved at the District level under the Missouri River Mitigation Program.  He suggested eliminating the proposed cost ceiling on the Districts’ approval authority, reserving Division level approval only for those projects that raise policy issues.  Cobb cautioned against recommending too much change for the EMP.  He noted that the recommendation he outlined would be in keeping with the Continuing Authorities Programs.  Cobb said he was unfamiliar with the approval authorities under the Missouri River Mitigation Program.

 

EMP-CC members agreed that the RTC should recommend expanded delegated authority, as outlined by Cobb—i.e., projects under $5 million that use standard practices approved at the District level and all other projects approved by MVD, with the understanding that MVD will consult as needed with Headquarters.  Later in the EMP-CC meeting, the discussion returned to the delegated authority issue.  Cobb suggested that there was no reason to wait for the RTC to pursue this administrative change.  He indicated that MVD will advance the delegated authority recommendation prior to completion of the RTC.  It was agreed that Corps staff would prepare information concerning the potential implications of this change and that the RTC would describe the status of the Division’s recommendation at the time the RTC is submitted.

 

Potential Conclusions and Recommendations

 

Perk explained that MVR and UMRBA staff prepared a list of potential conclusions and recommendations for the EMP RTC.  He emphasized that the list is based largely on input from previous RTC workshops and EMP-CC meetings and is intended to catalyze discussion regarding major ideas.  Various EMP-CC members offered the following specific suggestions concerning the list:

 

·      Eliminate the reference to baseline funding in the conclusion regarding the challenges associated with funding fluctuations, but retain a discussion of the value of funding stability to the program.

·      Add a conclusion stating that the EMP could effectively and efficiently utilize full funding to meet program objectives.  Eliminate the recommendation concerning the program’s capabilities.

·      Modify the conclusion statement regarding the EMP’s record of accomplishment to emphasize the program’s significant contribution to the environmental sustainability of the UMRS.

·      Use language from the HNA report in the conclusion describing the assessment in order to clearly communicate that the HNA is one of the tools used for HREP planning.  Eliminate the term “iteration” in referring to the initial HNA.  “Version” was suggested as an alternate term.

·      Several questions were raised concerning the conclusion and recommendation related to extending 100 percent federal funding to HREPs on all federally owned lands.  Among these questions were the states’ willingness to operate and maintain projects on Corps lands, the appropriateness of using EMP appropriations to build projects that reasonably fall within Park Service and Forest Service missions, the potential perception that expanding 100 percent federal projects represents a diminution of the states’ commitment to the EMP, the extent of UMR land holdings by other federal agencies, and the relationship between such a recommendation in the RTC and the Navigation Study’s potential restoration recommendations.  It was agreed that Corps staff would further explore the potential for recommending such an expansion as part of the RTC.  This will include coordinating within the Corps, communicating with other potentially affected federal agencies, and assembling information on the potential number and types of projects under such an approach.

·      Modify the conclusion concerning the Fish and Wildlife Service’s O&M capacity to clarify that the issue is the Service’s ability to fund O&M of HREPs on its refuges.

·      Modify the conclusion regarding the LTRMP’s status among monitoring programs to describe it as “one of the most consistent, comprehensive….”

·      Consider adding a conclusion focusing on the importance of analysis work within the LTRMP.  Leslie Holland-Bartels agreed to draft such a conclusion for the committee’s consideration.  It was agreed that the RTC should not recommend increased funding for analysis, given that the partnership has always had the option of allocating more funding toward this work and has elected not to do so. 

·      Develop specific legislative language to accompany the RTC recommendation to permit NGOs as cost-share partners for HREPs.

·      As needed, rework the conclusion and recommendation concerning delegated authority to reflect the status of the issue at the time the RTC is submitted.  MVD will be recommending additional delegated authority for the Districts and the Division in advance of the RTC.

 

Perk asked EMP-CC members to provide him with any more detailed, written comments concerning the potential conclusions and recommendations by June 13.  He explained that he would use those comments as well as today’s discussion to prepare a revised version of the RTC conclusions and recommendations for the partners’ review by mid-July.

 

At this point in the meeting, Steve Cobb departed.  Charlie Wooley chaired the remainder of the meeting.

 

Long Term Resource Monitoring Program

 

Overview of FY 03 Analysis Effort

 

Leslie Holland-Bartels noted that the FY 03 analysis effort was initiated in anticipation of continued funding reductions.  However, she emphasized that the analyses are providing information needed to inform decisions about program priorities under either increasing or decreasing funding scenarios.  The equivalent of 24 staff years is being devoted to the FY 03 analysis.  Holland-Bartels offered a brief summary of the results so far, while encouraging EMP-CC members and others to contact field station leaders and discipline specialists directly for more detailed information concerning any of the analyses.

 

Based on the results so far, Holland-Bartels said there appears to be potential for additional monitoring refinements that would increase efficiency.  At the same time, however, it may be that there are some elements of current monitoring that should be expanded.  Overall, Holland-Bartels said the results of the FY 03 analyses confirm the soundness of previous refinements to the monitoring program.  Even if program resources were to increase substantially, USGS would not favor revisiting those decisions.  However, she said further analyses are required before USGS would be prepared to consider any additional refinements.  Holland-Bartels described some of the nuances between data from different pools.  For instance, while there is certainly some clustering in vegetation data on the upper pools, there are also distinct differences, with Pools 4, 5, and 8 having a fair amount of commonality, and Pools 7, 12, 11, and 13 each appearing to be rather distinct.  Holland-Bartels said USGS would be reluctant to reduce the monitoring program’s spatial coverage unless fiscal constraints demand such an approach.

 

Among the potential monitoring refinements under evaluation, USGS and Missouri DOC are looking at reducing the Open River field station’s water quality monitoring effort and substituting data from USGS’s nearby National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN) station.  Preliminary analyses show strong correlations between the data from the LTRMP monitoring and the NASQAN station.  The two agencies are also attempting to develop a better metric of invertebrate health for use on the Open River. The current protocol in not well suited for the Open River, where it yields many samples with no invertebrates.

 

FY 04 Work Planning

 

Holland-Bartels explained that USGS has implemented a process for gathering input regarding the future LTRMP, in anticipation of increased resources in FY 04.  She distributed handouts describing the process.  Ad hoc teams will focus on specific areas previously identified as priorities, including LTRMP analyses and science planning.  Staff will also be available to help develop problem statements regarding other topics or issues that people want to raise for discussion.  In addition, USGS has issued a call for more focused and detailed project pre-proposals.  These pre-proposals are to be submitted through specified points of contact.  Holland-Bartels expressed optimism that this more structured approach will be helpful in organizing input regarding the FY 04 program.  She noted that this approach will put responsibility on technical staff to fully scope a potential work item and detail its anticipated contributions. 

 

Highlights from the FY 03 Analyses

 

According to Holland-Bartels, the analysis work and development of the individual component reports is all on schedule.  She briefly described some of the highlights from the ongoing efforts: 

 

·      Outpool sampling shows fisheries data from Pool 3 and Upper Pool 4 tend to cluster with data from Pools 19 and 20, with a predominance of emerald shiner in all of these areas.  The explanation for this is unclear.  One hypothesis is that the similarity in fish communities is a legacy of industrial pollutants in these pools.

·      LTRMP analysis has revealed a relationship between water level fluctuation and submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV).  Fluctuations of more than 0.5 meters appear to inhibit SAV, raising obvious questions about the potential benefits of managing the system to reduce such fluctuations.  This analysis employed existing aerial photography in a new way.

·      Outpool sampling has proven to be a valuable reconnaissance tool, but is not helpful in determining the reasons for what is observed.  USGS recommends retaining outpool sampling as a tool, while looking for other methods to gain insight into the portions of the system that are not covered by trend pool monitoring.

·      For most years, LTRMP data reveal a negative correlation between SAV abundance and turbidity levels.  However, this was not the case in 2000, a year characterized by rapid, storm-driven spikes in turbidity that were relatively short in duration.  This observation suggests the hypothesis that plants may be able to withstand elevated turbidity as long as it is brief. 

·      Comparison of wild celery modeling results with aerial photography data shows the model to be a relatively good predictor of actual vegetation patterns.

·      Stratified random sampling has allowed the LTRMP to detect changes resulting from HREPs.  For example, vegetation monitoring detected a positive response in SAV to island construction in Pool 8.

·      Monitoring revealed a dramatic shift in fish community structure in 1994.  Specifically, there was a significant influx of juvenile fish produced during the 1993 flood.  However, the duration of this effect appears to be somewhat species-dependent.  The “benefit” of the flood was relatively short-lived for bluegill, somewhat longer lasting for largemouth bass, and even more enduring for carp.

·      The water quality effects of tributary inflows are extensive and persistent.  This is a phenomenon that would not have been captured without the shift to stratified random sampling within trend pools.

·      LTRMP data would appear to suggest that there is a trend toward autumn nitrogen application.  However, longer term hydrologic data suggest that this pattern may be related to discharge, rather than to changes in application practices.  LTRMP staff are further evaluating the relevant data, including data from USGS NASQAN stations.

·      Over 66 percent of the sites found to have zebra mussels were in the lower third of the pools sampled.  This is not particularly surprising, given the zebra mussel’s life cycle, but it may have implications for water management (i.e., is there a way to reduce settling of veligers?) and for mussel relocation efforts.

·      LTRMP macroinvertebrate data, combined with Fish and Wildlife waterfowl data, shows a correlation between fingernail clams populations and diving duck numbers.

 

Data Access

 

Holland-Bartels reported that efforts to improve access to data and insights from the LTRMP are continuing in FY 03.  A newly developed web browser for the fish data allows users to access current as well as historical data, develop their own queries, and download and print results.  It is possible that similar browsers could be developed for the other LTRMP data.  LTRMP staff are also developing a master database of life history characteristics for fish that will include more than 130 parameters.  Holland-Bartels said this is a major effort, but emphasized that it should be a very useful tool for habitat analysis.  Staff are also developing a field guide to exotic fish species found in the UMRS.

 

A-Team Report

 

Tom Boland reported that the A-Team’s April 23 meeting included a presentation on the analysis results.  Boland said results support the A-Team members’ belief that the core program is producing good information.  He emphasized the importance of collecting annual data, warning that important events and changes can occur quickly.  Boland called for an approach that allows the program both to collect and analyze information continuously, rather than reducing monitoring efforts periodically to allow data to be analyzed.

 

Boland briefly described the A-Team’s discussions at its meeting, noting that several members cautioned against making too many changes in the pursuit of efficiency.  There is particular concern that too many changes could risk the comparability of the LTRMP data over time.  However, members also recognized the need to retain flexibility in the program.  Boland said the A-Team’s July 23 meeting will focus on the LTRMP’s FY 04 work plan.  He expressed optimism regarding the program’s potential under increased funding.

 

Charlie Wooley asked about the LTRMP’s ability to track ruffe, if this exotic fish moves from the Great Lakes to the UMRS.  Boland said the LTRMP would not capture such an event with its baseline monitoring program, noting that none of the trend pools is near the Chicago areas.  Boland emphasized that the threats posed by exotics illustrate why the LTRMP needs sufficient resources to permit targeted monitoring in addition to the baseline effort.

 

Gretchen Benjamin asked about the relationship between the USGS’s Science Planning Process and the call for FY 04 proposals.  Boland said he was not sure of the relationship, and stressed the importance of not going back every few years and reinventing the program.  He expressed concern with the states’ capacity to participate in the ad hoc teams.  Marvin Hubbell said that development of the FY 04 scopes of work and the Science Planning Process will proceed on parallel paths.  He expressed confidence that there will be an opportunity to coordinate between the two efforts prior to implementation of the FY 04 work plan.  Benjamin questioned whether the two efforts might be redundant.  Chuck Theiling said the process of clearly establishing the program’s research objectives should prove helpful.

 

Dick Steinbach said he has appreciated Boland’s leadership of the A-Team during difficult times for the LTRMP.  Boland announced that John Sullivan will become the next A-Team chair.  This change will take place sometime in the fall or winter. 

 

Roger Perk announced that Marvin Hubbell, formerly with Illinois DNR, has joined the Rock Island District as the Corps’ new LTRMP coordinator.

 

HREP Planning and Sequencing

 

Roger Perk described the new draft HREP Planning and Sequencing Framework, explaining that he revised the May 2000 draft based on partner comments and interim developments, such as the pool planning efforts.  Perk emphasized that ecological merits will remain the most important consideration under the new process.  As with the May 2000 version, the revised framework is designed to provide structure for HREP planning while retaining the flexibility needed for the program to be effective. 

 

Perk reviewed the basic goals of the process, which include ensuring that HREPs address UMRS ecological needs at multiple scales, enhancing public understanding of project planning and selection, and retaining program flexibility.  The framework provides for a four stage process after development of project fact sheets.  Perk stressed that the Stage 1 District Ecological Evaluation will be based on existing information.  While the new fact sheet format is more detailed than the previous version, people developing a project proposal will only be asked to complete those portions for which information is available.  In response to a question from Jon Duyvejonck, Perk said he anticipates that completed fact sheets will typically be from two to five pages in length.

 

Perk said he would like to keep the size of the Stage II System Ecological Team (SET) to approximately four to six people, if possible.  Perk said he anticipates that the SET will be comprised of experts from this region.  Gretchen Benjamin asked what, specifically, the SET will be reviewing.  Perk said the SET will review the top projects from each District Ecological Team (DET), considering the project fact sheets as well as the DETs’ comments and recommendations.  He emphasized that there will be two-way communication between the SET and the DETs.  If the SET has questions or concerns with a project, it can ask the DET for additional information or suggest refinements to the project.  Perk explained that the MVD Commander will appoint the SET members, with advice from the EMP-CC.  He asked Committee members to provide him with names of potential SET candidates prior to the August EMP-CC meeting.

 

Perk asked the EMP-CC members whether they would like all Committee members to participate on the Stage III Program Planning Team, or whether they would like to name some representatives to the Team.  Gary Christoff suggested that having a subset of the EMP-CC on the Program Planning Team would be sufficient.  Steve Johnson expressed reservations about such an approach, suggesting instead that all EMP-CC members should be on the Team.  He proposed that the Team do its work as part of the EMP-CC’s regularly scheduled meetings in the interest of efficiency.

 

Perk requested comments on the revised HREP Planning and Sequencing Framework by June 13.  Based on those comments as well as today’s discussion, Perk will revise the framework, consulting as needed with the program partners, and present a proposed final framework in time for action at the EMP-CC’s August 7 meeting.  Don Powell is in the process of developing a flowchart depicting the process.  Perk said he would provide this flowchart to the EMP-CC prior to the June 13 comment deadline.

 

Dick Steinbach expressed concern that the HREP framework is attempting to fix a nonexistent problem.  He voiced particular reservations about the Stage II System Ecological Evaluation, cautioning that it could impede progress toward program goals.  Steinbach said he anticipates that small, targeted projects will not fare well under the new process.  Instead, he said the process will reward a “Christmas tree” approach toward developing projects that are designed to compete well, rather than to meet pressing ecological needs.  Perk said the SET will be told that they should be looking for projects that address real needs and that small projects should not be precluded from priority.  Perk stressed the importance of maintaining a good dialog between the SET and the DETs.

 

Don Powell encouraged the states to consider how the River Resources Forum (RRF) will relate to this new process, which appears to give the Fish and Wildlife Work Group (FWWG) new authorities that the RRF has not previously granted it.  Barb Naramore recalled that this was a topic of considerable discussion during development of the May 2000 framework.  Those involved concluded that that new process should not alter the relationship between the FWWG and the RRF, or between the Rock Island District’s Fish and Wildlife Interagency Committee, which will serve as MVR’s DET, and its governing River Resources Coordinating Team.  Specific language to that effect was included in the May 2000 framework, and is retained in the revised draft.  Steve Johnson emphasized that the FWWG is a committee of the RRF and that this relationship needs to remain.  He suggested that the flowchart make this relationship clear. 

 

Joyce Collins noted that the framework calls for annual System Ecological Evaluations and asked whether the district evaluations would also be done annually.  She suggested that annual evaluations might be too frequent and recommended modifying the framework to call for evaluations every two years, or on an as needed basis.  Perk said that, as an initial approach, annual evaluations seemed appropriate, in part to reduce the pressure at the district level to identify every possible project during the first round.  He noted that there will be opportunities to modify the process as needed, based on experience.

 

Kevin Szcodronski expressed his appreciation of Perk’s efforts in revising the framework.  Szcodronski said he thinks the new draft strikes a good balance between providing structure and retaining flexibility.  He urged the program partners to implement the new process and learn from experience, rather than trying to perfect it in the abstract before applying it.  Szcodronski expressed his hope that future EMP program managers will exhibit the same flexibility as Perk.


Other Business

 

Barb Naramore announced that the upcoming quarterly meeting schedule includes meetings on August 5-7, 2003 in the Twin Cities and November 18-20, 2003 in La Crosse.  The winter quarterly meetings are tentatively scheduled for February 24-26, 2004 in St. Louis, but the dates and location have not yet been finalized.  EMP-CC business meetings will take place on the third day of each meeting cycle.

 

Kevin Szcodronski announced that he has accepted a new position as Chief of Iowa DNR’s Parks Bureau.  As a result, he will be transitioning out of his duties on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  Szcodronski said he did not yet know exactly how or when these duties would be filled, but said the transition process would likely take place over several months.

 

With no further business, the meeting adjourned at 11:50 a.m.

 

 


EMP-CC Attendance List

May 15, 2003

 

 

Steve Cobb

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

Scott Stuewe

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Kevin Szcodronski

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Steve Johnson

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Gary Christoff

Missouri Department of Conservation

Gretchen Benjamin

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Rich Worthington

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Headquarters

Don Powell

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVP

Roger Perk

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Marvin Hubbell

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Chuck Theiling

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Mike Thompson

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Brian Markert

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Eric Laux

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Kathy Kornberger

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Tim Yager

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3

Jon Duyvejonck

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rock Island Field Office

Joyce Collins

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Tom Boland

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Janet Sternburg

Missouri Department of Conservation

Mike Wells

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Gary Wooten

Natural Resources Conservation Service, Midwest Region

Bill Franz

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5

Larry Shepard

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 7

Holly Stoerker

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Barb Naramore

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association