LTRMP Partnership Unity Meeting

October 17-18, 2006

Moline, Illinois

 

Meeting Summary

 

 

Attendees:

 

Marv Hubbell

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Hank DeHaan

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Karen Hagerty

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Dick Steinbach

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mark Twain

Bob Clevenstine

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, RIFO

Mike Jawson

U.S. Geological Survey, UMESC

Linda Leake

U.S. Geological Survey, UMESC

Barry Johnson

U.S. Geological Survey, UMESC

Jennie Sauer

U.S. Geological Survey, UMESC

Rob Maher

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

John Chick

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Martin Konrad

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Tim Schlagenhaft

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Walt Popp

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Janet Sternburg

Missouri Department of Conservation (10/18 only)

Terry Dukerschein

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (10/18 only)

Barb Naramore

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

 

Background:

 

This meeting was held in follow-up to discussions at the August 23, 2006 EMP-CC meeting.  At the August meeting, USGS advocated a partner dialogue about the A-Team’s monitoring restoration request, and the state committee members requested a partnership effort to refine the LTRMP Additional Program Element (APE) selection process for FY 08 and 09.  Based on subsequent discussions among the partners, the agenda for this meeting was ultimately set to include questions related to the overall health of the LTRMP partnership, the role of additional monitoring, APE refinement, and future LTRMP goals and objectives.  Participants were selected by the Corps and USGS, with the objective of involving a cross-section of participants from the key partner agencies.  As agreed at the outset of the meeting, these notes summarize major discussion points and recommendations and will serve in lieu of more detailed meeting minutes. 

 

Health of the Partnership:

 

Participants were asked to describe their agency’s role relative to the LTRMP.  The following major points were made:

 

USGS — science leader for the program; implements program in partnership with the USACE and others; responsible for day-to-day management and execution; concerned with understanding how the UMRS works in order to help resource managers

 

USACE — ultimately accountable for the health and implementation of both major EMP components—i.e., the LTRMP and HREPs; striving for as much integration between the two components as possible; committed to a partnership approach for the strength and effectiveness of the program

 

USFWS — a customer for LTRMP information; uncertain whether the Service should participate on the A-Team due to the group’s primary focus on administrative and implementation matters; does want to be involved in addressing questions of science and priorities—e.g., APE selection process

 

States — established and operate the six monitoring stations; execute the LTRMP monitoring strategy; the states’ science, research, and management expertise on the UMRS can benefit the LTRMP; states are players in helping set management goals and objectives and then prioritizing and ensuring that efforts are directed to those goals and objectives

 

A-Team — technical advisors; striving to ensure that the LTRMP work supports the partners’ information needs

 

The general consensus was that the health of the partnership is good but, like all relationships, needs continual attention.  Several specific suggestions were made for enhancing the partnership.  Those included the following:

1.      Increase the interaction between the USGS component specialists and the field stations

2.      Increase the A-Team’s focus on scientific and technical questions, reducing the emphasis on administrative, budget, and implementation details—specific suggestions include:

a.       dedicating some A-Team meetings specifically to administrative issues and others to science question;

b.      restoring the UMESC/field station conference calls to address detailed implementation questions;

c.       recognizing that there are day-to-day administrative issues that USGS, as the LTRMP’s administrative agency, will address unilaterally, or in consultation with USACE and/or individual field stations;

d.      having component specialists make presentations at A-Team meetings,

e.       including presentations on APE projects at A-Team meetings;

f.        ensuring that A-Team members bring a broad perspective to their deliberations and consider the full range of science issues (e.g., not just fisheries); and/or

g.       finding alternate ways of handling some of the administrative matters that have been consuming the A-Team’s time

3.      Ask the A-Team or a work group to identify specific steps and approaches to refocus the A-Team.

4.      Ensure that EMP-CC meetings are designed to allow for substantive discussion in addition to status reports; among other things, this requires appropriate briefing materials in advance of meetings; and consider whether the EMP-CC needs to make adjustments to accommodate the A-Team’s refocusing

 

Role of Additional Monitoring:

 

The A-Team’s pending proposal to restore selected monitoring elements (i.e., first period fish monitoring in the lower four field stations and fixed site water quality sampling in Minnesota and Wisconsin) was discussed and the following perspectives were offered:

  1. At recent EMP-CC meetings, the state members had expressed interest in reinstating some of the monitoring eliminated under the 2004 restructuring plan, given that actual funding levels in FY 05 and 06 were above the assumptions in the 2004 restructuring plan.  The A-Team was attempting to respond to this interest in developing its monitoring proposal.
  2. The A-Team does not view its proposal as adding new monitoring to the LTRMP, but rather restoring selected elements of the monitoring program that were eliminated for purely fiscal reasons — i.e., their scientific merit was not at issue when the restructuring plan was developed.
  3. The A-Team does not intend to offer any additional monitoring proposals through FY 09.
  4. The MSP represents the Corps’ baseline commitment to the LTRMP—i.e., the Corps is committed to funding the MSP for FY 07-09, under virtually all EMP funding scenarios.  The Corps is not prepared to add anything to the MSP and thus increase the size of this commitment.
  5. The states share the Corps’ commitment to the baseline monitoring in the MSP.
  6. USGS would prefer to consider the A-Team’s pending monitoring proposal in a broader context.  Specifically:
    1. There could well be other potential monitoring ideas that would merit consideration and a more comprehensive approach to considering monitoring priorities beyond the MSP should be developed.
    2. The pending monitoring proposal is not well-suited to the APE process, particularly given the expectation that the restored monitoring would be continued beyond FY 07.
    3. USGS also has technical questions concerning the A-Team’s monitoring proposal and its effectiveness at meeting the stated objectives.
  7. The FWS questions whether restoring the monitoring elements recommended by the A‑Team is the highest priority for the system.  For example, we have a significant knowledge deficit when it comes to mussels, and that lack of understanding is limiting the HREP program.
  8. While participants articulated diverse perspectives concerning the A-Team’s monitoring proposal and how it should be handled, there was general acknowledgement that, moving forward, it is important to identify the critical questions that should be shaping the LTRMP.

 

Future LTRMP Goals and Objectives:

 

In discussing future LTRMP goals and objectives, the following highlights and points of consensus emerged:

1.      There was general agreement that the four goals in the LTRMP’s 1993 Operating Plan remain relevant and appropriate for the program, but are not sufficiently detailed to guide program implementation.

2.      USGS distinguished between two types of goals — i.e., broad goals for knowledge and understanding of the system that might be set by the public and resource managers v. more specific research goals.

3.      The Corps emphasized that understanding and knowledge from the pending Status and Trends Report and other sources will help refine the LTRMP’s goals and objectives.  The Corps is not recommending an entirely new goals and objective process, but rather revisiting and refining based on what we have learned.

 

Refining the APE Process for FY 08 and 09:

 

The group concurred with the state EMP-CC members’ recommendation from August that there are two general ways in which the APE process should be refined — i.e., 1) increase the transparency of the process and the A-Team’s involvement and 2) define the themes and questions that will guide the process in FY 08 and 09.  Within those general conclusions, a variety of perspectives and recommendations emerged, as described below.

 

Increasing Transparency

  1. The A-Team Chair participated on the recent Corps/USGS conference call to discuss the final FY 07 APE selections.  Because the LTRMP’s FY 07 funding allocation is not yet known, the agencies were limited to establishing priorities, rather than actually making the final selections.  Project proposals were placed in one of three priority tiers.  The A-Team Chair reported that observing the discussion was very helpful and certainly increased the transparency surrounding the project selections. 
  2. In the FY 08 process, there will be two important measures to increase transparency:
    1. Prior to the August A-Team meeting, the A-Team members, Corps, and USGS will all exchange their scientific/substantive rankings of the APE proposals at the same time.
    2. As was done just recently for FY 07, the A-Team Chair will again observe the Corps/USGS deliberations concerning final project selections, at which point administrative considerations will come into play along with the partners’ substantive rankings.
    3. If letters of intent (LOIs) are requested again next year early in the process, the expectation is that the partners would also exchange their rankings of the letters.  However, with the effort to better focus proposals through more detailed questions, the LOI step may be eliminated.  The approach on this remains to be determined.
  3. The objective is to increase the transparency of the APE process, not to guarantee complete alignment of all partner priorities. 

 

Improved Focusing Questions

  1. Participants discussed the trade-offs between fostering creativity within the scientific community and using more focused questions to ensure that the APEs address LTRMP priorities.  There was reluctance to develop a highly prescriptive RFP that would essentially dictate a scope of work for APEs, and there was equal concern with simply leaving it to scientists to propose projects along broad themes.  Instead, there was general, though not necessarily unanimous, consensus that articulating more specific, answerable questions to guide the development of APE proposals would be beneficial.  There was also general, but not necessarily unanimous, agreement that the APE questions should address concerns of resource managers and/or critical science questions.  Participants stressed that previous efforts, including the Science Planning Process, could help inform the development of these questions.
  2. Options for preserving some flexibility in combination with the improved focusing questions were discussed.  Of note, participants expressed interest in possibly allowing a small a portion of the APE allocation to be used for promising, innovative projects that are not directly responsive to the priority questions.  The terms under which such proposals would compete for APE funding would need to be determined.
  3. Participants recommended the following process for developing the focusing questions:
    1. Each EMP-CC member will be asked to identify their state or agency’s top three priority questions, in consultation with their A-Team member and others within their state or agency.  The deadline for this will be November 8 [subsequently changed to November 9].  For those EMP-CC members who submitted questions in follow-up to the October 3 conference call, this is an opportunity to revise or refine those questions if they would like.
    2. In submitting their priority questions, EMP-CC members will be asked to provide additional background information that will help ensure the other partners understand the nature and importance of the questions.  Examples include describing how managers and others will use the information and the question’s relationship to LTRMP goals and objectives.
    3. USGS will then work with the individual EMP-CC members as necessary to refine the questions to ensure that they are posing researchable questions that the LTRMP could reasonably address through APE projects.
    4. USGS, USACE, and the A-Team will be asked to rank the questions, and then there will be an effort to develop a consensus ranking among the three entities.
    5. The results of the rankings will be reported back to the participants in this meeting and then to the EMP-CC at its February meeting.

 

Other

  1. USGS, USACE, and the A-Team Chair will consult regarding recommended documentation for FY 08 APE proposals and the selection criteria that will be employed.
  2. It remains to be determined how best to handle the items formerly placed in the MSP+ category.  The Corps has announced its intention to eliminate this category, but there is an ongoing need to fund several of these items (e.g., Status and Trends, equipment refreshment, tool development, etc.).  They are different in some respects from projects typically funded as APEs and may not fit well in that category.  In addition to assigning these items to a budget category, a process for determining how funding will be allocated to them must be developed — e.g., if they are in the APE category, will these former MSP+ items go through the same ranking process as the research-oriented APEs?
  3. Under the 2004 restructuring plan, FY 09 is identified as the start-up year for the next LC/LU coverage.  Work in FY 09 would consist primarily of getting ready to secure the necessary air coverage in FY 10, but it would represent an additional funding demand on the program.

 

Strategic Planning for FY 10 and Beyond:

 

In addition to addressing the immediate issues surrounding refinement of the APE process for FY 08 and 09, participants agreed that it will soon be important to initiate LTRMP strategic planning for FY 10 and beyond.  They agreed that this should be deferred until February 2007, in order to complete the more immediate APE refinement work outlined above.  However, in their brief discussion, participants did identify several considerations and questions, including:

  1. Strategic planning for FY 10 and beyond is a critical opportunity for the partners to identify the key questions that should shape the program.  This will be a broader effort than identifying the APE focusing questions for FY 08 and 09 and should entail a comprehensive look at all elements of the LTRMP.
  2. The status of the NESP authorization and its anticipated future will have significant implications for the LTRMP strategic planning process.
  3. What is the appropriate planning increment?  The 2004 restructuring plan covered five years, and this is probably about the right duration.