Minutes of

Environmental Management Program Coordinating Committee

and

Navigation Environmental Coordination Committee

Joint Session

 

November 17, 2010

 

Holiday Inn

Rock Island, Illinois

 

 

Kevin Foerster of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called the meeting to order at 1:04 p.m. on
November 17, 2010.Other EMP-CC and NECC representatives present were Marv Hubbell and Chuck Spitzack (USACE), Mike Jawson (USGS), Butch Atwood (IL DNR), Rick Mollahan (IL DNR), Pat Boddy (IA DNR), Bernie Schonhoff (IA DNR), Tim Schlagenhaft (MN DNR), Janet Sternburg (MO DoC), and Jim Fischer (WI DNR).A complete list of attendees follows these minutes.

 

Minutes from the May 19, 2010 Joint Session

 

Bernie Schonhoff moved and Janet Sternburg seconded a motion to approve the draft minutes of the May 19, 2010 joint session as written.The motion carried unanimously.

 

UMRS as a Nationally Significant Ecosystem

 

Marv Hubbell reported that, on August 17, General Walsh and Colonel McGinley briefed ASA(CW) Jo‑Ellen Darcy on the Mississippi River Basin and the Corpsí UMRS efforts.ASA(CW) Darcy has identified the UMRS as one of ten nationally significant ecosystem for USACE.Hubbell said USACE will highlight its efforts within its nationally significant ecosystems in future budget requests, and will work with other federal agencies to coordinate investment in these systems.

 

Hubbell said MG Walsh presented on the importance of the Mississippi River and its watershed to the region, nation, and world.He discussed the Corpsí activities to enhance the Mississippi River Basin.Major points from his presentation included:

 

         The Mississippi River is the worldís third largest watershed.

         There is a significant need for a comprehensive, sustainable vision for the future of the Mississippi watershed, or ďAmericaís Great River.ĒThe vision should 1) address the watershedís economic, cultural, ecological, and sociological needs in the context of a single interdependent system and 2) serve to connect all Mississippi River stakeholders.

         USACEís mission on the Mississippi River is wide ranging, encompassing 1) reduce flood damage potential; 2) maintain and enhance navigation; 3) protect, restore, and enhance ecosystems; and 4) respond to regional and national emergencies.

 

MG Walsh also briefly noted that NESP could greatly improve the reliability and efficiency of the UMRS navigation system, while also greatly enhancing the environment.

 

Hubbell said COL McGinley focused on the Corpsí ecosystem restoration and navigation programs on the UMRS (i.e., EMP, NESP, and Illinois 519).COL McGinley highlighted Congressí designation of the UMRS, ďas a nationally significant ecosystem and a nationally significant commercial navigation system.ĒBrian Johnson noted that the UMRSís elevated stature in the Corpsí budget will likely have very positive implications for the regionís restoration programs.Johnson said he does not anticipate any significant changes to UMRS appropriations for a few years, but said future USACE budgets will likely give greater weight to programs within these priority ecosystems.He reported that OMB has asked the Corps to submit briefings about the ten ecosystems of national significance.

 

Partners noted a few minor inaccuracies in the August 17 briefing slide related to the UMRSís ecological significance.Hubbell said the Corps would like to work with partners to refine the briefing, particularly in terms of facts included and key messages. In response to a question from Chuck Theiling, Hubbell explained that the Corps would also like to coordinate budgeting efforts with other federal agencies working on the UMRS.

 

Hubbell said COL McGinley emphasized the ecological and economic importance of the UMRS, both regionally and nationally.COL McGinley provided information on how ecosystem restoration programs address the ecological problems that have resulted from the 9-foot navigation project.These problems include island loss and bank erosion.COL McGinley overviewed the EMP, NESP, and Illinois 519 authorities, current efforts, and challenges; NESPís ďbudgetability;Ē and collaboration with other federal authorities.He also recognized the successful Our Mississippi outreach efforts.

 

Johnson invited EMP-CC and NECC members to provide him with any feedback on how best to articulate the programsí key messages and how to describe the regionís multiple-agency efforts.Fischer suggested highlighting UMRBAís Clean Water Act and ecosystem restoration collaboration efforts.Hubbell suggested that District staff provide draft key messages for the FY 12 budget to EMP-CC and NECC for feedback.He also suggested that partners discuss possible ways for other federal agencies to coordinate their budgets and common restoration objectives at the February 16, 2011 EMP-CC/NECC joint session.Sternburg noted that increased attention on EMPís budget will likely create more demand for the program to explain its successes.Hubbell explained that Corps staff are moving away from anecdotal stories of success and are focusing on pre- and post-HREP monitoring results, economics, and recreation, among other things.

 

Reach Planning

 

Final draft UMRS Ecosystem Objectives Report

 

Chuck Theiling noted that, in June 2010, EMP-CC and NECC partners submitted comments on the February 24, 2010 draft UMRS Ecosystem Objectives Report.In January, Corps staff will distribute the final Ecosystem Objectives Report, which will reflect partner comments.The final report will include the four Floodplain Reach Plans as appendices and an adaptive management chapter, which was not included in the February 24 draft.

 

FY 11 EMP and NESP Planning Starts

 

Marv Hubbell reported that EMP will initiate planning on 24 projects in FY 11.He noted that Congressional restrictions on EMP planning and construction new starts in FY 08 and FY 09 significantly constrained the programís execution capabilities.With those restrictions lifted in FY 10, EMP submitted 22 project fact sheets to MVD to replenish the supply of projects in the planning pipeline.EMP plans to submit two additional Illinois River projects to MVD this year.Hubbell reviewed the list of recently approved fact sheets in each District, as follows:

 

         MVP:L&D 3 Fish Passage, Lake Winneshiek, McGregor Lake, Bass Ponds, North and Sturgeon Lakes, Clear Lake, Weaver Bottoms, and Lower Pool 10 Islands and Backwater Complex

         MVR:Turkey River Bottoms Delta and Backwater Complex, Snyder Slough Backwater Complex, Steamboat Island, Boston Bay, Keithsburg Division, and Delair Division.

         MVS:Pool 24 Islands, Harlow Island, Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge, West Alton-Missouri Islands, Piasa/Eagles Nest Islands, and Reds Landing on the UMR; and Godar Refuge and Glades Refuge on the Illinois River.

 

Chuck Spitzack said NESPís FY 11 new starts include Maple Island Complex in the Unimpounded Reach, Lead Island Chute in the Lower Impounded Reach, and Upper Iowa River Delta in the Upper Impounded Reach.Spitzack said the Illinois River Work Group has yet to recommend a new planning start for NESP.

 

In response to a question from Sternburg, Spitzack explained that Corps staff plan to initiate the next cycle of reach planning relatively soon to align with NESPís 4-year Implementation Report to Congress schedule.However, the next iteration of reach planning will likely be much less intensive than the recently completed first cycle.

 

Integrated Program Management

 

Marv Hubbell explained that Corps staff have been discussing ways to integrate EMP and NESP in the long term to increase efficiency by making the two programs more parallel and compatible.This includes increasing cross-program involvement and communication.For example, NESP staff will participate on EMPís HREP Strategic Planning Team.Hubbell said this will help facilitate EMPís and NESPís coordinated implementation.

 

Chuck Spitzack said District staff are also considering ways to align EMPís and NESPís management and implementation to the degree possible.Corps staff will revisit NESPís Program Management Plan (PMP) in an effort to enhance NESPís management structure as it prepares to move from PED to construction.This will include comparison of management differences between EMP and NESP, potentially resulting in PMP modifications.

 

In response to a question from Schlagenhaft, Spitzack said the NESP PMP will not directly relate to the HREP strategic planning effort.However, NESP staff will participate on the HREP Strategic Planning Team in an effort to enhance consistency between the two programs going forward.In response to a suggestion by Janet Sternburg, Spitzack confirmed that Corps staff will address NESPís plans related to LTRMP implementation.In response to a question from Pat Boddy, Spitzack said NESPís PMP will be developed internally, but will be shared with partners for input.Spitzack said the Corps anticipates completing the PMP in about one year.

 

Reach Planning After Action Report

 

Chuck Spitzack explained that Corps staff, in collaboration with EMP and NESP partners, will develop an After Action Report (AAR) for the first cycle of reach planning.The report will address four questions:

 

1)      What was supposed to happen in the first cycle?

2)      What actually happened?

3)      Why did the process occur as it actually did?

4)      What should happen differently in future reach planning iterations?

 

Spitzack said Corps staff will ask the Regional Support Team (RST) and partners to provide input on these questions and will prepare a draft AAR based on those responses.At the February 16, 2011 EMP-CC/NECC joint session, partners will discuss how to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, and clarity of the reach planning process, using the comments received on the four questions.

 

EMP-NESP Transition Plan Update

 

Marv Hubbell said COL McGinley is expected to submit his EMP-NESP Transition Plan to MVD soon.This revised plan, reflecting MVD and Headquarters comments on the May 2010 version, will be made available to EMP and NESP partners at the same time it is transmitted to MVD.Hubbell explained that, while the issues and key messages described in the May version remain largely unchanged, the revised draft will describe EMPís historical successes and the importance of maintaining a fully functional EMP unless and until Congress directs an EMP-NESP transition.In response to a question from Kevin Foerster, Hubbell said he does not have a timeline for Division and HQ action, but believes the higher levels within USACE want to advance the draft Transition Plan to ASA(CW) as soon as possible.

 

WRDA 2007 Project Review Requirements

 

Marshall Plumley discussed the new Corps-wide project review guidance (EC 1165-2-209), which in part implements new review requirements mandated in WRDA 07.The comprehensive guidance applies to all stages of project planning and includes review plans, district quality control (DQC), agency technical review (ATR), Independent External Peer Review (IEPR), planning model quality assurance, and legal and policy compliance review.

 

Plumley explained that review plans are prepared at the District-level and approved by MVD.Review plans are required for all civil works projects and products, but programmatic plans may be developed that comprehensively address individual projects and products.Review plans describe the scope and execution of anticipated review, including DQC, ATR, IEPR, etc., and are be updated as needed.

 

Plumley said DQCs are also required for all civil works products and are an internal review of basic science and engineering products.These are implemented at the home District by staff who are not associated with the projectís development.Documentation of DQC activities is required and reviewed by the projectís ATR Team.

 

Plumley said the ATR is an in-depth review of a projectís analyses and results; consistency with USACE criteria, guidance, procedures, and policy; and clarity of its documentation.An ATR is mandatory for all decision documents.Plumley said ATR Teams consist of Corps staff from external Districts and program areas, and the ATR Team Lead must be located outside of the projectís home Division.All ATR events must be documented in the projectís review plan.Plumley said that, for all decision documents, the ATR Team must coordinate with the Corps Cost Engineering Directory of Expertise (DX).

 

Plumley said the ATR process is continuous throughout a projectís planning stage, but specific ATRs are completed for the projectís feasibility scoping meeting, alternative formulation briefing, and draft and final reports.ATRs are scheduled for a minimum of six to eight weeks.However, less time is typically needed to review the draft and final reports, if no significant changes are made to the projectís design.Total ATR costs typically range from $20,000 to $50,000.

 

Brian Johnson noted that the new project review requirements are applicable to all projects without an approved DPR, regardless of how far advanced they are in planning.Plumley said projects further along in their planning development will obviously be more affected in terms of schedule impact from the new review requirements.

 

Plumley described the IEPR process, which is a review of the technical adequacy of environmental, engineering, and economic evaluations and assumptions by reviewers from outside of USACE.There are two types of IEPRs:

 

         Type I is required for projects that are associated with public safety concerns; significant controversy; a high level of complexity; or significant economic, environmental, and social effects to the nation.

         Type II requires an external safety assurance review (SAR) for hurricane, storm, and flood damage reduction projects.

 

Plumley said IEPR panel members are selected by an identified Outside Eligible Organization using established procedures.Plumley said USACE is requiring IEPRs for all decision documents, unless the Chief of Engineers grants an exemption.No exemptions are available for SARs.According to Plumley, IEPR exemptions will be rare, and only granted if a project shows that it 1) does not trip any of the seven mandatory IEPR triggers, 2) meets all of the exclusion criteria, and 3) will not significantly benefit from undergoing an IEPR.Plumley said IEPRs are typically completed within about 75 days after a Notice to Proceed is issued.However, the time to develop responses to review comments varies among projects.Type I IEPR costs have ranged from about $150,000 to $300,000 thus far, and are shared with the project sponsor.

 

Tim Schlagenhaft noted that review costs will be proportionately quite significant for small projects.Plumley recognized Schlagenhaftís concern, and said review plans for small projects can scaled down to reflect project complexity.In response to a question from Barb Naramore, Plumley said the IEPR is initiated once the AFB is finalized.He explained that the IEPR and public review can occur simultaneously, but the IEPR will still need to consider public comments.

 

Janet Sternburg asked what happens if the IEPR panel and USACE cannot resolve an issue.Plumley explained that the IEPR panelís comments are not binding, but the Corps must respond to each comment and give its rationale for not acting upon any panel recommendations it rejects.An IEPR panelís written review and USACEís responses are made available to the public.Plumley said, so far, issues raised in IEPRs have been relatively easy to resolve.Sternburg asked how IEPR panel members become knowledgeable with the projectís ecological issues since they are external to the region.Plumley explained that IEPR panel members frequently communicate with USACE and USFWS staff within the projectís District to understand the regionís ecological, economic, social, and other issues.Plumley said about 15 to 20 restoration projects have undergone an IEPR thus far, nationally.According to Plumley, IEPRs will have positive effects on major ecosystem restoration projects.He said he anticipates that most EMP and smaller NESP ecosystem restoration projects will not likely require an IEPR.

 

Public Outreach

 

Kevin Bluhm highlighted the Public Outreach Teamís (PORTís) successful first year in publishing Our Mississippi outreach materials, including four editions of its newsletter.Bluhm said the Corps is distributing 30,000 copies of its newsletter and anticipates increasing in distribution over time.The newsletters are shared with a broad range of Mississippi River stakeholders, including UMR state tourism agencies, state and federal field offices, hotels, and so on.

 

Bluhm said the PORT is scheduled to meet in November to discuss its future strategies, including expanding its outreach efforts to new audiences, funding challenges, and employing electronic media.Bluhm also reported that the Corps is seeking to form a UMRS communications network that will include federal, state, and non-governmental partners, with the goal of coordinating and enhancing the Corpsí public outreach efforts on the UMRS.The communications network will include individuals familiar with their respective agencyís or organizationís public outreach efforts.Initially, the PORT intends for this network to focus on the newsletter and developing an Our Mississippi website.Eventually, the network could also be used as a forum to maintain a master calendar of all UMRS conferences, educational events, and other regional meetings, and to develop key messages to help promote UMR programs and projects.

 

Jim Fischer expressed support for the network, especially if the network primarily communicates via email.Bluhm said he will send an invitation to EMP-CC and NECC members and non-governmental stakeholders to identify a representative(s) from their agency or organization to participate in the network.

 

Janet Sternburg asked if the Corps would establish an email listserv for all partners to share information about outreach efforts.Bluhm said the network will initially focus on the newsletter, but said network members may expand their focus.Kim Schneider reiterated that the communications network will be asked to share story ideas for future newsletters.

 

Rick Mollahan moved and Tim Schlagenhaft seconded a motion to adjourn.The motion carried unanimously.With no further business, the meeting adjourned at 3:18 p.m.

 

 

 


Joint Session Attendance List

November 17, 2010

 

EMP-CC and NECC Members

Marv Hubbell

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Chuck Spitzack

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Kevin Foerster

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UMR Refuge

Mike Jawson

U.S. Geological Survey, UMESC

Butch Atwood

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Rick Mollahan

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Pat Boddy

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Bernie Schonhoff

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Tim Schlagenhaft

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Janet Sternburg

Missouri Department of Conservation

Jim Fischer

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

 

 

Others in Attendance

Jeff DeZellar

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVP

Kevin Bluhm

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVP

Don Powell

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVP

David Potter

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVP

Karen Hagerty

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Heather Anderson

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Nate Richards

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Chuck Theiling

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Brian Johnson

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Brian Markert

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Hal Graef

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Charlie Hanneken

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Donovan Henry

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Kat McCain

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Ryan Aylesworth

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3

Bob Clevenstine

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Refuges

Jon Duyvejonck

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, RIFO

Rick Frietsche

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UMR Refuge

Scott Yess

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UMRCC

Barry Johnson

U.S. Geological Survey, UMESC

Robert Stout

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Brad Walker

Izaak Walton League

Nicole Staskowski

JFNew

Tom Boland

MACTEC

Kim Schneider

Schneider Communications

Barb Naramore

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Dave Hokanson

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Nat Kale

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Kirsten Mickelsen

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Peg Donnelly

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association/

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5