Minutes of

Environmental Management Program Coordinating Committee

and

Navigation Environmental Coordination Committee

Joint Session

 

November 18, 2009

 

Holiday Inn

Rock Island, Illinois

 

 

Charlie Wooley of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called the meeting to order at 1:30 p.m. on November 18, 2009.  Other EMP-CC and NECC representatives present were Elizabeth Ivy (USACE), Ken Barr (USACE), Rick Nelson (USFWS), Mike Jawson (USGS), Butch Atwood (IL DNR), Rick Mollahan (IL DNR), Bernie Hoyer (IA DNR), Bernie Schonhoff (IA DNR), Tim Schlagenhaft (MN DNR), Janet Sternburg (MO DoC), Jim Fischer (WI DNR), and Bill Franz (US EPA).  A complete list of attendees follows these minutes.

 

Minutes from the August 5, 2009 Joint Session

 

Jim Fischer moved and Janet Sternburg seconded a motion to approve the draft minutes of the August 5, 2009 joint session as written.  The motion carried unanimously.

 

Recap of the November 2, 2009 Mussels Webinar

 

Chuck Theiling summarized the following presentations from the November 2, 2009 EMP-CC/NECC mussels webinar:

 

  • Nate Richards — current status and next steps in developing a mussels database.
  • Jon Duyvejonck — current issues, monitoring, and knowledge of mussels on the UMR, and potential benefits from a mussel community index.
  • Jim Rogala — the need for improved understanding of mussel communities.
  • Steve Zigler — sampling and monitoring designs and results.
  • Chuck Theiling — a mussel impact analysis for a Pool 18 drawdown.
  • Bernie Schonoff — Iowa’s perspective on restoration-related takings issues.

 

Theiling highlighted USGS’ and USACE’s recent research results regarding hydrophysical factors that affect mussel populations and distribution.  The results indicate that 1) mussels congregate in a relatively small area of suitable habitat and 2) extreme environmental conditions seem to determine mussel distribution more than ambient conditions.  Theiling explained that the Corps will continue to study hydrological effects on mussels as a part of its pool level drawdown adaptive management.  Corps staff will observe behavioral patterns during drawdowns and conduct post-drawdown surveys — immediately following drawdowns, as well as at one-year (in shallow areas) and five-year (throughout the pool) increments.  Other areas of focus include propagation and population modeling.

 

Janet Sternburg requested that the Corps address partner concerns regarding the potential effects to mussel populations during a possible Pool 18 drawdown.  She noted that the permitting agencies are often requiring applicants to conduct surveys and move mussels to avoid site-specific impacts, while pool scale drawdowns have the potential for far broader effects.  Jim Fischer said that, while large scale issues should be addressed, site-specific takings from restoration and economic development projects should also be considered.  Ken Barr suggested partners continue to have discussions on mussels issues, especially following the release of the Science Panel’s report on water level management.

 

Butch Atwood suggested that one area for exploration is whether mussel distribution differs between hinge point and dam point control pools.  He noted that hinge point pools are drawn down annually, albeit for a shorter period of time, and said it would be helpful to know whether mussels in these pools distribute themselves differently.  Tim Schlagenhaft asked if the Science Panel is considering the long term influences on mussel populations from water level management, both temporally and spatially.  He also asked whether the Panel plans to study potential correlations between fisheries health and mussel populations.  Fischer recognized the value of the mussels webinar, as well as potential future webinars, for information sharing and involving a broader range of participation than in the typical quarterly meetings.  Joyce Collins stressed the importance of considering impacts, positive and negative, and the population level.

 

Reach Planning

 

Updates from Reach Planning Teams

 

Chuck Theiling stressed that the purpose of reach planning is to select restoration projects that are derived from, and contribute to attaining, partner-endorsed ecosystem goals and objectives.  He reported that the floodplain reach planning teams (RPTs) have established ecosystem goals and objectives, and have discussed how the Corps’ decision support system (DSS) can assist in identifying geomorphic ecosystem objectives, stressors, management actions, and potential projects.  In response to partners’ request at the August 5, 2009 EMP-CC/NECC joint session, Corps staff provided a comparison table of the floodplain reach objectives, which is included in the meeting packet.  Theiling said the teams are now assessing key stressors and drivers related to each objective and identifying potential management actions and areas for project implementation.  The RPTs will then identify and sequence future restoration projects, and prepare floodplain reach plans and project proposals.

 

February 2010 and Beyond

 

Ken Barr acknowledged that the reach planning schedule identified at the August 5, 2009 EMP-CC/NECC joint session may not be feasible, and will need to be revisited later in the discussion.

 

Theiling reported that the Regional Support Team (RST) will complete a spatial analysis of the floodplain reaches to identify the best potential areas to achieve the agreed-upon ecosystem objectives, and will present the results to the RPTs at their next meetings.  These potential restoration areas will be identified in the floodplain reach plans.  Theiling presented the Corps’ DSS and explained how the RPTs will utilize the DSS to support decision making and planning.

 

Bob Clevenstine asked if the Corps has considered mechanisms for receiving public input, specifically from landowners and producers.  Ken Barr suggested that the individual RPTs should be responsible for public outreach in their respective reaches.  Clevenstine said, and Brian Johnson agreed, that involving stakeholders will require substantially more time and resources than the individual RPTs can invest.  Chuck Spitzack asked if the Corps’ typical public meeting approach would adequately meet partners’ requests for public outreach.  Janet Sternburg suggested that partners coordinate with various stakeholder groups — e.g., land trusts, soil and water conservation districts, drainage districts, and commodity groups — as well as staff in other agencies, such as NRCS.

 

In response to a question from Jim Fischer, Theiling explained that the EMP has typically sought public input on a project basis, when identifying and planning HREPs.  Clevenstine said public interest in NESP extends into the floodplains.  He said evening and weekend meetings should be scheduled to accommodate landowners.  Marv Hubbell clarified that EMP and NESP are both authorized to complete restoration projects in floodplains, but EMP has only focused on areas between levees thus far. 

 

Hubbell suggested, and Rick Mollahan concurred, that partners coordinate with landowner representative groups, such as the Farm Bureau, to disseminate programmatic and regional project information and to seek input.  Then when considering individual projects, partners should consult with landowners who are within the immediate area of the project’s proposed site.  Bernie Schonhoff encouraged coordination with drainage districts in the proximity on individual projects.  Tim Schlagenhaft suggested that the Floodplain Restoration System Team (FRST) could serve as a venue to address outreach to private landowners and state and local organizations.  Hank DeHaan stressed the importance of coordinating with floodplain easement programs.  Spitzack and Rick Nelson suggested that partners address these issues in the Corps’ comprehensive outreach strategy for UMRS restoration programs.

 

Ken Barr requested input from partners regarding the timetable for completing the four floodplain reach plans.  Hubbell reported that EMP staff will need to submit new project fact sheets to MVD no later than May 15, 2010, to allow MVD enough time to review and approve the fact sheets before the end of FY 10.  He emphasized his goal of having several HREP fact sheets approved this fiscal year in order to maintain a healthy supply of projects in the pipeline.  Hubbell said he will formally ask the RPTs to consider the 15 SET-endorsed projects in their reach planning, emphasizing his preference for using the reach planning process to inform this next round of EMP fact sheets, but also the need to submit the fact sheets to MVD by mid-May.  Hubbell said if partners have not yet identified priority projects via the reach planning process by May, the EMP will select 4-12 of the SET-endorsed projects to submit to MVD, prioritizing the projects based on their potential to achieve the floodplain objectives.  Joyce Collins offered support for Hubbell’s suggested approach.

 

Collins said the current reach planning schedule is too ambitious.  She said a May 2010 deadline for the RPTs to present their draft floodplain plans to the EMP-CC and NECC is reasonable.  Clevenstine and Sternburg concurred, but encouraged partners to continue proceeding aggressively to ensure the May target is met.  Barr also stressed the need to complete the reach plans and prioritize projects by May to inform NESP’s FY 11 work plan.

 

Applying Reach Plans to Decision Making

 

Theiling said Corps staff continue to refine and upload data to the GIS Decision Support System (DSS) Project Module/HREP database, which can be found at: 
http://umesc-gisdb03.er.usgs.gov/umr/dss.aspx#.  He demonstrated how to search the application by various LTRMP data sets (e.g., fisheries, water quality, vegetation, macroinvertebrates, and land cover), geography, and HREPs.  The database also contains project fact sheets and a summary of projects (including their status, funding, and acres benefited) for each state, congressional district, county, pool, and sub-pool.

 

EMP/NESP Transition Plan

 

Marv Hubbell read the language included in the FY 10 appropriations measure regarding an EMP/NESP transition, as follows:

 

The Corps is directed to complete a plan to transition this project [EMP] to the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) for the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS).  Funding for NESP is dependent on a solution to shortfalls in the Inland Waterway Trust Fund, therefore a transition to NESP is not anticipated in the immediate future.  However, in order to facilitate the eventual transition, while maintaining the Corps’ ecosystem restoration capacity on the UMRS, the Corps is directed to limit planning or construction under this authority to projects that can be completed or readily transferred to NESP within 2 years of NESP receiving sufficient construction funding to support program transition.

 

Hubbell reported that, on October 6, 2009, Corps staff from HQ, MVD, and the three districts agreed to revise the EMP/NESP transition plan that General Walsh submitted to Corps HQ on June 18, 2009.  That version was developed and coordinated with the partnership, and is currently pending at HQ, not having been forwarded to ASA(CW).  Hubbell explained that the revisions will address 1) the obstacles to securing construction funding, including the Inland Waterway Trust fund situation; 2) the importance of returning EMP to a fully functioning program; and 3) how the programmatic compatibilities between EMP and NESP will allow for a seamless transfer of projects.  Hubbell said regional staff are working with HQ staff on the revisions, and will distribute a revised draft transition plan to partners in mid December, prior to its formal transmission to HQ.

 

In response to a question from Todd Strole, Hubbell said there are no current or anticipated EMP HREPs that could not be readily transferred to NESP.  Naramore explained that the two-year completion or transition provision is meant to address Congressional concerns that maintaining a fully functional EMP for now would not present an impediment to the program’s ultimate transition into NESP, assuring NESP is adequately funded at some point in the future.  Hubbell said EMP ecosystem projects will ultimately enhance NESP’s execution capability at transition.

 

Integrated Program Outreach

 

Illinois River Update

 

Rick Mollahan said the biennial Conference on the Management of the Illinois River System was held on October 20-22, 2009.  At the conference, the Illinois River Coordinating Council (IRCC) presented awards to US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn for their contributions on the Illinois River.  Mollahan said discussions throughout the conference centered on Illinois’ water laws, specifically regarding property rights.  He anticipates the IRCC will convene a meeting or workshop dedicated to addressing water law issues.

 

Mollahan reported that the Illinois River Team (IRT) has asked the IRCC to establish an ad hoc Illinois Science Advisory Committee, with a one-year commitment to evaluate the future organization, function, and composition necessary to provide scientific and technical support to the IRCC, the Mississippi River Coordinating Council, and the Ohio/Wabash Rivers Coordinating Council.

 

Janet Sternburg asked how two new councils will coordinate with their respective adjoining states.  Mollahan said he is not aware of a current plan for interstate coordination, but anticipates the councils will discuss possible approaches once they begin meeting.

 

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

 

Jerry Enzler, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium’s Executive Director, described the Museum’s various outreach and education efforts nationally and on the UMR.  Enzler said the Museum will undergo a $40 million expansion to its aquarium, which is scheduled to open next summer.  It will also launch outreach efforts regionally and nationally in the next year, with support from the McKnight Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Sanctuary, Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and the American Electric Power (AEP) Company.  Enzler said he anticipates the outreach will serve about 200,000 people per year.

 

Enzler said the Museum hired the Biodiversity Institute to develop a public communications strategy to support restoration efforts on the entire Mississippi River.  The Institute polled residents along the River corridor to assess their values and knowledge regarding the River.  The results indicate that residents 1) value, but are not passionate about, the River; 2) do not feel responsible for conserving the River; 3) value the River as an economic resource and as a cultural treasure; and 4) support investment to protect the River’s health.  Enzler explained that the Museum can use the results to target messages that will resonate with various stakeholders, so that they will act to protect the River.  The Museum will employ these messages at the Museum, along the River, in a national communications plan, and in reaching out to informed decision makers.  Specific techniques will include information about sustainable agricultural practices, traveling exhibits and kiosks, school curriculum, and other mass communications. 

 

Enzler announced that the Museum and other NGOs, working as the Mississippi River Network (MRN), with funding from the McKnight Foundation, have launched an outreach campaign, Mississippi.  Details on the campaign can be found at:  www.1mississippi.net.  The Network has developed the following three goals:

 

  • We will restore, protect, and reconnect environmentally sensitive lands and will use working lands sustainably on a continental scale.
  • We will reduce water pollution, restore the river as habitat, and improve natural processes and features that can reduce flood damage.
  • We will urge the people of the Mississippi River Watershed and the Nation to treat the Mississippi River as a national treasure to be protected, restored, enjoyed, and sustainably developed, and as a resource that enriches both the economy and the quality of life.

 

Enzler said the Museum is leading the Fishers and Farmers initiative for the UMR.  Its agriculture workgroup is focused on researching potential messages to agriculture interests that would encourage adoption of conservation practices.  Enzler said the workgroup’s efforts include 1) employing a communications audit and analysis in the UMR, 2) convening informal focus groups to assess the effectiveness of various communications strategies, and 3) developing a Guide to Communicating with Farmers and Producers.

 

In response to a question from Tim Schlagenhaft, Enzler said the Mississippi campaign recently launched a River Citizens Program and has several events scheduled in communities along the Mississippi River, beginning with a concert in Dubuque.  In response to a question from Janet Sternburg, Enzler said the public survey summary is not available on the internet, but individuals may contact him to request copies.  Sternburg asked whether Mississippi campaign has been presented to the Mississippi River Commission (MRC).  Enzler said he presented information regarding campaign at a Corps’ planning conference, but has not yet presented to the MRC.  He said the MRN has allocated between $500,000 and $600,000 to messaging efforts.  Enzler said he does not envision that the MRN will invest substantially in paid advertising, but rather in networking and communicating through social media.

 

USACE UMRS Branding Update

 

Kevin Bluhm presented the “Our Mississippi” slogan and its graphic presentation for feedback and possible EMP-CC/NECC endorsement.  In addition, Bluhm shared the Corps’ draft 2009 Fall/Winter UMRS Newsletter for partner review.  He explained that the “Our Mississippi” slogan will be used initially for public outreach regarding the Corps’ UMRS projects and programs, but may be extended to the remainder of the Mississippi River in the future.  Bluhm explained that the Corps views the slogan holistically, throughout the Upper Mississippi River Basin, including tributaries and floodplains.

 

Karen Hagerty suggested that authors of the newsletters include a wide variety of articles that address the full range of accomplishments and efforts within the three Corps’ UMR districts.  Bluhm agreed, and said the Corps’ public outreach team (PORT) anticipates developing quarterly newsletters, and will strive for a representative balance of articles over time.  Individual newsletters, however, may focus on one or two primary areas. 

 

In response to a question from Schlagenhaft, Bluhm asked partners to submit comments on the newsletter to him by November 25.  Bluhm said the Corps plans to print 50,000 copies of the newsletter for distribution along the Mississippi River.  In response to a question from Sternburg, Bluhm said the estimated printing costs are between $0.15 and $0.20 per newsletter.  These estimated costs are lower than previous newsletters, which had fewer and smaller pages.

 

Don Powell asked if the “Our Mississippi” slogan will be used on other Corps’ products, or will be unique to the newsletters.  Bluhm said he expects that the slogan will be used more broadly within the Corps.  In response to a question from Powell, Bluhm said the slogan can be used in several sizes and format variations.  Jon Duyvejonck suggested that the newsletter include activities and information for children.  Jawson asked whether there will be opportunities for partners to contribute to the newsletters through story ideas or draft articles.  Bluhm said the Corps anticipates enhancing its newsletter development process over time, including coordinating content with partners.   Chuck Spitzack stressed the importance of ensuring the newsletters fully reflect the partnership.

 

The EMP-CC and NECC members endorsed the “Our Mississippi” slogan and its graphic presentation.  They also expressed support for the 2009 Fall/Winter UMRS Newsletter, with the understanding that the Corps will make minor revisions based on partner feedback.

 

Barb Naramore suggested that, as the PORT continues drafting UMRS newsletters, they identify a standard quarterly cycle for partner engagement.

 

With no further business, the meeting adjourned at 4:35 p.m.

 


Joint Session Attendance List

November 18, 2009

 

EMP-CC and NECC Members

Elizabeth Ivy

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVD

Ken Barr

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Charles Wooley

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3

Rick Nelson

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, RIFO

Mike Jawson

U.S. Geological Survey, UMESC

Butch Atwood

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Rick Mollahan

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Bernie Hoyer

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

Bill Franz

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5

 

 

Others in Attendance

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

Gary Meden

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Chuck Spitzack

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Marv Hubbell

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Karen Hagerty

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Scott Whitney

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Heather Anderson

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Hank DeHaan

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Leo Keller

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Jim Homann

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Brian Johnson

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Charles Henneken

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Brian Markert

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Kevin Foerster

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UMR Refuge

Rick Frietsche

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UMR Refuge

Jon Duyvejonck

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, RIFO

Bob Clevenstine

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, RIFO

Joyce Collins

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marion Sub-Office

Scott Yess

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UMRCC

Jack Waide

U.S. Geological Survey, UMESC

Barry Johnson

U.S. Geological Survey, UMESC

Rob Middlemis-Brown

U.S. Geological Survey, Iowa

Robert Stout

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

John Curry

Audubon Minnesota

Eric Schenck

Ducks Unlimited

Brad Walker

Izaak Walton League

Jerry Enzler

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

Mark Gorman

Northeast-Midwest Institute

Christine Favilla

Sierra Club, Illinois

Gretchen Benjamin

The Nature Conservancy

Doug Blodgett

The Nature Conservancy

Todd Strole

The Nature Conservancy/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Cynthia Drew

University of Miami Law School

Barb Naramore

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Peg Donnelly

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association/
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5

Dave Hokanson

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Kirsten Mickelsen

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association