Minutes of

Environmental Management Program Coordinating Committee

and

Navigation Environmental Coordination Committee

Joint Session

 

February 16, 2011

 

Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel

St. Louis, Missouri

 

 

Charlie Wooley of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called the meeting to order at 2:08 p.m. on February 16, 2011.  Other EMP-CC and NECC representatives present were Renee Turner (USACE), Ken Barr (USACE), Mike Jawson (USGS), Butch Atwood (IL DNR), Rick Mollahan (IL DNR), Pat Boddy (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 November 17, 2010 Joint Session

 

Jim Fischer moved and Rick Mollahan seconded a motion to approve the draft minutes of the November 17, 2010 joint session as written.  The motion carried unanimously.

 

Announcements

 

Kevin Foerster announced that the USFWS, NPS, and Mississippi River Trail, Inc. have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to implement the Mississippi River Connections Collaborative.  The agencies met in January in New Orleans.  The Collaborative focuses on increasing public access to the Mississippi River.  Members of the Collaborative plan to connect with MG Walsh soon to explore USACE’s involvement.

 

Reach Planning System Objectives Report

 

Ken Barr reported that USACE has completed the 2009 System Objectives Report, which is available at http://www2.mvr.usace.army.mil/UMRS/NESP/Documents/UMRS%20Ecosystem%20Restoration%20Objectives%202009%20Main%20Report%20(1-20-2011).pdf.  [Note:  Links to the report’s individual appendices are located at the bottom of the main report’s cover page.]  Barr explained that, while the report was completed in January 2011, it is dated 2009 to indicate when a majority of the reach planning workshops took place and to coincide with the 2009 NESP Report to Congress.  Corps staff distributed the final report to partners on January 26, 2011.  Barr noted that the System Objectives Report is a living document, and will be revised as needed.

 

Butch Atwood explained that the Upper Impounded Reach Plan incorrectly states that partners are calling for dam point control to replace hinge point control in Pools 16 and 25.  He said partners are advocating the flexibility to implement either control method, depending on management needs.

 

Tim Schlagenhaft said the state EMP-CC and NECC members are not prepared to endorse the 2009 System Objectives Report.  He said the final report’s distribution on January 26, 2011 did not give partners adequate time for review and internal coordination.  In addition, the Corps did not highlight ways in which the report had changed since the February 2010 version, compounding the difficulty of the short turnaround review.  Rick Mollahan echoed Schlagenhaft’s comments.  He added that the final report’s date of 2009 is confusing and led partners to believe it was an old document.

 

Barr asked how the state EMP-CC and NECC members would like to proceed.  Schlagenhaft emphasized that the System Objectives Report is an important document to partners and should be carefully reviewed.  Schlagenhaft and Fischer requested that Corps staff provide information on how previous partner comments were addressed and how the current report was modified relative to the February 2010 draft.  Barr said Corps staff would distribute a summary of revisions to the EMP-CC and NECC members soon and extend the review period.  Janet Sternburg advised Corps staff to allow at least four weeks for review after distributing the revisions summary in order to provide sufficient time for members to coordinate internally within their respective agencies.

 

Fischer also requested a one-page summary explaining the purpose and function of each reach planning document (i.e., System and Reach Planning Notebook, System Objectives Report, Specialty System Plans, and Reach Plans) and how they relate to each other.  Barr said Corps staff will distribute both items and extend the deadline to submit comments on the System Objectives Report.  [Note:  On March 1, Corps staff sent EMP-CC and NECC members a summary of partner comments on, and the major revisions to, the February 2010 draft System Objectives Report.  And on March 11, Corps staff distributed a two-page summary of the reach planning documents and extended the review for comments to April 8.]

 

Fischer expressed his appreciation for the Corps’ efforts in developing the System Objectives Report.  He said the effort seems to be going in the right direction.  However, Fischer said partners need more time to review the documents.  Boddy agreed and stressed the importance of having a completed system plan prior to initiating future reach planning efforts.

 

Charlie Wooley said EMP-CC and NECC will take up the final System Objectives Report again at their May 18, 2011 joint session.

 

Reach Planning After Action Report

 

Development of After Action Report

 

Chuck Spitzack reported that the Corps’ Regional Support Team (RST) has completed a draft After Action Report (AAR) for the first reach planning cycle.  The report explores the following four questions:  1) what was supposed to happen, 2) what actually happened, 3) why did it happen, and 4) what should be done differently in the future?  Corps staff sent the draft AAR to the EMP-CC and NECC distribution lists on January 26, 2011, and requested any input by February 9.  So far, only Minnesota DNR has submitted comments on the draft AAR.  Spitzack said the RST will revise the System and Reach Planning Notebook to reflect the AAR’s recommendations for improvement.  In response to a question from Karen Hagerty, Spitzack said the September 10, 2008 System and Reach Planning Notebook is current.  He said partners will have an opportunity to comment on any revisions made to the Notebook.

 

Spitzack highlighted the following objectives for the first reach planning iteration:

 

·         Set floodplain and geomorphic reach objectives

·         Identify restoration and system mitigation projects for the next four years

·         Identify learning objectives for the next four years

·         Consider available information about the system, including current system planning initiatives

·         Incorporate already approved EMP and NESP projects

·         Develop a system objectives report and a four-year ecosystem restoration plan

 

In response to a question from Tim Schlagenhaft, Spitzack said a condensed system objectives report was completed in 2009 to accompany NESP’s 2009 Implementation Report to Congress.  He said Corps staff will include an explanation of that condensed report in the summary of reach planning documents that partners requested.

 

Comments on Draft After Action Report

 

In response to a request from Spitzack, Schlagenhaft described Minnesota DNR’s comments on the draft AAR.  Schlagenhaft said Minnesota expected the floodplain reach planning teams (RPTs) to develop restoration plans that 1) reflected the system goals and objectives, 2) identified a prioritized sequence of program neutral restoration projects based on ecological needs, and 3) related directly to the System Objectives Report.  Further, Schlagenhaft said he anticipated the four RPTs would employ a consistent process and yield similar types of products.  The other state EMP-CC and NECC members confirmed that they had similar expectations.

 

Regarding the question of what actually happened in this first iteration, Schlagenhaft said the planning process on the Upper Impounded Reach started well, but became frustrating and confusing for several reasons, including:

 

·         There was a lack of consistency and poor internal communication across Corps districts.  Of particular note, Schlagenhaft observed that each district’s process was different, partners were given conflicting deadlines, and the approach was not program neutral.

·         The Upper Impounded RPT developed conceptual plans for project areas that were overly complex and beyond the scope of traditional fact sheets, causing some partners to ignore the format and consequently miss deadlines.

·         Project managers did not meet and enforce agreed-upon deadlines.  This resulted in new projects being introduced late in the process.

·         The draft System Objectives Report was released with no communication about its relationship to the individual reach plans, and without key Corps staff aware of its distribution.

·         The floodplain reach plans were not clearly tied to the system goals and objectives.

·         The program neutral approach was abandoned and EMP projects and other programmatic efforts (e.g., water level management and floodplain restoration) were not considered.

 

Janet Sternburg noted that the individual RPTs interpreted the RST’s guidelines differently.  However, she recognized the reasoning and importance in lending some flexibility to the RPTs in approaching reach planning.  Ken Barr emphasized that the partners specifically urged flexibility for the RPTs.  Sternburg agreed, but said some sideboards would have been helpful. 

 

Schlagenhaft said the length and complexity of the conceptual project plans for the Upper Impounded Reach appeared more like project proposals.  This created internal issues within his agency.  He also noted that Minnesota DNR staff were disappointed that project ideas for water level management and other programmatic efforts were not considered.

 

Spitzack said he thought partners agreed not to reevaluate EMP and NESP projects and that all projects identified through reach planning would be program neutral.  In response to a question from Marv Hubbell, Schlagenhaft confirmed that Minnesota DNR was expecting the RPTs to use the system goals and objectives to compare projects and ultimately sequence them.  Sternburg said the Unimpounded RPT limited its focus to potential projects that could be implemented in the near-term.  If the RPT had broadened its focus to a longer time horizon, it would have likely selected different projects.  Jeff DeZellar observed that all restoration projects in the Upper Impounded Reach have the potential to address one or more of the reach’s 43 goals and objectives.  Although the projects were ultimately selected based on other factors than goals and objectives, they will still contribute to the river’s ecological needs.  Schlagenhaft agreed that all proposed projects would further some of the ecological goals and objectives, but said these contributions are not clearly articulated. 

 

In response to a question from Hubbell, Fischer explained that the Upper Impounded RPT identified the unique characteristics of, and the scientific data available for, each geomorphic reach.  But the Team did not consider the geomorphic reaches’ ecological needs or measure projects’ potential contributions to goals and objectives.  Fischer acknowledged that having a system plan available would have helped to understand how potential projects would relate to systemic ecological needs.

 

Todd Strole explained that the Unimpounded RPT did make a concerted effort to consider the system goals and objectives.  The RPT identified projects using the reach’s objectives and then selected a mix of projects to address the different ecological needs.  The RPT did not score or rank these projects.

 

Schlagenhaft summarized Minnesota DNR’s perspectives on why the first cycle unfolded as it did.  He said there was an apparent lack of coordination and communication among the Corps districts and EMP and NESP partners.  In addition, the process was changed midway and the meetings were poorly managed.  Sternburg added that the floodplain reaches do not correspond with district boundaries, creating coordination challenges for the RPTs and District Teams (i.e., RRF, RRCT, RRAT) and Sternburg said restoration needs in some geomorphic reaches were not effectively addressed because of this.

 

In response to a question from Karen Hagerty, Spitzack said Corps staff will share all comments received on the draft AAR with partners.

 

Schlagenhaft reviewed Minnesota DNR’s suggestions for improving future reach planning cycles, including:

 

·         Develop and follow a formal, yet concise, written description of the process.  Any modifications should have partner agreement.

·         Utilize professional, or at least neutral, facilitation and agreed-upon meeting rules.  The Teams should use any rules be used consistently throughout the process.

·         Adhere to deadlines and format agreements.

·         Formalize the link between reach plans and system goals and objectives.

·         Ensure consistency and good communication between districts and partners.

 

Regional Support Team’s Draft After Action Report

 

Spitzack reviewed the Regional Support Team’s 17 suggestions for improving future reach planning cycles.  These suggestions are reproduced below verbatim from the draft AAR.  Hubbell noted that work groups may be necessary to address several of these ideas.

 

1.       Refine what is meant by “reach planning.”  One clarification that will be made is that reach planning identifies “subareas,” for restoration not specific projects.

 

2.      Refine explanation of “natural river processes.”  It would be helpful to focus on specific ecosystem processes that have been altered and that we have management opportunity to affect in ecosystem restoration efforts.  It might be enough to say that the vision, goals, and objectives built around the five essential ecosystem characteristics provide a framework for identifying restorations that will improve natural river processes.

 

3.       Continue to develop and refine the UMRS Decision Support System.  Integrate process information with spatial ecosystem structure information and make more accessible.  Use the DSS to support all elements of AEM including documenting ecosystem goals and objectives, the UMRS Conceptual Ecosystem Model, restoration project planning and implementation, monitoring and evaluation, applied research and learning.

 

4.      Further quantify physical/chemical and biological parameters that consistently showed up in Essential Ecosystem Characteristics (EECs)-based conceptual models for use in performance criteria for ecosystem objectives and to identify indicators for monitoring. 

 

Hubbell mentioned that the LTRMP A-Team has an ad hoc group examining physical, chemical, and biological indicators of ecosystem health.  He suggested that partners consider those indicators when addressing this issue.

 

5.      Set more complete performance criteria for objectives, including biota objectives.  Time and availability of information precluded the teams from doing as much as they wanted to in this area.  Setting performance criteria for biota objectives will be especially challenging because of the uncertainty in understanding biological potential.

 

6.      Develop a standard purpose, approach, and format for restoration proposals for subareas.  These are different than project proposals used in the past.  Subarea restoration proposals describe restoration needs, opportunities, and potential outcomes relative to reach objectives.  

 

Pat Boddy urged a practical approach to developing an efficient, effective standard format for restoration proposals.

 

7.       Establish clear sidebars on the Reach Planning Process and scope – for example, restoration efforts are not to impact use of the 9-Foot Channel and assumption of efficient funding over the 4-year cycle.  A step in the planning process should require a definition of constraints on the planning process and scope before starting the next cycle of reach planning. 

 

Hubbell said partners may want to consider expanding the timeframe of reach planning cycles.  He said perhaps partners could revisit the reach planning documents periodically and update them to coincide with NESP’s and EMP’s Reports to Congress.  Spitzack said he would prefer to maintain the current four-year cycle.  Ken Barr acknowledged that the first iteration of reach planning was kept on a tight schedule in anticipation of NESP receiving large-scale construction funding by now.  He recognized that the timeframe was difficult, given that this was the first round of reach planning.  Karen Hagerty also noted that federal and state agencies are dealing with limited staff and budget resources.  She stressed the importance of designing future reach planning cycles in light of funding realities.  Spitzack noted that planning is essential to communicating the potential benefits of EMP and NESP to the Administration and Congress, and ultimately maintaining and increasing support.  Charlie Wooley reiterated Boddy’s earlier comment regarding the need to be pragmatic.

 

8.      Use conceptual models in planning for all reaches.  The value of conceptual models was demonstrated in the first cycle of reach planning.

 

Joyce Collins explained that from a RRAT perspective, which received recommendations from the Lower Impounded, Unimpounded, and Illinois River RPTs, each floodplain RPT used conceptual models differently and to different degrees.  She cautioned that a conceptual model itself can easily become the focus of attention and thus can delay efforts.  Barr said he understands that the Upper Impounded RPT found that conceptual models were helpful.  Boddy suggested that RPTs retain the flexibility to use conceptual models as a tool as needed.  Hubbell suggested that the RST supply a list of available conceptual models to the RPTs.  Jim Fischer mentioned that Appendix A-1 of the System Objectives Report includes the conceptual models used by the Upper Impounded RPT.

 

9.      Define a more uniform planning and decision-making process and acknowledge that some agency bias will be part of the process.  The process should be able to accommodate differences among reaches.  Consider using professional, independent planning facilitation in key meetings in all reaches to insure consistency of process and communication between Reach Planning Teams.   

 

10.   Further refine monitoring of the UMRS ecosystem relative to reach objectives (target future conditions). 

 

11.  Fully address expectations on “what was supposed to happen” in the next round of reach planning.  The size and complexity of the undertaking and limitations in time and resources precluded fully addressing expectations in the first cycle of reach planning. 

 

12.  Address the learning component of reach planning by defining learning objectives and initiatives that will help in addressing uncertainty related to project implementation.  The size and complexity of the undertaking and limitations in time and resources precluded addressing the learning component in the first cycle of reach planning.    

 

13.  Continue to clarify role of Science Panel.  The RST serves a technical leadership role.  The Science Panel provides science-based advice (through the RST) to the project, reach and system scales and conducts special studies as assigned.

 

Hubbell said the A-Team should also be integrated into this processes in order to enhance program neutrality.  Schlagenhaft urged partners to clarify the RST’s role.  He said Minnesota DNR is uncomfortable with how much the RST drove the first iteration of reach planning.

 

14.  Enhance public involvement relating to management of the UMRS.  Reach Planning Teams should be made aware of public perceptions relating to management of the UMRS.  Most of the resource managers involved in the Reach Planning Teams are acutely aware of public perceptions and preferences for condition of the river ecosystem.

 

Janet Sternburg asked if the intention is to involve informed stakeholders and/or the general public.  Spitzack said informed stakeholders would be directly involved in meetings and document review, but suggested employing a broader management strategy for outreach to the general public about reach planning.  Hagerty said the goals of enhanced public involvement need to be clarified.  Bob Clevenstine, noting that the vast majority of the UMRS floodplain is privately owned, urged partners to outreach to private landowners and inform them about potential restoration opportunities.

 

15.  Ensure that the RST is fully functional.  To function as envisioned, RST requires a highly skilled senior river engineer and river ecologist from each district.  RST members need to have the time and funding to meet expectations.  Consideration should also be given to adding the LTRMP project manager and a planning expert to the RST. 

 

Hubbell suggested that one or two representatives from EMP’s planning teams participate on the RST.  Hagerty noted that the RST reported to NESP staff in the first iteration, and suggested that their reporting responsibilities are broadened in the future.  Spitzack agreed and said both EMP and NESP staff should be involved in revising the System and Reach Planning Notebook.

 

16.  Build on inter-reach communication and coordination that was advanced during the first cycle of reach planning.  During the first cycle of planning, Chuck Theiling effectively shared the availability of technical information with all four planning teams.  Efforts among the four Reach Planning Teams to coordinate decision making, on the other hand, was incomplete. This was further complicated by the inter-jurisdictional nature of the floodplain reaches. The RRF, RRCT, and RRAT had not had a history of having to coordinate the overlap of district boundaries and floodplain reach boundaries.

 

Barr suggested that the RST coordinate with the river management teams regarding how best to address the geographic areas of overlap between the district and floodplain reach boundaries.  He noted that the RPTs had intended to coordinate on those overlapping areas, but schedule constraints ultimately did not allow this to happen.  Fischer expressed his support for maintaining the ecologically-based floodplain reach boundaries.  Collins recognized the value in having inter-group coordination.  She said someone needs to be responsible for ensuring that the coordination occurs.  Schlagenhaft noted that the technical-level district teams (i.e., FWIC, FWIG, RRAT Tech, IRWG) may be more appropriate for coordinating on those overlap areas.

 

17.  Ensure institutional arrangements (including new IRWG and IRT) remain active, effective and aligned with the proposed Advisory Panel and are clear on the reach planning process and schedule well in advance of initiating the next 4-year cycle of reach planning.

 

Sternburg recognized that the Corps’ decision support tool was very useful for analyzing potential project areas, although it was only available late in the process.  Fischer agreed, but said the Upper Impounded RPT should have used the tool more to identify potential restoration opportunities.

 

Spitzack said Corps staff will distribute the draft AAR, with revisions to the 17 areas of improvement based on today’s discussion, for partner input soon.

 

Outreach

 

Spitzack reported that the Corps’ Public Outreach Team (PORT) is currently forming an Our Mississippi communications network involving federal and state agency and nongovernmental partners.  This will provide a forum for developing public communications strategies for the UMRS and its watershed.  The network consists of communications specialists.  Spitzack encouraged partners to contact Kevin Bluhm (kevin.w.bluhm@usace.army.mil) if their agency/organization is interested in participating in the network.  Spitzack said the PORT continues to implement Our Mississippi outreach activities, including the newsletter, website, displays, educational programs, etc.  The PORT also would like to develop river briefings for federal, state, and local officials and NGOs in the future.

 

Jim Fischer expressed support for river briefings.  He also reported that the River Resources Forum (RRF) has published its first biennial newsletter, River Connections, which highlights activities related to navigation, ecosystem restoration, recreation, and O&M on the St. Paul District’s portion of the UMR.

 

Other Business

 

To facilitate quarterly meeting efficiency, Ken Barr reported that NECC will convene a webinar on April 7, 2011 to discuss NESP programmatic updates.  Marv Hubbell said HREP district reports and other EMP programmatic updates will be provided in the EMP-CC’s read ahead materials.  This will help allow NECC, EMP-CC/NECC, and EMP-CC meetings to all be held in one day.  Barr said the May quarterly meeting series will be used as a trial run to determine whether all three meetings should continue to be held all on a single day.

 

The upcoming quarterly meeting schedule is as follows:

 

§         May 2011 — Rock Island

o        UMRBA — May 17

o        NECC — May 18 (a.m.)

o        Joint EMP-CC/NECC — May 18 (late a.m./early p.m.)

o        EMP-CC — May 18 (p.m.)

o       Possible IIA or HREP Strategic Planning meeting — May 19 [Note:  Marv Hubbell scheduled an IIA Authors Forum to discuss the IIA issues and schedule on the morning of May 19.]

 

§         August 2011 — Quad Cities

o        UMRBA — August 16

o        EMP-CC — August 17 (a.m.)

o        Joint EMP-CC and NECC — August 17 (if needed)

o        NECC — August 17 (p.m.)

o        Possible IIA or HREP Strategic Plan meeting — August 18

 

§         November 2011 — Quad Cities

o        UMRBA — November 15

o        NECC — November 16 (a.m.)

o        Joint EMP-CC and NECC — November 16 (if needed)

o        EMP-CC — November 16 (p.m.)

o        Possible IIA or HREP Strategic Plan meeting — November 17

 

With no further business, the meeting adjourned at 3:56 p.m.

 

 


Joint Session Attendance List

February 16, 2011

 

EMP-CC and NECC Members

Renee Turner

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVD

Ken Barr

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVR

Charlie Wooley

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3

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

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

Elizabeth Ivy

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVD

Jeff DeZellar

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVP

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

Brian Johnson

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Brian Markert

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

Amanda Oliver

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVS

Kevin Foerster

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UMR Refuge

Bob Clevenstine

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Refuges

Joyce Collins

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

Jon Duyvejonck

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, RIFO

Scott Yess

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UMRCC

Barry Johnson

U.S. Geological Survey, UMESC

Brad Walker

Izaak Walton League

Tom Boland

MACTEC

Todd Strole

The Nature Conservancy

Barb Naramore

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Dave Hokanson

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Kirsten Mickelsen

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association