Minutes of the

72nd Quarterly Meeting

of the

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

 

November 17, 1999

St. Louis, Missouri

 

 

The meeting was called to order at 9:40 a.m. by Chair Kevin Szcodronski.  The following State Representatives and Federal Liaison Representatives were present:

 

Don Vonnahme

Illinois Representative (IL DNR)

Gary Clark

Illinois Alternate (IL DNR)

Kevin Szcodronski

Iowa Representative (IA DNR)

Jim Hall

Iowa Representative (IA DOT)

Harold Hommes

Iowa Representative (IA Dept. of Agriculture)

Steve Johnson

Minnesota Alternate (MN DNR)

Dick Lambert

Minnesota Alternate (MN DOT)

Jerry Vineyard

Missouri Alternate (MO DNR)

Terry Moe

Wisconsin Alternate (WI DNR)

Michael Lester

Wisconsin Alternate (WI DATCP)

 

Dusty Rhodes

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (MVD)

Matt Kerschbaum

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Region 3)

Bill Franz

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Region 5)

Bob Goodwin

U.S. Department of Transportation (MarAd)

Dave Carvey

U.S. Department of Agriculture (NRCS)

 

Others in attendance:

 

Marvin Hubbell

Illinois DNR

Jim Stark

U.S. Geological Survey (WRD)

Ken Lubinski

U.S. Geological Survey (UMESC)

Gerry Bade

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Tom Keevin

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (MVS)

Jim Harrison

Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission

Jeff Stein

American Rivers

Dan McGuiness

National Audubon Society

Tom Adams

National Audubon Society

Chris Brescia

MARC 2000

Ted Illston

Northeast-Midwest Institute

Tim Sullivan

Mississippi River Basin Alliance

Bill Redding

Sierra Club

Barb Naramore

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Holly Stoerker

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

 

Announcements

 

Steve Johnson announced that Minnesota DNR’s Deputy Commissioner Steve Morse will be replacing Ron Nargang as Minnesota’s first alternate UMRBA representative.  Although Morse was unable to attend the November UMRBA meeting, he is expected to be present at the February 2000 meeting.

 

Michael Lester announced that Chris Spooner has left Governor Thompson’s Office to take a position in Wisconsin’s Department of Commerce.  Terry Moe recommended that a letter of inquiry be sent to Governor Thompson regarding Spooner’s replacement.

 

Meeting Minutes

 

Terry Moe moved and Steve Johnson seconded a motion to approve the minutes of the August 18, 1999 quarterly meeting as drafted. The motion passed by consensus.

 

Executive Director’s Report

 

Holly Stoerker reported that, following the discussions at the August UMRBA meeting, a letter was sent to the Corps’ Mississippi Valley Division describing the states’ concerns regarding the proposed draft charter for a Regional Dredging Team.  At the September 8-9 meeting of the Regional Dredging Team, it was announced that the charter was being tabled based upon comments received from UMRBA and others.  Only two of the upper river states (Iowa and Wisconsin) were represented at the Regional Dredging Team meeting in September.

 

Stoerker announced that the Partnering Agreement between UMRBA and NRCS was executed in October.  Discussions are now underway with both USGS’ Biological Resource Division and Water Resource Division to identify the most appropriate way to pursue an agreement between UMRBA and USGS.  In response to a question from Terry Moe, Stoerker explained that all of the partnering agreements are conceptually alike, although the NRCS document is significantly shorter than the other three.  Dave Carvey noted that the agreement with NRCS incorporates the principles from the 1997 joint Governors’ proclamation.

 

Stoerker reported that at ICWP’s Annual meeting in Pittsburgh, nine interstate water resource organizations signed a Declaration of Partnership, setting forth their commitment to work together.  Stoerker signed on behalf of UMRBA after consulting with fellow ICWP Board member Don Vonnahme. The signatures of additional interstate organizations are being sought.  The Missouri River Basin Association agreed to sign the Declaration at its recent meeting on September 21.  Terry Moe moved and Steve Johnson seconded a motion to endorse the Declaration of Partnership executed by Stoerker. The motion passed unanimously.

 

Stoerker said that her term on the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT) is coming to an end with the transmittal of the Reinvention Committee’s final report.  The report contains recommendations on how EPA can better utilize incentives, including incentives with states. Stoerker observed that her involvement with NACEPT had helped to broaden her perspective and had also provided an opportunity to voice the states’ perspectives on a variety of environmental policy issues.

 

Barb Naramore reported that the UMR Hazardous Spills Group is working with all three Corps districts to establish coordination protocols regarding operation of the locks and dams in the event of a spill. In addition, the Spills Group is seeking to forge stronger linkages between state and federal responders and local responders.  Toward this end, the Spills Group will be cosponsoring workshops with the Tri-State Hazmat Group, which includes local and state emergency managers in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  The workshops will be designed to acquaint local responders with the UMR Spills Plan and the OPA maps.

 

Bob Goodwin commented that the Coast Guard would be a good link to local port groups.  Naramore explained that the Coast Guard is involved in the UMR Spills Group.  Dusty Rhodes offered to help facilitate coordination among the Corps districts if necessary.  Jim Harrison emphasized the value and importance of involving local responders.  He offered the assistance of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission in publicizing the workshops that are being planned.

 

Naramore also reported that the agreement with EPA to continue the OPA work in federal FY 2000 had been signed.  Mary Jackson will be continuing as lead staff on the project.  Keri Simonson has been hired to fill one of two additional project positions.

 

Naramore described some of the current problems associated with acquiring information on threatened and endangered species for OPA maps from state heritage data.  In particular, license agreements with Minnesota and Wisconsin may be cancelled and the Missouri Department of Conservation has decided not to make its data available.  The states have been revisiting their original decisions regarding this data, in part, because of a nationwide effort to centralize access to the data.  The OPA project will attempt to fill any void due to lack of heritage data through a consultation process with resource managers during the map review process.

 

TMDL Guidance

 

Holly Stoerker reported that EPA had published proposed revisions to the regulations governing water quality planning and management.  The sections related to development and implementation of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) appear to be particularly controversial.  The original due date for comments was October 22, 1999; but Congress extended it to January 20, 2000.

 

Stoerker explained that UMRBA staff prepared a discussion paper that identified interstate issues raised by the proposed guidance.  The staff paper was used by the UMRBA Water Quality Task Force to guide discussion during a conference call on September 22.  Based on that discussion and further consultation with Task Force members, UMRBA staff prepared draft comments on the EPA guidance.  The main message of the comments is that the proposed TMDL guidance does not adequately address the unique challenges of interstate waters and that EPA should take a stronger leadership role on such interstate waters.  That leadership should apply not only to TMDLs, but also to the precursors, such as 305(b) assessments and 303(d) listings.

 

Stoerker explained that the UMRBA Water Quality Task Force members had not yet formulated their own agencies’ comments on the EPA guidance.  Therefore it is recommended that UMRBA endorse the draft comments on interstate issues, but allow the Task Force to revisit the comments closer to the January deadline to confirm that they are indeed consistent with the individual states’ comments.  Terry Moe moved and Steve Johnson seconded a motion to endorse the draft comments and pursue the additional Task Force review strategy outlined by Stoerker. 

 

Jerry Vineyard commented that TMDLs developed by adjoining states for border waters should be consistent.  He also noted that the Mississippi River is the border between EPA regions.  Bill Franz offered to look into inter-regional coordination on Mississippi River TMDLs.  Stoerker said that his efforts to facilitate inter-regional coordination would be welcome and that the UMR Water Quality Task Force will likely want to schedule a meeting to discuss TMDLs after the guidance is finalized.

 

Returning to the motion, Kevin Szcodronski asked that UMRBA members be afforded the opportunity to review the comments again before they are submitted, if the Task Force makes significant changes.  The motion passed unanimously.

 

Gulf Hypoxia

 

Barb Naramore indicated that the Integrated Assessment of the causes and consequences of Gulf hypoxia was released in October for public review.  Comments are due December 20, 1999.  Naramore characterized the Integrated Assessment as a generally good summary of the six scientific reports.  In response to criticisms of those scientific reports, the authors of the Integrated Assessment extracted the policy conclusions that were in the six reports and drew upon information from sources other than those used to prepare the original six scientific reports.  According to Naramore, the findings of the Integrated Assessment are generally consistent with the scientific reports. Namely:

 

·       Nitrate from the Mississippi River is the major cause of Gulf hypoxia.

·       Biological impacts of Gulf hypoxia have been demonstrated, but economic impacts have not been.

·       Water quality in the basin is also degraded by nutrients.

·       There is uncertainty regarding how the Gulf will respond to various future scenarios.

·       Reductions in fertilizer use and wetlands restoration are the most promising strategies for addressing Gulf hypoxia.

 

Naramore also noted that the Integrated Assessment identifies a range of monitoring and research needs for adaptive management.

 

Naramore indicated that she was reluctant to draw conclusions about how the states will respond to the Integrated Assessment given their differing perspectives on the scientific and policy issues.  She said that a small invitation-only science review workshop is planned for early December to discuss alternative perspectives on the scientific issues in dispute. Gary Clark said Illinois believes that the science offered in the reports to date has been poor and that there are many inconsistencies remaining.

 

Holly Stoerker indicated that the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force will meet in Chicago on November 18.  UMRBA staff will attend that meeting and continue to offer assistance to the five upper basin states in developing coordinated input to the work of that Task Force.  She explained that, at the request of Bruce Baker of Wisconsin DNR, UMRBA staff has talked with EPA regarding potential roles the UMRBA might play in the development of the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan.  While there are a number of possibilities, it is not recommended that the UMRBA seek to expand the role that it has been performing in helping to identify and articulate the five states’ common perspectives.  An expanded role would be difficult, in part, because an institutional structure for state involvement already exists in the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force and Coordination Committee. Those groups include representatives from more than the five upper states and representatives from state agencies that are not typically involved in the UMRBA.

 

Stoerker commented that it might be difficult to identify consensus state perspectives on many of the issues being addressed by the Task Force.  However, she indicated that UMRBA staff will likely be working with both the five state Hypoxia Task Force members and UMRBA Water Quality Task Force members to develop a joint letter on the Integrated Assessment, in a manner similar to that used in August to develop joint comments on the six science reports.  If this proves to be too challenging, it may be necessary to represent the comments as being from UMRBA only.

 

Stoerker commented that the value of UMRBA’s involvement to date seems to be in promoting internal state coordination as well as interstate coordination.  This is particularly true in states where the Hypoxia Task Force representative is from an agency that does not typically deal directly with water quality issues.  Gary Clark said that UMRBA staff ‘s role in developing comments on the six science reports was very significant and valuable.

 

Biocriteria Demonstration Program

 

Ken Lubinski described the plans that are underway to develop a biocriteria demonstration program on the Upper Mississippi River (UMR).  He explained that the UMR is a good candidate for such a pilot because of the strength of the data sets compiled through the Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP), the existence of interagency coordination networks, and the political visibility of the UMR.  The pilot proposal brings together the LTRMP and EPA, both of which have an interest in biocriteria.  LTRMP’s interest lies in quantifying the six proposed conditions of ecological health and in continuing to analyze the applicability of LTRMP’s data to management decisions.  EPA is interested in demonstrating the value of biocriteria for decision-making and Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) compliance and in developing technical guidance for large rivers generally.

 

Lubinski provided examples of how quantifiable metrics can be used for both assessing river ecological health and for describing conditions related to biocriteria.

 

Lubinski also described the progress and status of the UMR biocriteria pilot, including the informal introductory meetings and the first planning workshop that took place on October 19-21 in LaCrosse.  That workshop included representatives from all five states, EPA, USGS, NRCS, the Corps, and UMRBA.  As a result of the discussions at the workshop, an “idea document” will be developed within the next two months and distributed for review by the participating agencies.  In addition, Phase 1 of the pilot will include efforts to establish reference conditions, review available databases, and identify specific metric options.  In general, Lubinski described the objectives of the Biocriteria Pilot as:

 

·       Evaluate potential metrics

·       Recommend metrics for EPA’s operational use

·       Develop guidance for other large rivers

 

The pilot will cover the UMR main stem and will have an ecological perspective, rather than a focus on only population and community variables.  Lubinski explained that biocriteria will fill a gap in the total array of eco-metrics under development in other programs.  He also commented that the UMRCC’s ecosystem operation and maintenance proposal may be a mechanism for pulling together biocriteria with other eco-metrics, such as the Index of Hydrologic Alteration and the Flood Zone Index.

 

Lubinski concluded by noting that he hopes to use the UMRBA Water Quality Task Force as a means of getting policy level input on the UMR biocriteria project.  Stoerker explained that she would circulate materials directly to the Task Force at the same time that Lubinski is seeking review comments from the technical staff who attended the October workshop.

 

Terry Moe asked how EPA intends to use biocriteria operationally.  Stoerker explained that the state representatives at the workshop expressed an interest in using biocriteria to help them do the assessments required by EPA.  Many states currently use biocriteria for their assessments of small streams, but have no comparable tool for use on large rivers.

 

WRDA Implementation Guidance

 

Dusty Rhodes said that MVD had not yet received any guidance related to implementation of the 1999 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).  However, MVD will be preparing a proposed EMP “management plan” for consideration at the Corps’ Washington level.  That proposal will include recommended ways of addressing both the 1999 WRDA changes to EMP, as well as the administrative changes that were suggested in the Partnership Report to Congress two years ago.

 

Rhodes indicated that there has been no guidance provided on implementing either the UMR Comprehensive Plan provision or the Missouri /Middle Mississippi Rivers Enhancement Project.  Neither of these 1999 WRDA provisions have funding appropriated in FY 2000.  Rhodes noted that often times, implementation guidance is not provided until funding is made available to formulate a Project Management Plan (PMP) for a new authorization.

 

In response to a question regarding the UMR Comprehensive Plan provision, Rhodes said that the authorization language requires completion of the plan within three years of enactment of 1999 WRDA.  However, there is no appropriations amount specifically authorized and there is no funding provided in the FY 2000 appropriations bill.

 

 

Environmental Management Program

 

Barb Naramore reported that, during its meeting yesterday, the EMP Coordinating Committee (EMP-CC) discussed the format of its meetings and the way in which issues are presented and discussed.  It was agreed that, in the future, EMP-CC meetings will be more flexible in duration and will focus primarily on policy issues associated with implementing the EMP.  Originally it was thought that reorienting EMP-CC business might affect the timing and/or content of UMRBA meetings as well.  Naramore noted that this will not be the case.

 

Naramore also reported that the EMP-CC discussed future planning of EMP habitat projects under the newly reauthorized program.  The Corps is seeking to change the basis upon which funding allocations are made to the Districts.  Currently, funding is allocated on the basis of river mile percentage targets.  The Corps will be consulting with the EMP partners to design a project prioritization process that utilizes the Habitat Needs Assessment (HNA) and other factors to provide a stronger science-based decision tool.

 

Adaptive Environmental Assessment

 

Holly Stoerker reported that UMRBA had received a letter from Dan Ray of the McKnight Foundation, requesting that UMRBA advise McKnight on the disposition of the grant that the Foundation had made in September 1998 for the Adaptive Environmental Assessment (AEA) project.  The $225,000 grant was made to St. Mary’s University, contingent upon the provision of matching funds.  With St. Mary’s withdrawal from the project in September 1999, there is no longer an institutional sponsor for AEA.  Stoerker said UMRBA staff has prepared a draft response that suggests Ray consult with Steve Light, who has provided leadership for the AEA project in the past and is now in the process of rescoping the project.  Stoerker also noted that the draft response states that UMRBA’s role in the future of the AEA project is currently unclear.  It is assumed that UMRBA will determine what role, if any, it chooses to play when the project is rescoped.

 

Terry Moe moved and Don Vonnahme seconded a motion to transmit the letter which staff had prepared to Dan Ray.  The motion passed with no objection. 

 

Stoerker explained that UMRBA has been carrying $1,400 of AEA funding in a restricted account for over a year.  That sum was withheld from the model contractor pending acquisition of some data necessary to expand the model to lower river reaches.  Given the uncertainties of the project’s future, that data has not been actively pursued.  Stoerker therefore recommended that UMRBA release the restricted funds, which were originally provided via contributions from the five states.  Jerry Vineyard moved and Mike Lester seconded a motion to release the $1,400 in restricted funds and transfer that amount to the UMRBA general operating account.  The motion carried unanimously.

 

Administrative Issues

 

Holly Stoerker referred to an annotated version of the UMRBA Manual of Personnel Practices and Procedures that staff developed to reflect changes Stoerker recommended when the UMRBA last met in August 1999.  She explained that the revised Manual provides for Project Employees, a category of employment that has actually existed for nearly seven years.  In addition, provisions have been added for annual leave for Project Employees.

 

Chair Kevin Szcodronski explained that Project  Employees will be granted 80 hours of leave per year after having worked for one year.  After three years of service, Project Employees will receive 120 hours of leave per year.  Any unused leave will lapse after one year.  No payment will be made for unused leave when a Project Employee leaves the UMRBA’s employ.

 

Stoerker clarified that the proposed changes to the Manual include an amendment to the top of page six suggested by Jerry Vineyard.  In particular, the first sentence of the third paragraph of Section V.A.2. should read:  “Such leave shall become available in total hours at the beginning of the year.”

 

Steve Johnson moved and Don Vonnahme seconded a motion to approve the annotated changes to the Personnel Manual, as amended.  The motion passed unanimously.

 

Vonnahme then moved that the Personnel Manual be further amended in Section II.A. by adjusting the upper limit of the Executive Secretary’s Salary to $37,000.  He noted that this change would accommodate future salary adjustments for meritorious service.  Steve Johnson seconded the motion, which was then passed unanimously.

 

Holly Stoerker announced that the winter meeting series (GLC, UMRBA, and EMP-CC) will be held February 15-17, 2000 in the Twin Cities.  The spring meetings will be held May 16-18, 2000 in Madison, Wisconsin.  It was agreed that the summer meetings would be scheduled for August 8-10, 2000 in the Quad Cities. 

 

Endangered Species Act Consultation

 

Gerry Bade of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a presentation on the consultation process mandated by Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Federal agencies must ensure that their actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.  Toward that end, the ESA  sets forth requirements for a consultation process with both informal and formal stages.  Bade explained that the ESA consultation process is not a public political process, but rather a scientific one.

 

The formal process begins with preparation of a Biological Assessment (BA)  by the action agency.  The BA includes a description of the project, the listed species in the project area, and the anticipated impacts.  Upon receipt of the BA, the Fish and Wildlife Service has 30 days to evaluate it, requesting more information if necessary.  When the consultation package is complete, the consultation period begins.  During that 90 day period, dialog between the Service and the action agency continues, more information is gathered, impacts are defined and clarified, and reasonable and prudent measures are developed.  Following the consultation period, the Service has 45 days to render its Biological Opinion.  That Opinion includes an analysis of the anticipated impacts, including those which are considered to be direct, indirect, interrelated, interdependent, and cumulative.  It also includes Findings, which may be in one of three categories: no effect, affects species but no jeopardy, or jeopardy of continued existence.

 

The definition of Jeopardy is “an action that reasonably would be expected, directly or indirectly, to appreciably reduce the likelihood of both the survival and recovery of a listed species by reducing the reproduction, numbers, or distribution of that species.”

 

In case of a Jeopardy Finding, the Service must provide reasonable and prudent alternatives that are consistent with the purpose of the action, within the authority of the action agency, and economically and technologically feasible.  They may include measures to offset negative impacts while allowing the project to continue.

 

In case of a No Jeopardy Finding, the Service prepares an Incidental Take Statement that identifies reasonable and prudent measures to minimize harm to the species, which the action agency must implement in order to receive an exemption from the taking provisions of Section 9 of the ESA.

 

If there is a Jeopardy Finding, the action agency has a number of alternatives.  It can:

·       Implement the reasonable and prudent measures identified by the Service

·       Disagree with the Biological Opinion and proceed with the action, thereby risking violation of Section 9 of the ESA

·       Reinitiate consultation by modifying the action

·       Decide not to undertake the action

·       Apply for an exemption from the ESA

 

If an exemption is sought, it is considered by a 7-member panel including the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and Army; the Administrators of NOAA and EPA; the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors; and a member from the affected state appointed by the President.  In response to a question, Bade indicated that he was uncertain how state membership would be handled in a case affecting more than one state.

 

Bade then described the current consultation process on operation and maintenance (O&M) of the Upper Mississippi River 9-foot channel project, the result of which will constitute a baseline for the Navigation Study.  The Corps’ Biological Assessment was delivered to the Service in May 1999.  After additional information was provided in response to Service requests, the 90-day consultation period started in August 1999.  The period was extended by mutual agreement of the two agencies for 30 days.  The Service must therefore deliver its Biological Opinion by January 19, 2000.

 

The interagency consultation team includes representatives from three Corps districts and three Service field offices.  Smaller working groups, which include scientists from other agencies as well, address each of the species being considered, including the bald eagle, Indiana bat, decurrent false aster, fat pocket mussel, Higgins’ Eye Pearly Mussel, winged mapleleaf mussel, pallid sturgeon, and least tern.  However, the least tern is not being directly addressed in the UMR O&M consultation because it is the subject of a separate ongoing consultation for the least tern on the entire river.

 

Tom Keevin of the Corps of Engineers indicated that the Service and the Corps are working through the issues in a cooperative manner, even if they do not always agree.

 

Terry Moe asked what the worst case implication of a Jeopardy Finding may be.  Bade explained that navigation traffic would not be stopped, but the Corps  would need to implement reasonable and prudent measures.  However, Bade emphasized that the negotiations currently underway are designed to try to avoid the jeopardy opinion.

 

In response to a question from Steve Johnson, Bade explained that, if the action agency and the Service agree there is no impact on a listed species, the process does not move into the formal consultation phase.  Johnson noted that two small minnow species are being considered for listing.  Bade indicated that the Corps is preparing its data and, if those species are listed, consultation will be initiated.

 

In response to a question from Barb Naramore, Bade explained that, in preparing its Opinion, the Service considers all factors that may be affecting the future of the species and then evaluates whether the proposed action will have an incremental impact or appreciably reduce the likelihood of the species’ survival.

 

Marv Hubbell asked how the baseline will be used.  Bade explained that whatever reasonable and prudent alternatives are offered will form the baseline for the next consultation.

 

UMRCC Report on Operation and Maintenance of the Natural Resources System

 

Mary Ellen Vollbrecht, UMRCC Chair, described the origins and purpose of the draft report entitled “Operation and Maintenance of the Natural Resources System of the Upper Mississippi River (A River that Works and a Working River).”  She explained that agency biologists are typically asked to evaluate the ecological impacts of various river activities.  Since these impacts are usually negative, UMRCC wanted to develop a unifying positive vision for river resources.  The UMRCC report, authored by Dan McGuiness, is thus considered to be a recommended O&M strategy for the UMR ecosystem.

 

Vollbrecht referred to the table on page 14 of the draft report that summarizes the nine components of the strategy.  She described the major concepts as being:

·       Permanence, magnitude, and institutional framework on par with human uses of the river

·       Mimicking or restoring natural river functions

·       Appropriate level of effort at multiple scales from site-specific to basin scale

 

She explained that the specific targets, such as a 60,000 acre increase in floodplain forest and wetland by 2010, came from data and assessments in other existing reports.  Dave Carvey commented that, while the numerical goals may have been collaboratively derived, there is no scientific basis for them.  Vollbrecht explained that the goals can be revised over time, but that there is significant value in establishing measurable goals and objectives.

 

Dick Lambert asked if UMRCC had considered impacts to the navigation system.  Vollbrecht indicated that would be part of future implementation discussions with others.  Dan McGuiness noted that in the Executive Summary, UMRCC acknowledges that its recommended strategy focuses exclusively on natural resources, yet there is recognition of the need to balance and integrate ecosystem, flood control, and navigation considerations.

 

Vollbrecht said that the report is intended to generate discussion while other decisions are made about the EMP and navigation expansion.  UMRCC welcomes the comments of others, but is not seeking to fundamentally change the report to achieve consensus.  The report is intended to offer only the recommendations of river biologists.  It will be published in final form in the near future.  Vollbrecht explained that UMRCC is not seeking endorsement of the report and understands that the regular decision-making process of management agencies will ultimately determine how and if the strategies in the report are implemented.

 

Referring to the table of agency roles and responsibilities on page 38, Vollbrecht explained that UMRCC carefully considered whether it was appropriate to recommend roles for others and determined that it would do so.  Vollbrecht pointed out that there are two roles identified on the page 38 table for UMRBA: coordination of water quality programs and coordination of erosion control programs at the basin level.  In addition, UMRCC is recommending that UMRBA serve as a forum for discussion and broad consideration of the overall UMRCC report. 

 

Vollbrecht explained what UMRCC had in mind by proposing that UMRBA serve as a forum for coordination of water quality and erosion control.  She said that such a role may include facilitating coordinated agency efforts, being “keeper of the map,” ensuring that some fundamental level of effort is sustained, and fostering information exchange.  With regard to UMRBA’s proposed role as a forum for consideration of the report as a whole, Vollbrecht suggested that UMRBA sponsor a workshop to address the scientific underpinnings of the UMRCC’s recommended goals and/or to identify implementation opportunities and issues.

 

Steve Johnson suggested that UMRCC correct its reference to the AEA on page 34 of the report.  He also questioned the statement on page 36 that “each lead agency or entity recommended in the matrix should, as a next step, adopt an action plan, budget and working schedule to move the strategy forward.”  Gary Clark noted that UMRBA is identified as a “forum,” not a lead agency.  Kevin Szcodronski noted that the UMRBA’s role as a forum is consistent with its past sponsorship of regional conferences and workshops.

 

Jerry Vineyard commented that the report is too narrowly focused because it does not address bluffs, which are a critical feature of the overall river system and are in danger from development pressures.  Kevin Szcodronski and Dan McGuiness explained that UMRCC has traditionally focused on the river and its floodplain, but expanded this report to address basin processes that affect the river and floodplain.  Vineyard noted that bluffs also affect river species such as birds, which depend upon air currents formed by bluffs.

 

Don Vonnahme said that Illinois would not oppose having UMRBA serve as a forum for consideration of the UMRCC report, as long as it does not imply that UMRBA supports all the recommendations in the report.  In particular, Vonnahme indicated that Illinois could not endorse the recommendation for a moratorium on levee construction.  He noted that the states have fought hard for development of the UNET model and are still awaiting  flow frequency curves.  In addition, to withhold consideration of levee permits would be a taking of property rights in Illinois.

 

Dusty Rhodes noted that the UMRCC report identifies the Corps as having a principle role in over half of the strategies recommended in the report.  He indicated that the Corps may have the authority to address most of them, but does not have the funding.  Rhodes emphasized the fact that most of the recommended strategies would require a cost-share partner and urged the UMRCC to consider who would be willing to cost share.

 

Bob Goodwin questioned whether, by use of the term “natural river processes,”  the goal of the UMRCC strategy is to return the river to presettlement conditions.  Szcodronski explained that current conditions and uses impose some constraints on the ability to restore natural conditions.  However, natural functions and processes can be mimicked and restored at different scales within those constraints.  The goal is to understand and mimic presettlement conditions, not replicate them. 

 

Jim Harrison observed that UMRCC sometimes functions as a technical committee to UMRBA because many of the same agencies are represented on both organizations.  As such, he urged UMRBA to consider the UMRCC report as a list of technical committee recommendations regarding natural resources that have admittedly been developed without consideration, as yet, for how they relate to other river uses.  Harrison commented that the timing of the report is good, given the recent reauthorization of the EMP and pending decisions on navigation expansion.  He noted that natural resource needs should be able to be independently defined and addressed.

 

Terry Moe praised the report and acknowledged that some of the recommended strategies may have impacts on navigation or flood control.  However, those impacts should not automatically preclude pursuing natural resource goals, given that the impacts can often be minimized or mitigated. 

 

Dick Lambert requested clarification of the recommendation for a moratorium on levee construction and enforcement of a no-net-loss policy on non-leveed floodplain area.  He noted that acquisition of floodplain lands from willing sellers would be the inevitable result of such a strategy because landowners would be precluded from use of their land.  Dan McGuiness acknowledged that the floodplain recommendations in the report are the most controversial, but that they are intended to call attention to what is a significant problem on the open river, 85% of which is leveed.  From a biological standpoint, the best thing to do is restore floodplain connectivity in this part of the river.

 

Dave Carvey expressed concern about authority and funding issues and raised questions of scale.  He noted that NRCS invests $250 million every two years and the states also invest considerable resources in the watershed.  Additional resources alone are not the answer.  If improvements are to be made, resources must be targeted.  Jeff Stein noted that American Rivers’ Mississippi River Stewardship Initiative offers a means of addressing the water quality and erosion objectives in the UMRCC report.

 

To close the discussion, Szcodronski and Vollbrecht reaffirmed UMRCC’s intent to publish its report with few, if any, changes from the draft.  UMRCC will approach UMRBA in the future regarding the role that UMRBA may wish to play as a forum for consideration of the report. 

 

Other Business

 

Holly Stoerker requested feedback on whether UMRBA representatives would like to follow the same approach used at the February 1999 meeting to review federal agency budget requests and subsequently develop UMRBA testimony.  It was agreed that the process used in the past was helpful and should be followed again at the February 2000 meeting, when the President’s FY 01 budget will be reviewed.

 

With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:05 p.m.