Minutes of the

71st Quarterly Meeting

of the

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

 

August 18, 1999

Rock Island, Illinois

 

 

The meeting was called to order at 9:10 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)

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)

Ellen Fisher

Wisconsin Alternate (WI DOT)

 

Dusty Rhodes

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (MVD)

John Blankenship

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)

 

Others in attendance:

 

James Johnson

Illinois DOT

Steve Cobb

Corps of Engineers (MVD)

Tom Pullen

Corps of Engineers (MVD)

Don Powell

Corps of Engineers (St. Paul)

Jon Duyvejonck

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/UMRCC

Jim Harrison

Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission

Rory Vose

Resource Studies Center

Paul Werner

American Waterways Operators

Jeff Stein

American Rivers

Tom Edwards

River Rescue

Teri Hawkes Goodmann

Mississippi River Museum

Barb Naramore

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Holly Stoerker

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

 

 

 

Meeting Minutes

 

Steve Johnson noted that some of the information in the portion of the May 19, 1999 meeting minutes describing the Minneapolis Riverfront Plan is inaccurate.  In particular, he explained that there had been some industrial development following completion of the upper terminal, although it was less than city officials had expected.  Dick Lambert also stated that the figure of $750,000 as the city’s subsidy of the annual operating cost of the upper harbor was inaccurate.

 

Johnson offered the following specific recommended revisions to the Minneapolis Riverfront Plan section on page 3 of the May meeting minutes:

 

·       Paragraph 3, last sentence should read “However, fewer industries than expected developed in the area and the river’s navigation use never reached its potential.”

 

·       Paragraph 4, first two sentences should read “The City of Minneapolis subsidizes operation of its own upper harbor terminal, where income does not equal expenditures.  Maximum tonnage through the upper lock has been 3 million tons, with a typical range of 1-1.8 million tons.”

 

·       Paragraph 5, the beginning of the second sentence should read “In part, the decision was based on the city’s expectation that…”

 

Don Vonnahme moved and Steve Johnson seconded approval of the minutes of the May 19, 1999 meeting as corrected.  The motion passed by consensus.

 

Executive Director’s Report

 

Holly Stoerker reported that UMRBA’s proposal had been submitted to EPA for the seventh year of planning and mapping work under the Oil Pollution Act.  Funding is expected to be roughly equivalent to last fiscal year, although there will be a modest amount of unexpended FY 1999 funding that will be carried over as well.

 

Stoerker reported that the Partnering Agreement between UMRBA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has recently been finalized and is pending signature by Charles Whitmore.

 

With regard to UMRBA financial matters, Stoerker noted that the year-end accounts for FY 1999 (ended June 30, 1999) show an annual net income of $10,467.  In contrast, the FY 1999 budget, as adopted, reflected a deficit of $43,600. The difference is a result of the combined effect of lower than expected expenditures and higher than expected revenue.

 

Barb Naramore distributed a summary of the current status of federal FY 2000 appropriations for which the UMRBA provided testimony last spring.  She noted that it is difficult to draw conclusions on many of the agency budgets which, unlike the budget for the Corps of Engineers, do not identify amounts for individual projects.

 

Naramore explained that none of the 13 appropriations bills have yet been finalized.  In general, the House and/or Senate have provided less than the President’s request for projects and programs of interest to the UMRBA.  The exception is the Corps of Engineers’ Navigation Study for which the House has provided $15 million rather than the budget request of $6.7 million.  Teri Goodmann said that the Senate Committee’s Interior appropriations bill includes $1.2 million for the Mississippi River Discovery Center, rather than nothing as the UMRBA staff summary indicates.

 

Mississippi River Discovery Center

 

Teri Goodmann described the history and status of the development of the Mississippi River Discovery project in Dubuque, Iowa.  The $25 million project is a combined effort of the Dubuque County Historical Society’s Mississippi River Museum, the City of Dubuque, and the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce.  A 20-year partnership agreement has been signed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to interpret the refuges and a 5-year agreement has been signed with the Corps of Engineers to interpret the Corps’ work on the river.

 

Goodmann explained that the project includes riverfront amenities funded by the city and a museum discovery center funded largely by private contributions.  The riverfront amenities will include an amphitheater riverwalk, Delta Queen landing, recreational boat marina, and a Heritage Trail linking downtown Dubuque and the riverfront.  The museum discovery center will include a 1.5 acre wetland, aquariums, an old Corps dredge boat, two theaters, a table-top river, and an historic boat collection and workshop.

 

Goodmann described the funding to date, including $12.5 million from private sources, $1 million from the State of Iowa, and $800,000 included in last year’s VA-HUD appropriations bill.  She distributed copies of a recent letter signed by the Governors of the five upper river states, requesting $2 million for the Dubuque project in the FY 2000 Fish and Wildlife Service budget.

 

Steve Johnson asked whether there is coordination between the Dubuque project and the Mississippi River gallery under construction in the new Minnesota Science Museum.  Goodmann explained that Dubuque museum coordinator Jerry Enzler is on the Advisory Committee for the Minnesota museum.  In addition, the two facilities plan to share some traveling exhibits.

 

Water Resources Development Act

 

Holly Stoerker distributed hand-out materials summarizing river-related provisions of the 1999 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), with the actual legislative language attached.  She briefly described the following seven WRDA provisions:

 

§212 —  Establishes a new authority for projects that address both flood damage reduction and ecosystem restoration.  Within 180 days, the Corps is to develop criteria for selecting and rating projects.  WRDA 99 identifies 23 specific projects to be carried out under this new authority. Two are within the UMR five-state area.   The emphasis of the program is on non-structural approaches.  Appropriations are authorized for a five year period, with an evaluation of the program to be submitted to Congress by 2003.

 

§221 —  Allows up to 80 percent of the nonfederal share of enhancement projects cost-shared under Section 906(e) of the 1986 WRDA to be satisfied by in-kind services.

 

§458 —  Authorizes a study of levee damage caused by barge and recreation traffic on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers

 

§459 —  Authorizes development of a systemic flood damage reduction plan.  The effort is often referred to as a “comprehensive plan” because the legislative language identifies a wide range of issues that the plan is to address including flood control, navigation project maintenance, bank erosion, nutrients and sediments, habitat, and recreation.

 

§509 —  Reauthorizes the EMP as a continuing authority with increased authorized appropriations, an increase in the nonfederal cost-share to 35 percent, and establishment of an independent technical advisory committee.

 

§514 —  Authorizes a new program for habitat enhancement and protection on the Middle Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  A plan is due within 180 days of enactment of WRDA 99.  Appropriations are authorized for two years (FY 00-01).

 

§517 —  Directs the Corps to expedite completion of the reports on six projects and proceed to preconstruction engineering and design, if justified.  One of the projects named is the lock extensions at Locks 20, 21, 22, 24,and 25 on the Upper Mississippi River and LaGrange and Peoria Locks on the Illinois River.

 

With regard to the Middle Mississippi and Missouri Rivers provision, Steve Johnson asked if the Corps felt that there was adequate time provided (i.e., 180 days) to develop a plan and then implement projects within the two year funding authorization.  Dusty Rhodes replied that the timeframe seemed ambitious, but that the Corps’ Northwest Division rather than Mississippi Valley Division would likely be taking the lead on that program.  Jeff Stein commented that American Rivers views the program as being primarily for the Missouri River rather than the Mississippi River.  With regard to the Missouri River, Kevin Szcodronski observed that WRDA 99 includes very short timeframes for a number a Missouri River provisions and that they will all be challenging.

 

Steve Johnson asked if there is any expectation that the Challenge 21 Program authorized in §212 will ever get beyond the 23 specific projects identified as priorities in the legislation.  Dusty Rhodes explained that the Corps views the Challenge 21 program as another continuing authority.  As such, implementation will be dependent on the level of funding that is ultimately provided.  He further noted that progress on all WRDA provisions is dependent on appropriations.  In particular, the FY 2000 appropriations bill does not currently include funds for either the Comprehensive Plan (§459) or the Missouri/Middle Mississippi Rivers program (§514).

 

Holly Stoerker referenced an issue paper prepared by UMRBA staff that discusses program coordination needs as a result of new authorities provided in WRDA 1999.  She explained that WRDA authorizes three new programs (Challenge 21, the Missouri/Middle Mississippi Rivers Enhancement Program, and the UMR Comprehensive Plan), all of which raise questions about how they will be coordinated with existing river programs, including the EMP.  In particular, the authorizing language for the Missouri/Middle Mississippi Rivers program directs that the program be integrated with other activities and requires development of a plan and criteria for prioritizing the program’s projects.  In addition, Stoerker noted that there are requirements in the authorizing language for the UMR Comprehensive Plan that the Corps consult with the states and that the plan include recommendations for state, as well as federal, actions.  In light of these provisions and the issues they raise, Stoerker said that the UMRBA may wish to comment on the implementation of these provisions.

 

Don Vonnahme suggested that the UMRBA work closely with the Corps on development of the UMR Comprehensive Plan.  However, he expressed less optimism that there was a particularly compelling reason for the UMRBA to be directly involved in the Missouri/Middle  Mississippi Rivers program because of its apparent focus on the Missouri River.  Jerry Vineyard noted that the program was originally designed exclusively for the Missouri River.  With expansion to include the Middle Mississippi as well, there are now several authorities that can be used on the Middle Mississippi River to address habitat needs.  Vineyard explained that Missouri will be developing a Middle Mississippi River strategy to identify how to best utilize the various programs.

 

Terry Moe commented that the UMRBA has been aware of the potential for creation of these new programs for some time and said the UMRBA’s role seems obvious.  Moe moved and Steve Johnson seconded a motion for the UMRBA continue to monitor the development and implementation of these WRDA 1999 Mississippi River authorities and provide comments to the Corps, as appropriate.  In addition the Corps should be encouraged to utilize the UMRBA as one of its major points of contact and coordination for these programs.  The motion passed unanimously.

 

Kevin Szcodronski requested that the Corps provide a briefing at the November UMRBA meeting on how the agency plans to implement its new WRDA authorities, particularly those on the Upper Mississippi River.  Dusty Rhodes commented that WRDA implementation guidance is expected from headquarters within 2-3 months.  In addition, by the time UMRBA next meets, the FY 2000 appropriations situation should be more clear.  He noted that there is a possibility there may not be an FY 2000 appropriations bill approved by October 1 and thus a continuing resolution will be needed.

 

EMP Update

 

Kevin Szcodronski asked about the current status of the Chief’s Report on the EMP.  Dusty Rhodes said the Chief’s Report is essentially irrelevant now that Congress has reauthorized the program. 

 

Terry Moe requested clarification on the EMP Independent Technical Advisory Committee provided for in WRDA 1999.  Holly Stoerker explained that the $350,000 appropriation, which many have assumed is for the technical advisory committee, is actually referenced to the section of the law authorizing habitat projects (HREPs).  Thus, in reality, HREP funding is authorized for $350,000 in addition to $22.75 million and the technical advisory committee has no funding authorized.  Dusty Rhodes indicated that the Corps would need to clarify the meaning of the provisions, noting his impression was that the $350,000 for the technical advisory committee was intended to come out of the $22.75 million HREP appropriation.  Jeff Stein of American Rivers explained that the original intent was to authorize $350,000 separately for the technical advisory committee.  Terry Moe commented that, at a minimum, the technical advisory committee provision lacks clarity; but it remains to be seen whether it will also be controversial.

 

Barb Naramore provided an update on efforts to restructure the Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP).  She noted that General Anderson had identified three principles upon which restructuring should be based: greater emphasis on data collection, application of savings and slippage to the LTRMP consistent with the way it is applied to other construction account projects, and increased flexibility to respond to budget fluctuations.  Naramore reported that, in a June 9, 1999 memo, Colonel Mudd had transmitted a recommended LTRMP restructuring plan, which General Anderson subsequently approved.  That plan is based upon three assumptions: 3% inflation, 15% savings and slippage, and full funding of $18.955 million annually through FY 02.  The plan involves reducing the funding for field stations by $300,000, which averages $50,000 per station.  The balance of the cuts will be at made at the Science Center (UMESC) and will range between $460,000 (FY00) and $900,000 (FY02).  The full implementation plan is being developed.

 

Naramore noted that the state EMP-CC members sent a letter to General Anderson concurring with Colonel Mudd’s proposed restructuring plan.  She thanked the Corps for their efforts to consult with the state EMP partners concerning the difficult restructuring decisions.

 

Terry Moe indicated that at tomorrow’s EMP-CC meeting, he would like to discuss the implications of reauthorization of the EMP on the LTRMP restructuring decisions.

 

Jerry Vineyard noted that reauthorization of the EMP is a major accomplishment.  He moved and Terry Moe seconded a motion commending the UMRBA staff for their hard work on EMP reauthorization.  The motion passed unanimously.  Holly Stoerker noted that many other individuals and organizations were instrumental as well in getting the EMP reauthorized.

 

American Heritage Rivers Initiative

 

Owen Dutt described the American Heritage Rivers Initiative as a White House initiative with three primary objectives: natural resource and environmental protection, cultural and historic preservation, and economic revitalization.  Of the 120 rivers nominated for designation, 14 were chosen initially.  Each of the rivers has a federal “navigator” to assist communities in identifying resources to accomplish their goals and visions for their river.  The Corps of Engineers is providing navigators for two of the rivers: the New River and the Upper Mississippi River.

 

The UMR designation includes 57 communities from Bemidji, Minnesota to St. Louis, Missouri.  Nineteen of the communities are in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, while twelve are in the Quad Cities area.  Dutt, who has been appointed to serve as the UMR Navigator, is in the process of visiting all the communities to discuss what river-related projects they would like to accomplish.  Then, working with river “pilots” in other federal agencies, Dutt will help to identify federal programs that may be available to assist the communities.  Dutt emphasized that he is a facilitator and does not have any specific funding sources at his disposal.

 

Dutt distributed copies of a chart showing the number of UMR communities that are interested in different types of projects and initiatives.  He noted that communities’ emphasis appears to be on riverfront property and parks, recreation, trails, and open space. Dutt would like to design conferences or workshops to bring together communities that have similar interests in some of these topics.

 

In response to a question regarding how Dutt intends to work with the states, he explained that his initial emphasis has been on visiting each of the 57 communities.  However, as he begins to help those communities make linkages to available resources, Dutt will be working more directly with states, which will likely have resources in addition to those available through federal agencies.

 

Dutt also noted that a number of communities which were not included in the original UMR designation, are now seeking to join the program.  It remains to be seen how the Council on Environmental Quality will handle this issue.

 

Jerry Vineyard indicated that the American Heritage Rivers Initiative (AHRI)  is a good opportunity to develop an urban constituency for the river.  He noted that Missouri DNR is attempting to arrange a meeting between Dutt and Missouri’s Governor.  Terry Moe reported that Wisconsin will not be using a single point of contact for AHRI and asked that Dutt contact him to discuss the Wisconsin strategy in more detail.  Kevin Szcodronski invited Dutt to keep the UMRBA informed about his efforts and consult with the states as the initiative progresses.

 

Gulf Hypoxia

 

Barb Naramore described the development of UMRBA’s comments on the six scientific reports on Gulf hypoxia prepared under the direction of the President’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR).  Those reports, which were released in early May for public comment, address the nature and extent of the hypoxic zone, the environmental and economic effects, sources and loads of nutrients, effects of reducing nutrient loads, methods for reducing nutrient loads, and the costs and benefits of such methods.  Naramore noted that developing joint 5-state comments on the scientific assessments was particularly challenging because it required coordination both within and among the states at the same time that the states were developing their individual comments.  The resulting letter of comment was transmitted on behalf of both the UMRBA and the 5 state members of the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico

Watershed Nutrient Task Force.  Naramore described the following main points of the comment letter:

 

·       The scientific reports make significant contributions to our understanding of the issues, but there are still significant uncertainties regarding impacts, causes, and alternatives for addressing the problem.

·       It is too early to reach conclusions about needed actions.

·       The states and public need to be more involved in evaluating potential action strategies.

 

Naramore also said that much of UMRBA’s comment letter was directed to the future of the process.  In particular it recommends that:

 

·       The Integrated Assessment, which is to be prepared based on the 6 scientific reports, should be open to public review and avoid making policy recommendations.

·       The process for developing the Action Plan should seek consensus, clarify the role of States, engage stakeholders, and consider hypoxia in the broader context of other land and water resource issues.  The Action Plan should also retain local flexibility.

 

Terry Moe thanked Naramore for her efforts on this challenging coordination task.  He commented that it is important for UMRBA to continue to assist in coordinating the five states’ input into the Gulf hypoxia planning process.  Moe noted that Wisconsin’s comments on the six assessments are consistent with those submitted by UMRBA.

 

Tom Pullen indicated that he is the Corps’ representative to the working group which will be developing the Integrated Assessment.  That group will be meeting September 8 to decide how to proceed.  Pullen explained that federal agencies chose not to comment on the six science reports in an effort to keep those reports strictly scientific.  However, he said that would not be the case when it comes time to comment on the Integrated Assessment. 

 

Naramore explained that the Integrated Assessment is expected to be released this fall for public review, with a 60 day comment period.  The tentative schedule for the Action Plan indicates that it will be released for public review in Spring 2000 and submitted to Congress in August 2000.  According to Naramore, most state members of the Hypoxia Task Force are interested in some sort of continued UMRBA assistance as the process unfolds.

 

Tom Edwards asked whether there is anything being done to address the Gulf Hypoxia problem in the interim while the Plan is being developed.  Bill Franz and Tom Pullen explained that there are a number of federal programs already, such as EPA’s Clean Water Action Plan.  Naramore noted that there are also many state programs that may not have originally been designed to specifically address Gulf hypoxia, but which are nevertheless quite effective.  She indicated it is very important to the states that these existing programs be recognized and that their potential contributions to addressing hypoxia be considered in determining future actions.

 

Upper Mississippi River Stewardship Initiative

 

Rory Vose of the Resource Studies Center at St. Mary’s University provided an overview of the Stewardship Initiative being developed in collaboration with American Rivers, NRCS, the University of Minnesota, the Waterways Experiment Station(WES), and USGS.  The Initiative is designed to address the combined problems of sediment and nutrients in the Upper Mississippi River Basin.  According to Vose, drinking water treatment costs, habitat restoration costs, and river dredging costs can all be attributed to excess sediment and nutrients.  Vose described the weaknesses of current approaches to solving nutrient and sediment problems, including a “shotgun” approach to assistance; lack of government flexibility; no measurement of results; minimal coordination of federal, state, and local programs; and little citizen involvement and understanding.

 

Vose described the five components of the proposed Stewardship Initiative, including:

 

·       Coordination using a public-private advisory group, like that existing for the Chesapeake Bay, to increase data sharing capability and communication among government programs.

·       Monitoring that would include both citizen and agency monitoring, an information network, standardized state criteria, and measures of program effectiveness.

·       Research and modeling to evaluate economics and risks, assess benefits to the Mississippi River, and target problem areas.

·       Education and Outreach that would communicate the program’s successes and failures, help increase understanding of problems and solutions, and focus more on the involvement and roles of the individual.

·       Increased Technical Assistance to be achieved by increasing funding of existing programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), targeting that funding, and evaluating its effectiveness.

 

Vose displayed a ten-year budget of $1.152 billion, of which 78% would be for technical assistance. He emphasized that the increased funding for technical assistance would not begin until the third year of the program after the coordination mechanisms had been established and the targeting research accomplished.  He indicated that the next steps which proponents of the Initiative intend to undertake are:

 

·       Define the governance roles, relationships, and structure.

·       Develop detailed scopes of work.

·       Seek agency year-end funds for planning activities.

·       Develop and promote a legislative proposal.

 

Vose noted that the Stewardship Initiative is completely complementary to the EMP.  While the EMP addresses existing habitat problems, the Initiative is designed to address long term solutions to those problems.  In contrast to the on-going work on Gulf hypoxia, he characterized the Stewardship Initiative as being designed specifically to benefit the Upper Mississippi Basin, while recognizing that such work will have downstream benefits as well.

 

Terry Moe asked Vose to clarify who he meant by “we” in his presentation.  Vose explained that he and Barry Drazkowski had authored the proposal in consultation with many others.  With regard to implementation, Vose indicated that it had not yet been determined who would serve on the public/private advisory group, but that he did not anticipate St. Mary’s would be running it.

 

In response to questions concerning which agencies’ budgets would be affected and whether there is cost-sharing anticipated, Jeff Stein of American Rivers explained that those issues had not yet been resolved.  However, it will not fall neatly within any single agency and thus several different agencies will likely be involved and funded.  According to Stein, at this point, there is no specific legislative proposal and members of Congress have simply gotten briefings and are being asked to provide seed money.  In response to a question about where such seed money would come from and where it would go, Stein explained that had not yet been determined.

 

Gary Clark commented that the proposed components of the Stewardship Initiative are not new and are already being done.  For example, for many years, Illinois has been doing mapping, citizen monitoring, technical assistance, and most of the other basic activities outlined in the Initiative.  Clark also questioned whether $900 million for technical assistance is adequate.  He noted that Illinois is spending $500 million on just one portion of the Illinois River watershed.  Vose explained that the cost estimate was made by NRCS and that targeting of the funds should help to spread limited resources further.

 

Tom Pullen commented that the Stewardship Initiative may be a good fit as part of the Action Plan that the Hypoxia Task Force will be developing.

 

Don Vonnahme commented that increased funding would certainly be helpful, but that there were already good programs in place, such as monitoring programs.  Jeff Stein noted that the EMP Long Term Resource Monitoring program only deals with the river mainstem.  Holly Stoerker agreed, but noted that states and the USGS, through such mechanisms as the stream gaging program, conduct monitoring on many tributaries.  Unfortunately these programs suffer from funding shortfalls.

 

Vose explained that he and Drazkowski are trying to meet with as many state agency directors as possible to brief them on the Stewardship Initiative and seek their help and support.  Kevin Szcodronski cautioned that such outreach should recognize many of the state agency leaders have devoted their careers to these issues and will not welcome the message that they have not been doing anything.  Jeff Stein explained that the message of the Stewardship Initiative is not that government agencies are doing nothing, but that more coordination is needed.  Szcodronski suggested that proponents of the Initiative identify what the specific need for and benefit of coordination really are.  What would actually change with enhanced coordination?  What is the added value?  Szcodronski suggested that Vose compare the proposed budget for the Initiative with the total funding for what is already being done through existing programs.

 

Vose explained that it was not his intent to imply that nothing was currently being done to address sediment and nutrients and that, because he had abbreviated his presentation, he may have inadvertently been misunderstood.  Holly Stoerker commented that concerns about the Initiative may not be due to misunderstandings, but rather, to more fundamental problems with taking a top-down approach to solving a problem that has traditionally been locally driven.  She suggested that proponents of the Initiative attempt to better define and evaluate the benefits of coordination on a geographic scale as large as the basin.

 

Mississippi River Regional Dredging Team

 

Holly Stoerker explained that the Corps of Engineers will be forming a Mississippi River Regional Dredging Team.  An initial meeting was convened last December and another is scheduled for September 8-9, 1999 in Memphis.  One of the topics of discussion at that meeting will be a Charter for the Regional Team.  A draft has been circulated by the Corps for review.  Stoerker explained that the Charter defines membership of the Team to include representatives from each of the ten Mississippi River states, as well as five federal agencies.  In addition, specific roles are described for the UMRBA, including membership on the Team's Executive Committee and chair responsibilities for a legislative committee.  Stoerker asked UMRBA members for their views on the need for and value of the Regional Dredging Team and on the potential UMRBA role.

 

Dusty Rhodes explained that the idea for regional dredging teams originally started in coastal areas.  With the formation of a single Corps division for the Mississippi River, the creation of a regional dredging team for the river has been recommended.  Rhodes commented that there are advantages to having all six Mississippi River Corps districts get together to share their experiences with dredging and learn from each other.  The intent is not necessarily to change dredging practices or the way dredging decisions are currently being made.  Rhodes explained that he felt it was important for Corps operations staff to develop more direct working relationships with state agencies and the environmental community.

 

Holly Stoerker noted that the draft Charter for the Mississippi River Regional Dredging Team is modeled after the Charter that is in effect for the Great Lakes Team.  She commented that the Great Lakes, however, is different from the Mississippi River, both with regard to the types of dredging issues and problems and the interagency forums currently in use.  In particular, on the Mississippi River, there are at least two district-level channel maintenance interagency teams that have existed for many years and are considered to be quite successful.

 

Don Vonnahme explained that one of the driving forces for creation of the Great Lakes Team was the desire for additional funding for recreational harbors.  He noted that on the Mississippi River there are substantial differences between the upper and lower river in terms of dredging needs and techniques.  In addition, there may not need to be such a formal structure because of the existence of the district-level teams. 

 

Rhodes indicated that regional dredging teams are pretty standard and should not be viewed as threatening existing successful working relationships.  They are intended to simply be forums for education and communication.  He explained that the Corps district staff will be using the Regional Dredging Team approach to coordinate internally and they simply felt that non-Corps participation would be valuable.  However, if the states do not see value in the Regional Team, he suggested that they simply not participate.

 

Terry Moe commented that there can be important benefits to better communication, cooperation, and information exchange.  He noted, however, that the language of the draft Charter implied a much stronger role for the Regional Team than information-sharing.  It appears that the Team would have policy and decision-making authority.  Moe said that Wisconsin DNR would not sign the Charter as currently written.

 

Steve Johnson suggested that consideration be given to forming an upper and lower river team, given the substantial differences between the two parts of the river.  He also noted that such an approach would be more amenable to UMRBA’s participation if, indeed, UMRBA involvement is determined to be desirable.

 

Kevin Szcodronski agreed that there are significant important differences between the upper and lower river. In particular, on the upper river, far lower volumes of material are dredged and there are fewer problems with contaminated sediments than on the lower river. However, dredging on the upper river takes place in a national refuge.  Szcodronski expressed concern that, in a regional dredging team structure, the unique characteristics of upper river dredging may be overshadowed be the large volume and contamination problems on the lower river. 

 

Rhodes acknowledged the differences between the upper and lower river, but reiterated his view that substantial benefit can be gained from working together, particularly with regard to dredging technologies.  He also indicated that non-federal interests may find they have common concerns and perspectives.  As an example, Rhodes noted that the State of Louisiana is interested in having the Corps undertake certain dredging activities that Corps policy will not allow in the absence of a non-federal sponsor.  Similar situations exist on the upper river.

 

Kevin Szcodronski agreed that there is value in having a Regional Dredging Team that can facilitate information exchange.  However, he questioned the need for a charter and formal structure to accomplish that objective.

 

It was agreed that UMRBA staff would prepare a letter to the Corps describing the states’ concerns and perspectives regarding establishment of a Regional Dredging Team and the proposed Charter.

 

Other Business

 

It was announced that the fall meeting series (GLC, UMRBA, and EMP-CC) will be held November 16-18, 1999 in St. Louis.  The tentative winter meeting dates of February 15‑17, 2000 were confirmed, with the Twin Cities chosen as the location for those meetings.  It was agreed that the spring meetings would be scheduled for May 16‑18, 2000 in the Quad Cities.  [The location was subsequently changed to Madison, Wisconsin.]

 

With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 1:30 p.m.