Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Water Quality Task Force Meeting

May 7, 2009

Dubuque, Iowa


Meeting Summary



Gregg Good

Illinois EPA

Matt Short

Illinois EPA

John Olson

Iowa DNR

Adam Schnieders

Iowa DNR

Tom Wilton

Iowa DNR

Mohsen Dkhili

Missouri DNR

Jim Baumann

Wisconsin DNR

John Sullivan

Wisconsin DNR

Bill Franz

US EPA, Region 5

Ed Hammer

US EPA, Region 5

Peg Donnelly


Dave Hokanson


Kirsten Mickelsen



Call to Order

Jim Baumann, Chair of the Water Quality Task Force (WQTF), called the meeting to order at 12:15 p.m.

UMR Biological Indicators Workshop – Debrief and Next Steps

Baumann asked the WQTF members to comment on the UMR Biological Indicators Workshop, which was completed just prior to the WQTF meeting, and to make any observations regarding next steps resulting from the workshop.

Adam Schnieders observed that the workshop was successful overall, and that the task of simply bringing together all of the participants was a significant accomplishment.  He saw promise in the use of biology generally, and a fish index of biotic integrity (IBI) specifically.  Schnieders noted, however, the goals in restoration programs seem to be different than those applied in a Clean Water Act (CWA) context – adding that CWA programs need to do a better job of assessing the River.  Commenting on Chris Yoder’s presentation and the concept of the biological condition gradient, he observed that tiered aquatic life use approaches can be challenging to communicate to the public.

Baumann observed that it seemed to be do-able to have a fish IBI in place for the main channel of the Upper Mississippi River (UMR) within 1-3 years.  Baumann commented that Wisconsin’s internal strategy includes a plan to evaluate fish IBI approaches and develop a guidance document – noting that Andy Bartels’ work, as presented at the workshop, has already done much of the initial work in this area for the UMR.


John Sullivan commented that, for the Upper Impounded Reach, “we are ready to move ahead” with both fish and vegetation indicators.   

John Olson asked if it would be possible have Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP) staff/state field station staff assist in conducting monitoring to implement the Wisconsin DNR IBI (aka Lyons IBI) and/or vegetation index, and to do this in reaches beyond the study pools.  

Bill Franz asked whether the states have evaluated the use of LTRMP as a “foundation” for expanded monitoring on the UMR.  Matt Short replied that, in 2003, he had conducted an analysis of LTRMP data to determine its usefulness to Illinois’ Clean Water Act Program.  He indicated that some parameters (e.g. dissolved oxygen, pH) were found to be compatible with CWA program needs and have been integrated into Illinois’ 305(b) assessments.  Short added that one of the primary deficits in the LTRMP data set, from the CWA perspective, is the lack of data on metals and pesticides.  He indicated that, at that time, LTRMP was asked about the possibility of conducting expanded monitoring, but LTRMP responded that the CWA was not in their program scope.  Sullivan observed that, if biological approaches are used in CWA programs, the LTRMP data becomes more useful and the lack of chemical data less critical. 

Short further observed that probabilistic approaches have value in monitoring the UMR, but that in addition fixed-site sampling is needed for some regulatory applications.

Gregg Good asked the WQTF to consider exactly what it is they envision producing or using as result of these discussions.  Baumann replied that he envisioned the application of a fish IBI on the UMR, beginning in the main channel and then expanding laterally into off-channel areas as needed.   Short asked Baumann if he was envisioning a guidance document.  Baumann concurred that he felt a guidance document would be an appropriate product, adding that it would guide states in how to use existing data in applying an IBI for the UMR – with one preferred IBI (Lyons or EMAP-GRE) being identified in the guidance document.   He emphasized also the importance of having a consistent methodology among states in regard to incorporation of an IBI.

Olson raised the issue that, regardless of the methodology or IBI employed, a critical choice is in choosing threshold indicator value(s) for impairment in each UMR reach.  He added that freshwater mussels could be an appealing indicator species, but that he was not sure how they would fit into an assessment approach.

Good suggested that it might be beneficial to compare assessment results from states’ current approaches to results gained by using a UMR-specific approach which incorporates biology. 

Baumann asked the WQTF if they had any other thoughts in reaction to the workshop or likely next steps.  Good suggested that the WQTF consult with Chris Yoder and Erich Emery for their advice on how to proceed forward.  Sullivan agreed that seeking the opinions of experts such as these would be helpful, particularly in regard to the application of a fish IBI.

Peg Donnelly asked the WQTF how they envisioned an IBI being incorporated into their programs, and if they saw it fitting into their 305(b) assessment strategy.  Olson and Mohsen Dkhili indicated that it would fit into their states’ assessment methodology.  Good concurred that the assessment methodology would be the most likely place for an IBI to fit.  Dkhili emphasized that he WQTF should develop guidance for states in how to use LTRMP and EMAP data in their 305(b) assessments.

Dave Hokanson asked the WQTF if they wanted to review key LTRMP documents (e.g. Status and Trends Report, LTRMP Strategic Plan) to assist in their consideration of using LTRMP as a base for expanded monitoring, as had been suggested during workshop discussions. He further suggested that Barry Johnson (USGS) and/or Karen Hagerty (USACE) could then attend the next WQTF meeting to discuss the Status and Trends report and the LTRMP more generally.  

While the WQTF initially indicated that they thought LTRMP staff were well aware of the issues CWA programs had in use of LTRMP data, they did also express specific concern about the nutrient target values incorporated into the most recent Status and Trends report and an interest in learning more about the indicators that had been selected for the report (and potentially working with the LTRMP Analysis Team in refining indicators for the next Status and Trends report).  

The WQTF also discussed the possibility of spending time at their next meeting dedicated to the reach objective-setting process currently being led by USACE.

Designated Use Project Report

Donnelly provided a brief update regarding her work on the designated use project.  She described her work as being in the learning stage and currently focused on the following elements:

§         Reviewing and understanding current state standards.

§         Becoming familiar with currently available data/data sources.

§         Examining what is being done in other watersheds/for other water bodies (e.g. Chesapeake Bay, Ohio River, Delaware River).

Donnelly asked the group to verify that her work should focus on the full lateral range of the UMR including, but not limited to, work on the main channel.  The WQTF affirmed that the full lateral scope needed to be considered.  Hokanson added that the earlier expressed sentiment of the WQTF to “begin work on the main channel” did not imply that work to define and distinguish aquatic areas was not needed, rather that some tools – such as a fish IBI – might be available for application on the main channel in the nearer term once the aquatic areas were distinguished.

Donnelly indicated that she would continue with state visits, and was planning that her next visit would be to Illinois.  The group noted that these visits should include WQTF members and other state standards staff. 

Hokanson asked whether the documentation coming out of Donnelly’s work should be characterized as a report or a guidance document. The WQTF indicated that it should be considered as a report, and that a guidance document could follow.

Donnelly asked whether any consideration should be made of states’ triennial standards review cycles in regard to recommendations regarding use designations.  Schnieders indicated that this should not present a problem.

604(b) Funding Proposal

Baumann reviewed the status of joint proposal to fund UMR water quality work with water quality management grants (604(b) funds) from each of the five UMR states.  Hokanson distributed both the current joint proposal and the preliminary text that had been submitted by Illinois to US EPA Region 5.  The WQTF determined that the best method of finalizing the proposal would be to have a small group work on the draft.  Good, Baumann, Hokanson, and Donnelly were suggested as the group to finalize the proposal, with confirmation from the WQTF (and ultimately WQEC and UMRBA Board).  Timeline for completion of the final proposal was proposed as no later than the end of June 2009.  Good indicated that he would work in meeting with the smaller group to move forward on revisions to the draft.

Transition of WQTF Chair

Baumann noted that he had served as Chair of the WQTF for two years and it was now time for the Chair position to rotate to the next state, with Gregg Good in line to become Chair, after serving as Vice Chair.  Hokanson confirmed that the WQTF’s intent had been to rotate the Chair every two years, so it was indeed timely to consider the Chair transition.  The WQTF was in agreement with Good’s taking over the Chair position.  The WQTF next discussed the position of Vice Chair.  Hokanson noted that Missouri or Iowa would be likely candidates to take the Vice Chair position, given that the WQTF had most recently been chaired by Minnesota, Wisconsin, and now Illinois.  John Olson volunteered to serve in the position of WQTF Vice Chair.  All agreed that the terms of the new Chair and Vice Chair would become effective at the end of the meeting.

Other Items

Kirsten Mickelsen mentioned that Jon Duyvejonck would be discussing the development of a mussel community index during the joint meeting of the Environmental Management Program Coordinating Committee (EMP-CC) and the Navigation Environmental Coordinating Committee (NECC) taking place May 20, 2009 in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Hokanson added that this meeting would also feature a discussion of the Corps’ reach objective-setting process.

Hokanson also reported on an April 16, 2009 meeting between members of the WQEC (Marcia Willhite and Rob Morrison) and the Mississippi River Water Quality Collaborative, a group of NGOs sponsored by the McKnight Foundation.  He indicated that the meeting was positive and productive, and that further communication between the WQTF/WQEC and the Collaborative was likely in the future.

Next Meeting/Conference Call

Several members indicated that travel restrictions may reduce their ability to participate in meetings, and that more of the work of the WQTF may need to take place via conference call.

The WQTF agreed that a conference call to discuss finalization of the 604(b) proposal should take place in approximately mid-June (note that due to an acceleration of the schedule, this call was held June 3, with members of the WQEC and UMRBA Board also invited to participate).

The WQTF indicated a preference to hold their next meeting in either late August or early September 2009.  

The meeting was adjourned at 2:30 p.m.