6

Summary and Recommendations

While the feasibility study represents some important advances for Corps of Engineers water resources project planning studies, many elements of the feasibility study have been framed or assessed narrowly. Three critical areas in which the draft study should be improved are 1) data and assumptions in the spatial equilibrium modeling, 2) a careful assessment of the prospects of nonstructural alternatives for decreasing waterway congestion, and 3) better integration of economics and engineering considerations with environmental and social factors.

The Corps' new approach to estimating navigation benefits is a significant advance. The spatial equilibrium model is a major improvement over past models. Unfortunately, the application of the theoretical models is unsuccessful. The data and assumptions used as input to ESSENCE require considerable improvements before ESSENCE can provide reliable input into the feasibility study. The ESSENCE model simplifies the spatial equilibrium model to a point where the basic concepts are lost; the data on grain and freight shipping quantities, origins and destinations, and prices are inadequate. Values used for shipment costs and agricultural yields must reflect real variations across space.

There are also concerns about the Corps' focus on lock extensions with little consideration of nonstructural alternatives. The full range of nonstructural alternatives should be evaluated before lock extensions are considered. A comprehensive assessment of the benefits and costs of these nonstructural options for improving waterway traffic management should be conducted. Congestion management could improve waterway traffic management almost immediately, while reducing congestion by extending locks on the UMR–IWW would take a decade or more. Furthermore, nonstructural alternatives provide an excellent opportunity for the Corps to simultaneously improve waterway traffic flow and environmental resources, applying the Corps ' experience in analytical methods and water resources management. The declining state of key ecological indicators on the UMR–IWW points to the need for the Corps to consider environmentally sustainable options for improving waterway traffic management.

The draft feasibility study framed the issue of waterway traffic management and possible lock extensions primarily in terms of commodity shipments and infrastructure investments. Environmental issues were treated, but mainly in terms of side effects that required mitigation. But commercial cargo represents only one of the important interests and public values on the



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OCR for page 86
INLAND NAVIGATION SYSTEM PLANNING: The Upper Mississippi River—Illinois Waterway 6 Summary and Recommendations While the feasibility study represents some important advances for Corps of Engineers water resources project planning studies, many elements of the feasibility study have been framed or assessed narrowly. Three critical areas in which the draft study should be improved are 1) data and assumptions in the spatial equilibrium modeling, 2) a careful assessment of the prospects of nonstructural alternatives for decreasing waterway congestion, and 3) better integration of economics and engineering considerations with environmental and social factors. The Corps' new approach to estimating navigation benefits is a significant advance. The spatial equilibrium model is a major improvement over past models. Unfortunately, the application of the theoretical models is unsuccessful. The data and assumptions used as input to ESSENCE require considerable improvements before ESSENCE can provide reliable input into the feasibility study. The ESSENCE model simplifies the spatial equilibrium model to a point where the basic concepts are lost; the data on grain and freight shipping quantities, origins and destinations, and prices are inadequate. Values used for shipment costs and agricultural yields must reflect real variations across space. There are also concerns about the Corps' focus on lock extensions with little consideration of nonstructural alternatives. The full range of nonstructural alternatives should be evaluated before lock extensions are considered. A comprehensive assessment of the benefits and costs of these nonstructural options for improving waterway traffic management should be conducted. Congestion management could improve waterway traffic management almost immediately, while reducing congestion by extending locks on the UMR–IWW would take a decade or more. Furthermore, nonstructural alternatives provide an excellent opportunity for the Corps to simultaneously improve waterway traffic flow and environmental resources, applying the Corps ' experience in analytical methods and water resources management. The declining state of key ecological indicators on the UMR–IWW points to the need for the Corps to consider environmentally sustainable options for improving waterway traffic management. The draft feasibility study framed the issue of waterway traffic management and possible lock extensions primarily in terms of commodity shipments and infrastructure investments. Environmental issues were treated, but mainly in terms of side effects that required mitigation. But commercial cargo represents only one of the important interests and public values on the

OCR for page 86
INLAND NAVIGATION SYSTEM PLANNING: The Upper Mississippi River—Illinois Waterway UMR–IWW. The draft feasibility study must better integrate environmental and social considerations into the ultimate decision of whether the locks are to be extended. Within the environmental assessments, an improved assessment study of the system-wide and cumulative effects of the existing navigation system on river ecology is needed. The Corps' progress in its environmental investigations is clearly hampered by the lack of data that such a study would provide, and new studies may be needed to meet these information needs. The federal Environmental Management Program should conduct both ecological studies and navigation effects studies; this would provide better coordination to these efforts and assure more useful input into the feasibility study. In addition to these three broad areas for improvement, the Corps should conduct the feasibility study under an adaptive management paradigm, the study should be better coordinated with of other government agencies responsible for assessing and managing aspects of the Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway system, and it should be conducted with periodical review from an independent, interdisciplinary panel of experts. This report's recommendations should be viewed from two different perspectives: those that can be implemented immediately, and those that will require more time and a more significant commitment of resources and interagency cooperation. While some of the report's recommendations may entail sustained efforts over many years (e.g., navigation's system-wide, and cumulative, effects on the river ecosystem), others could be implemented quickly (e.g., nonstructural measures for improved waterway traffic management). The Corps is to be commended for the advances in the draft studies. This committee offers its suggestions for improvement with full realization of the analytical complexities that the studies entail, plus an appreciation that some UMR–IWW stakeholder groups may care more about the study 's recommendations than the soundness of its methods. This report's findings and recommendations are offered constructively and with appreciation for the Corps' strong efforts and significant achievements in their study of tremendous national interest and importance on the Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway.