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Executive Summary This is the first of three reports from the National Research Council (NRC) Committee to Review the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restruc- tured Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study. The committee was assembled in response to a request from the Corps of En- gineers (Corps) for the National Research Council to review the feasibility study. The committee's assignment is to provide advice on the Corps' Re- structured Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway (UMR-IWW) System Navigation Feasibility Study. To this end, the committee is reviewing sev- eral Corps documents that explain the analysis within the feasibility study, including the Corps' July 2002 Interim Report. Since a previous NRC (2001) review, the nature of the Corps feasibility study has broadened be- yond the need for transportation improvements, and the restructured feasi- bility study takes a more holistic approach toward considering the relations between environment, navigation, and the floodplain. Although the com- mittee has the discretion to determine appropriate topics for its review, the review was expected to include several topics on which the prior committee had commented and for which the Corps has proposed responses in its restructured study plan (Chapter 1 contains the committee's full statement of task). This report was written after the committee's review of several docu- ments provided by the Corps and after a briefing by the Corps in early Sep- tember 2003. This report represents the committee's initial impressions of the restructured feasibility study. It was written with the intent that the
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2 Upper M'ssissippi-Illino's ~aterlYay Restructured Feasibility Soda: Interim Reporl Corps could consider its findings and recommendations as the agency re- f~nes its feasibility study. The report comments on the following compo- nents of the Corps' feasibility study: (1) a spatial equilibrium model and the ESSENCE model, both developed to help forecast future grain shipment levels, transport modes, and costs on the UMR-IWW; (2) managing water- way congestion on the UMR-IW~T; (3) integrated systems planning; and (4) decisions, implementation, and institutions. A second, more comprehensive report will be issued in 2004, in which the committee will comment on a Corps draft feasibility report (currently scheduled for publication in April 2004~. Finally, a third report will review the Corps' responses to advice from the NRC Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway studies (i.e., the reports of this committee and the NRC 2001 "Phase I" committee). SPATIAL PRICE MODEL AND ESSENCE The Corps has worked toward developing a spatial price model for the feasibility study, which could create forecasts of spatial variations in grain shipping costs, modes of transport, trends in grain processing, and water- way traffic levels on the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway. The Corps has applied and been developing various models in this effort, in- cluding a traditional Corps Tow Cost Model (TCM) and an ESSENCE model. The TCM was previously rejected by the Corps, a decision with which the NRC 2001 committee concurred. That committee also recommended that results from the ESSENCE model should not be used in the feasibility study. However, the Corps has reversed its decision on the use of the TCM and continues to use the ESSENCE model. This committee has not been presented with detailed information on the TCM, and it looks forward to learning more about the TCM and the decision to use it in the feasibility study. Fundamental conceptual flaws in the ESSENCE model render it unfit for use in the feasibility study. The Corps should either accelerate the development of a full spatial price model or adopt an alternative modeling approach that avoids the limitations of the ESSENCE model.
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Executive Stoma Demand Forecasts Forecasts of future grain exports are being used in the feasibility study, and credible forecasts are essential to sound investment decisions on the UMR-IW~ Of live future scenarios developed for the feasibility study, four reflect increasing grain exports. These forecasts, however, are incon- sistent with the past 20 years of relatively steady export levels. The com- mittee reserves judgment on the plausibility of these forecasts and looks forward to discussing the rationale for the projections with the Corps' con- sultants at its next meeting. MANAGING WATERWAY CONGESTION The current system for managing UMR-IWW traffic operates largely on a f~rst-come, f~rst-serve basis. It is possible that new traffic management measures would reduce congestion in a cost-effective manner. Unless an efficient system for managing waterway traffic is in place, it is not possible to evaluate the benefits of lock extensions. Nonstructural measures such as scheduling systems, systems of tradable arrival slots, or a contingent fee- as challenging as their implementation may be could be implemented in- stead of extending locks or could be used in combination with lock exten- sions. Furthermore, such traffic management measures would be necessary to address reductions in capacity that would occur in the event that lock extensions were constructed. The Corps should proceed as soon as practi- cable toward developing and implementing any feasible nonstructural measures to help alleviate waterway traffic congestion. INTEGRATED SYSTEMS PLANNING The Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and their floodplains support a variety of activities other than navigation, including boating, recreational and commercial fishing, hunting, camping, and sightseeing. These activities are important to both the economies and the quality of life in dozens of communities along the river, including several cities. The Corps should thus, to the extent feasible, consider these and other factors such as water
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4 Upper Mississippi-Illinois ~aterlYay Restructured Feasibility Study: Interim Report quality, flood damage reduction, and sediment transport in order to reflect a more holistic approach to dealing with the diverse management issues in the UMR-IWW. The Corps should also implement adaptive management con- cepts and approaches throughout the planning process. Finally, the Corps should acknowledge the potentially high cost of the proposed restoration efforts and the necessity of conducting ecological investigations in tandem . . . . wit ~ navigation stuc yes. The Corps is seeking to integrate the relationships and functions of floodplains. This integration is manifested primarily in the form of ecosys- tem restoration projects in floodplain areas along the rivers. Information presented to the committee to date about prospective restoration projects has contained few details, making it difficult to say how these projects might affect the floodplain. It is also not clear how far the Corps will go at integrating floodplain concerns into the feasibility study. The holistic ap- proach envisioned in the Corps' study, which integrates the floodplain into operations of the navigation system, is not yet clear. Further comment on issues in the floodplain is thus reserved until additional information is pro- vided to the committee. DECISIONS, IMPLEMENTATION, AND INSTITUTIONS The Corps is on an aggressive timetable for completion of the feasibil- ity study. Although there is a need to move forward with the study, that need should be balanced with a similar need for credible and thorough ana- lytical procedures. The Corps should extend its schedule for completing the feasibility study and issuing a "Chief's Report." There are literally hundreds of prospective projects within the UMR- IWW study aimed toward ecological enhancements. Not all of these pro- jects can be implemented simultaneously, because of both financial and practical limitations. Priority should be given to restoration projects that promise to restore natural processes and those that aim to achieve multiple . . O electives. Ecological restoration projects in downstream states, which have smaller federal land holdings than states in the upper basin, require greater cost-sharing responsibilities from local sponsors. This is an analytical con- cern because the prospective benefits of these cost-shared restoration pro-
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Executive Stoma jects are an important component of the feasibility study. If the projects do not receive funding, this will alter the study's benefit calculations. The Corps should thus identify specific instances in which federal cost-sharing rules are likely to restrict or preclude implementation of environmental res- toration projects and nonstructural measures.
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