5
Toward Integrated Water Planning and Management in a River Basin and Coastal System Context

Chapter Highlights

This chapter evaluates constraints that the Corps faces in fulfilling its mission to plan and evaluate water projects in an integrated river basin and coastal system context. It considers the existing water policy environment in the United States and the organizational, jurisdictional, and regulatory issues that can work against consistent implementation of integrated water resources planning and evaluation. Steps that Congress and the Corps can take to improve its performance are suggested.

THE CURRENT POLICY AND PROJECT ENVIRONMENT

As pointed out throughout the previous chapters, water resources planning and management in a river basin and coastal system context requires an integrated approach to provide a balanced consideration of objectives and potential impacts at relevant time and space scales. The need



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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 5 Toward Integrated Water Planning and Management in a River Basin and Coastal System Context Chapter Highlights This chapter evaluates constraints that the Corps faces in fulfilling its mission to plan and evaluate water projects in an integrated river basin and coastal system context. It considers the existing water policy environment in the United States and the organizational, jurisdictional, and regulatory issues that can work against consistent implementation of integrated water resources planning and evaluation. Steps that Congress and the Corps can take to improve its performance are suggested. THE CURRENT POLICY AND PROJECT ENVIRONMENT As pointed out throughout the previous chapters, water resources planning and management in a river basin and coastal system context requires an integrated approach to provide a balanced consideration of objectives and potential impacts at relevant time and space scales. The need

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for such an approach is widely endorsed by the water resources planning and management community (NRC, 1999a,b). The Corps has embraced these principles and, in many cases, has played a major role in their definition and in the development of supporting methods. The Corps’ adoption of integrated water resources planning and management is clearly stated in its Policy Guidance Letter (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1999d): There is a growing recognition that “locally perceived water resources problems” have regional dimensions and are of concern to numerous, diverse interest groups. Many activities occurring in a watershed are interrelated and, therefore, managing water resources has evolved to more of a holistic, collaborative effort. The Corps has developed its own watershed perspective to guide water resources development, protection, and management within the Civil Works program. This watershed perspective accommodates the multi-objective, multi-purpose planning and investigations necessary for exploring these concerns. The watershed perspective applies to all Civil Works programs through planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance, restoration, rehabilitation, and regulatory activities. The application of this perspective into the Civil Works program encourages opportunities for enhancing the operations and maintenance of existing projects, especially the management of the natural resources. In the same document, a watershed approach is stated as Corps policy: Policy: The Corps will integrate the watershed perspective into opportunities within, and among, Civil Works elements. Opportunities should be explored and identified where joint watershed resource management efforts can be pursued to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Civil Works Programs. The Corps will solicit participation from Federal, tribal, state, and local agencies, organizations, and the local community to ensure that their interests are considered in the formulation and implementation of the effort. Due to the complexity and interrelation of systems within a watershed, an array of

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers technical experts, stakeholders, and decision-makers should be involved in the process. This involvement will provide a better understanding of the consequences of actions and activities and provide a mechanism for sound decision making when addressing the watershed resource needs, opportunities, conflicts, and trade-offs. In this context, the term “watershed” is interpreted by the Corps and others to indicate not only terrestrial watersheds, but also coastal systems. This connection is made explicit in other Corps guidance and policy documents, such as those describing the Regional Sediment Management Program (e.g., Martin, 2002; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2002d,f). The Corps’ commitment to a watershed approach is also formalized in the Unified Federal Policy for a Watershed Approach to Federal Land and Resource Management (65 Fed. Reg. 62566, October 18, 2000), which was adopted by the Corps and other federal agencies. Clear support for an integrated planning approach has also been provided by Corps leadership. In testimony before the U.S. Senate (U.S. Senate, Committee on Environment and Public Works, 2002), Chief of Engineers General Robert Flowers stated: Right now, existing laws and policies drive us to single focus, geographically limited projects where we have sponsors sharing in the cost of the study. The current approach narrows our ability to look comprehensively and sets up inter-basin disputes. It also leads to projects that solve one problem, but may inadvertently create others. Frequently we are choosing the economic solution over the environmental, when we can actually have both. I believe the future is to look at watersheds first; then design projects consistent with the more comprehensive approach. As pointed out in Chapter 4, there are a number of authorities in place that may be used to undertake watershed studies, planning, and management. These include continuing and programmatic authorities that allow projects for the purposes of restoring and protecting ecological resources without specific congressional authorization (Table 4-1). Despite existing policy and planning guidance and existing authorities, the Corps’ record in integrated water planning and management is inconsistent. Important project successes occur hand-in-hand with projects that have unanticipated consequences, significant cumulative impacts, or

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers undesirable economic and environmental outcomes. These undesirable impacts often make a project unacceptable by today’s standards. To some extent, the panel acknowledges that these projects were designed to meet a suite of objectives that was narrower than the diverse social, economic, hydrologic, and ecologic objectives of today. Nonetheless, in the panel’s discussions with Corps planners, it was clear that various institutional, jurisdictional, and knowledge barriers can stand in the way of implementing the broader mandate of integrated water resources planning and management. NATIONAL WATER POLICY Until the mid-1970s, national water policy was premised on the need to alter the hydrology of river and coastal systems with dams, levees, dredging, channelization, and other physical improvements to "optimize" the economic benefits of water use. As a result of the environmental movement and persistent criticism of the economic benefits of many large water-related public works projects, the era of large-scale dam building (and similar projects) in the United States came to an end. No clear new paradigm, however, has emerged to replace the old multi-objective development model. Today, traditional water constituencies compete primarily with environmental interests for control of management of the nation’s waters. In the absence of clear guiding authorities, competing interests are resolved in an ad hoc fashion through congressional action or stakeholder processes. This policy landscape severely reduces the nation’s ability to plan and manage effective water resource projects using a systems approach. Today, water resource planning in the United States may best be described as guided by a de facto national water policy that is enunciated in legislation, administrative policy, and court decisions. Nationally, there is a lack of an institutional instrument to set policy at a river basin or coastal system level within which large and small water resources projects can be developed and evaluated (Kenney, 1997; Loucks, 2003; NRC, 1999a, b; Stakhiv, 2003). This lack of organizational framework in water resources planning and management has hampered the Corps’ ability to consistently plan water resources projects within an integrated systems context. At the center of this de facto policy are a number of environmental laws (e.g., the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973). Not only do these laws redistribute responsibility for water policy among different federal agencies,

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers they also create venues for private citizens and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to influence environmental policy through the courts. The sum of these actions, including case law, provides guidance and constraints for water project planning and increases the emphasis placed on environmental objectives along with the traditional economic and commercial purposes of federal water resource projects. As discussed in Chapters 2 and 4, an almost unavoidable consequence of relying on such a decentralized framework is that the policies, regulations, and case law that make up the de facto policy are sometimes vague and often in conflict. The divided authority over water quality provides one example. Water releases from Corps and other dams play a role in water quality maintenance, but water quality standards are set by the each state, with oversight provided by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). This arrangement creates gaps that must be addressed by federal and state agencies with water resources management missions. Another example of recent prominence (summer of 2003) concerns dam releases on the Missouri River. In this case, the Corps job was complicated by two binding and conflicting federal court decisions, one requiring that water be released to maintain a 9-foot navigation channel and the other requiring that releases be decreased to enhance habitat for endangered species. Such conflicts provide good examples of the negative consequences of the decentralized and conflicting guidance for water resources management, but do not illustrate the opportunities for wise water management that may be missed in such a planning environment. Ideally, there should exist a set of clear, internally consistent water resource objectives, applied through master plans for river basins and coastal systems. These objectives should delegate clear lines of authority and funding for implementing the plans. Although such a structure would undoubtedly make the job of integrated water planning and management easier, at this time the Corps will have to continue operating without such coordination. The relative importance of the wide range of water resource objectives—hydrologic, geomorphic, ecologic, social, and economic—will vary from one region to another and from one time to another. The number and complexity of water resource objectives, particularly for studies integrating economic and environmental objectives over a range of spatial and temporal scales, shift the focus from directed, optimized solutions to trade-offs among competing objectives. Decisions about which objectives to optimize cannot be based exclusively on an analytical methodology, particularly when considerable uncertainty is associated with any forecasts of a project’s benefits and impacts. Rather, value-based judgments are

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers required of those with decision-making authority. The societal values on which these judgments are based are not likely to remain constant over time or from region to region. A good example is recognition of the importance of environmental values in project planning over the past four decades. The increasing role in decision making assigned to state and local entities makes regional variations in project priorities inevitable. In this context, the Corps’ primary mandate should be to apply the best available science, engineering, and management tools toward developing the information needed to support the decisions required of local, state, and federal entities charged with the authority for making those decisions. When conflicts exist between different federal agencies (e.g., between the Corps and the National Marine Fisheries Service [NMFS] or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS] regarding endangered species habitat, or between the Corps and USEPA regarding clean water actions), adjudication within the executive branch of the federal government is possible. PIECEMEAL APPROACH TO WATER PROJECT PLANNING Currently, water projects are approved by Congress on a case-by-case basis. This present project environment, in which a collaboration of local entities and Congress can exert considerable pressure for a quick and favorable project evaluation, does not support a balanced and integrated evaluation of all project benefits and costs at all necessary time and space scales. This pressure is cited as the primary barrier to more integrated planning by Corps leadership (U.S. Senate, Committee on Environment and Public Works, 2002), Corps staff, and the press, particularly in the context of controversial, often legacy, projects. Although there are many cases in which the Corps conducts or contributes to a comprehensive study (particularly when such a study is the specified objective of the project), there are many other cases in which immediate economic concerns regarding navigation, flood protection, or erosion control exert strong pressure on Corps managers—pressure that often works against a balanced consideration of important project benefits and costs, particularly those related to environmental resources that are difficult to quantify. Ultimately, Congress and the Executive Branch must choose whether the broader goals of integrated water planning take priority over the immediate benefits of a particular project. The water resources science and engineering community can provide an understanding of the relevant hydrologic, geomorphic, ecologic, social, and economic issues involved,

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers along with decision support tools and a sense of diverse stakeholder views on particular projects. It cannot ensure that those with decision-making authority make prudent or popular decisions. Therefore, recommendations provided in this report focus on a means by which the Corps can do a better job in providing the best possible scientific and engineering evaluation, in collaboration with other government agencies and relevant stakeholders. CONSTRAINTS ON PROJECT PLANNING AND EVALUATION In the current Corps environment, integrated planning often occurs in response to specific circumstances. Authorization may develop in response to a disaster such as a flood (e.g., the Sacramento-San Joaquin project), to jeopardy findings under the Endangered Species Act (P.L. 97-304) (particularly for anadromous fish), or to significant degradation of a widely valued ecosystem resource (such as the Chesapeake Bay or the Florida Everglades). Alternatively, authorization may develop in response to local or state pressures that prompt congressional interest. Integrated water resources planning and management requires adequate consideration of all relevant objectives and all potential impacts—local, regional, and cumulative. The time and space scales for such studies cannot be specified in advance, and no simple recipe exists for defining them. Flexibility is needed in defining the appropriate scope of evaluation studies. Yet reconnaissance studies are limited by law to a budget of $100,000 and to a period of 12 months (18 months in some cases). This is a severe restriction that makes it extraordinarily difficult to perform an adequate system evaluation except for small, simple projects. Current limitations on reconnaissance studies may be adequate for some projects with an obviously narrow scope but will clearly be inadequate for many others. Removing time and budget constraints may have the undesired consequence of allowing persistent growth of studies—leading to an agency dominated by study gridlock and few useful projects. This criticism has been raised in the past and has led to various proposals for reforming Corps planning methods (NRC, 1999b). Nonetheless, the alternative to specifying constraints for all projects is an inefficient solution that will inappropriately curtail a truly necessary study while encouraging the expansion of minor studies to the specified limits. Support for a more flexible approach can be found in a survey exercise conducted among Corps planning staff at their 2002 meeting in New Orleans.

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recommendation 5-1: The Corps should develop a rigorous, in-house proposal and review process in which the scope and budget of reconnaissance studies are determined on a case-by-case basis. Another impediment on the Corps’ ability to undertake project planning at broader spatial and temporal scales is the requirement for local costsharing enacted in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 1986 (P.L. 99-662), which has resulted in reducing federal share and increasing the non-federal share of costs in federal water projects. The introduction of greater local cost-sharing has impacted the Corps in positive and predictable ways, but also in unanticipated negative ways. Although non-federal beneficiaries of Corps projects have long borne some of the costs on an ad hoc basis, mainly in the form of land and easement transfers and dredged material disposal areas, momentum for increased fiscal discipline in the process began to build in the 1970s. The Corps had long been criticized for flawed benefit-cost studies, especially for overstated benefits. A coalition of fiscal conservatives and environmentalists agreed that formal costsharing was a desirable Corps reform because it would eliminate projects of marginal value and require that the community—via a local sponsor—have more of a vested interest in the project. Prior to the WRDA 1986, there was little incentive for local, non-federal parties to reject any project that was proposed. These local parties could expect to receive the bulk of project benefits, while being responsible for only a small part of project costs. For example, prior to WRDA 1986 there was no cost-sharing requirement for structural flood control projects. After enactment of WRDA 1986, nonfederal parties were required to share between 25 percent and 50 percent of costs, including a minimum 5 percent required contribution in cash—as distinct from in-kind contributions such as easements, rights-of-way, and land to dispose of dredge material (DelRossi and Inman, 1999). A principal reason for changing pre-WRDA 1986 cost-sharing rules was to increase the likelihood of federal tax dollars being spent on economically and socially worthwhile water projects. Advocates for this change in WRDA 1986 argued that without more extensive cost-sharing requirements, the process of planning and executing federal water projects was biased in favor of approving many less-than-worthwhile projects. There is general agreement in the water resources community that the 1986 WRDA has significantly affected both the process by which water projects undertaken by the Corps are planned and executed and the nature and scope of projects that are funded. A careful empirical study of water project selection pre- and post-WRDA 1986 indicates that increased local

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cost-sharing resulted in a downsizing of projects ultimately requested and approved in consultation with local sponsors (DelRossi and Inman, 1999). As a result of the 50 percent cost-sharing requirements between the Corps and non-federal sponsors in the feasibility stage of most projects, local communities have become much more involved in planning. This creates a very powerful incentive for the Corps to acquire non-federal partners that will agree to cost-share planning. In fact, it is mandatory for the Corps to have already identified a prospective cost-sharing sponsor during the reconnaissance phase, and the feasibility phase cannot begin until a local sponsor signs a contract or feasibility cost-sharing agreement A negative effect of the shift toward more local cost-sharing has been the creation of subtle, but real, incentives for the Corps to focus on local projects in the absence of any river basin or coastal system master plan. Since a typical non-federal sponsor may have little incentive or legal ability to consider the environmental, economic, and hydrological effects of such projects beyond those experienced locally, the post-WRDA 1986 cost-sharing rules favor single-purpose projects with well-defined local benefits because local sponsors tend to promote investments that address specific local needs. As a consequence, the Corps may have limited opportunity to consider projects that involve planning at a broader environmental and hydrological scale than that desired by the local sponsor (NRC, 1999b). Thus, although there is movement by the water resources community toward broader spatial and temporal planning on a watershed level (NRC, 1999a, 1999b; Schad, 1998), and even though the Economic and Environmental Principles and Guidelines for Water and Related Land Resources Implementation Studies (P&G) states that “civil works planning should incorporate a watershed perspective…, 1983, Section 2-8), the WRDA 1986 cost-sharing rules have worked at cross-purposes, albeit unintentionally, by reducing the opportunity for the Corps to plan and execute projects at a spatial scale that is consistent with watershed and coastal systems planning. Indeed, when the Corps has undertaken projects at a watershed scale, it is often because the “political boundaries” of local sponsors roughly matched those of particular watersheds. For example, both the Sacramento-San Joaquin and the Everglades projects concern watersheds that lie entirely within a single state. The simple solution may seem to be to a return to pre-WRDA 1986 cost-sharing arrangements. However, this alternative ignores the fact that cost-sharing was put in place in 1986 to remedy some real problems in the Corps’ operations. Among these were (1) a tendency for local interests to support federal spending on water projects because these appeared to be “free” (or heavily subsidized) without cost-sharing and (2) a tendency for

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planning of Corps projects to take a great deal of time in the absence of pressure from local sponsors to “get the plan moving.” A more appropriate remedy would be to devise cost-sharing arrangements that strike a better balance between holding local interests accountable and planning on a broader spatial scale. An important step in this direction would be to recognize that while it remains appropriate to hold local sponsors accountable for costs associated with projects that are truly local in scope, or for aspects of projects with well-defined local benefits, local sponsors also have little interest, authority, or ability to support integrated studies over broader regions. In contrast, a consistent and integrated evaluation of all objectives at all relevant time and space scales is clearly a federal interest. For this reason, integrated evaluation of project benefits and costs at the river basin and coastal system scales should be federally funded. Recommendation 5-2: Reconnaissance studies should include an integrated evaluation of all project benefits and impacts at any relevant spatial and temporal scale, leading to a definition of the scope and budget of integrated river basin or coastal system analyses required in a feasibility study. Cost-share requirements for feasibility studies should be amended to provide 100 percent federal funding for an integrated evaluation of project benefits and costs at all relevant temporal and spatial scales. In the reconnaissance phase, the panel recommends the incorporation of an integrated analysis to provide the necessary evaluation of all appropriate benefits and costs at all relevant scales of space and time. Advances in information and decision support technology can provide considerable assistance during this analysis within the reconnaissance study framework. In addition to the current requirement of developing a cost-sharing agreement with the local sponsor, the panel proposes that requirements for a reconnaissance study be amended to include the definition of those portions of the feasibility study that constitute integrated river basin or coastal system evaluation. The panel also proposes that these integrated evaluations in the feasibility phase be 100 percent federally funded because they would assess the portions of the project concerned with a broader evaluation of benefits and costs. However, the panel emphasizes the need to preserve the existing 50 percent cost-share requirement for those portions of the project directly concerned with project development (i.e., design, land acquisition, construction).

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Although local sponsors may still be eager for an early and positive finding to proceed with their project and may exert pressure to curtail an integrated evaluation, a revision of the funding formula for feasibility studies ensures that an unwillingness or inability to pay for the study will not prevent the necessary integrated evaluation from going forward. A clear mandate for the Corps to pursue such studies would assist Corps planners in following the federal mission. This mandate can effectively be addressed by specifying the need for an integrated evaluation within the specific requirements of a reconnaissance study. Recommendation 5-3: The scope and budget for integrated planning studies should be determined in the reconnaissance phase and explicitly defined in the project study plan and cost-sharing agreement that define the scope and financial responsibilities of the feasibility study. Approval of a feasibility study should be contingent on a judgment, informed by appropriate internal and external review, that a study plan of the salient social, economic, and environmental factors, at all relevant spatial and temporal scales, has been defined. CONSTRAINTS ON COLLABORATION The Corps is one of many federal agencies with responsibilities for water resources planning and management. Significant land management and water pollution authorities reside with the states. Stakeholder participation is now widely accepted and actively endorsed by the Corps. The environment in which the Corps now evaluates, develops, and operates water projects is complex and includes many participants. Both the complexity of the issues considered and the number of the stakeholders involved increase when the focus of the investigation is at the scale of river basins and coastal systems, where there is a complex and conflicting mix of objectives inherent in evaluating water resources projects. In this environment, collaboration in data gathering, analysis, alternatives development, and decision making is essential for effective water management. In addition, implementation of federal water policy is decentralized, with different agencies responsible for different aspects of an ecosystem (e.g., the Bureau of Land Management, USEPA, and USFWS all make decisions that affect stream water quality and use), including those ecosystems experiencing degraded environmental quality (e.g., reduced fisheries yields, poor water quality) due to natural and human-influenced processes. Adopting a system perspective in the planning and operation of

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers federal water projects recognizes that these various subsystems function as whole, integrated units—not as separate parts. Adopting a systems and watershed perspective, therefore, requires improved coordination among agencies, as well as the funding and training required for this coordination. Watershed planning requires cooperation with multiple agencies at federal, state, and local levels of government, as well as organized groups of stakeholders. The panel received conflicting reports of the Corps’ ability to engage in formal collaboration with other federal agencies. Some reported that interagency collaboration was feasible and even routine. Others reported that the Corps’ funding authority has limited its partnering with other federal agencies, particularly in cases where it is not the lead agency. A review and standardization of procedures for developing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or memorandum of agreement (MOA) with other agencies is warranted, particularly when these other agencies have controlling authority (e.g., NMFS or USFWS in cases involving endangered species). Improved interagency collaboration is needed to appropriately address the ecological impacts of multiple anthropogenic stressors influenced by Corps projects and permitting and to promote the ecological and economic sustainability of our natural resources. Some of the differences in the ability to collaborate with other agencies may be based on differences in the way each Corps district office manages its own affairs. District office autonomy was an intended feature when Corps districts were defined so that each office would have the latitude to deal with local matters of which it would have a better understanding than the regional office or Corps Headquarters. In general, this is appropriate and should not be changed. One result, however, is the appearance of conflicting operating procedures between districts, limiting true system planning and implementation. Recommendation 5-4: Congress and the Executive Branch should take the steps necessary, including a standardized procedure for cooperative agreements and MOUs or MOAs, to ensure that the Corps is able to work effectively in collaborative planning and management. The Corps is not the only entity with an interest or authority in water planning. The need to integrate ecological and socioeconomic issues with traditional water resource objectives across many federal and state agencies increases the complexity of project planning and admits a much larger number of agencies and stakeholders to the deliberations. As environmental stewardship becomes more integrated into project planning, construction, and operation, the Corps must take into account that

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers environmental consequences of project development may occur outside the watershed in which any particular project resides. No clearer example of this can be given than the Mississippi delta and Louisiana coastal system. While the Corps’ New Orleans District has jurisdiction over the Mississippi delta and Louisiana coastal system, it has absolutely no jurisdiction in upstream watersheds where much of Louisiana’s land loss and Gulf of Mexico hypoxia originate. The project alternatives that can be explored are only those that can be developed within the boundaries of the Corps New Orleans District. As another example, dam construction that removes sediment from a river and eventually results in beach starvation at the mouth may not be an issue for a single Corps district whose geographical boundaries do not include both the coast and the watershed in which the dam is located. Similar problems arise from insufficient coordination between projects involving dredge material disposal in one district and beach nourishment in an adjacent district. There is no mandate for Corps’ districts to cooperate; each district need only view its project independently, even though its project might be in close geographical proximity to another district’s projects. Prioritizing dredging operations along the Atlantic or Pacific coast may include operations in multiple Corps districts. In effect, Corps districts compete for projects in Congress, without regard for the efficacy of the individual project within the sum of projects proposed in the coastal system. Although some attempts to coordinate sediment management have been initiated by the Corps, greater effort is needed. KNOWLEDGE AND GUIDANCE ISSUES State of the Art State-of-the-art water resources systems planning requires abundant and diverse information that is organized into a useful framework for decision making. Technology to support effective decision making and planning is now widely available. The Corps’ Institute for Water Resources (IWR), established in 1969 in Alexandria, Virginia, provides software to Corps districts for water resources planning and hydrologic engineering tasks. In 2000, the Corps’ Navigation Data Center in Alexandria, Virginia, and the Corps’ Hydrologic Engineering Center in Davis, California, were added to the IWR. The Navigation Data Center is the Corps’ data collection organization for information on waterborne commerce, vessel characteristics, port facilities, dredging, and navigation locks. The Hydrologic

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering Center (HEC) is a research, training, and consulting organization that specializes in hydrologic engineering and hydrologic models used by Corps staff. The HEC concentrates on predicting and modeling river hydrology and hydraulics using various HEC models. These predictions are revised as the models become more refined and specialized (for more information, visit http://www.iwr.usace.army.mil/iwr/software/software.htm). In sum, the data and models provided and maintained by the IWR and its centers focus on hydrology, river hydraulics and sediment transport, hydrologic statistics and risk analysis, reservoir system analysis, planning analysis, and water control management. The Corps has a long and distinguished history in developing hydrologic and hydraulic modeling and decision support tools, and it has worked continually to develop more sophisticated and accurate modeling capabilities and will continue to do so in the future. Although not maintained or served by the Corps, land-use and population models are now also widely available, as are remote sensing imagery and census data used to develop these models. Geographic information systems are routinely used to organize, analyze, and model relevant spatial information. The Corps’ existing project scoping process, including public comment and consultation with other agencies, should be sufficient to identify and utilize existing land-use and population data and models. The increased availability of data, software, and models does not mean that a complete planning support model can be developed in a short time with limited effort and expense, although it may be possible to conduct preliminary or screening analyses of considerable breadth and detail with modest effort. Such analyses can be particularly useful in a reconnaissance study to identify information needs that must be addressed in a more complete planning and decision-making effort. Some information needs may be satisfied by existing technology and resources for data collection (e.g., water quality samples, economic inventory) and modeling (e.g., refined hydraulic and sedimentation models), although the basis for fulfilling other information needs remains rudimentary (e.g., biological response to water projects). The Corps has relied on hydrologic models in the design and management of water resources projects for decades, and few would argue that this is done poorly. However, important knowledge gaps and data needs exist. Water resources projects would be better served with more complete information in the following areas. Water data. Long-term water discharge information is essential for evaluating the status of water resources and, in particular, any

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers trends that can influence long-term, systems-based water resource planning. The number of water gauges used by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is decreasing, and some long-term records are being terminated. Unreliable funding and decommissioning of USGS gauges is a serious problem for water planning, particularly when long-running records are terminated (Hirsch and Norris, 2001). Ecosystem knowledge. Many Corps projects are designed entirely or in part to restore an ecosystem. The technical basis for modeling ecosystem response is still developing and often not sufficient to support reliable predictions. Often, general biological objectives can be specified only in terms of related ecosystem components, such as habitat restoration. Further research is needed to accurately assess ecosystem health and to positively connect water project attributes with ecosystem changes. Ecosystem models that predict the response of vegetation, changes in water quality, sediment delivery, and other ecological features (including surface water flows) to environmental change are being developed by some Corps districts. Habitat modeling is a core component of the Corps’ adaptive restoration plans in the Florida Everglades and the Louisiana coastal area, but most Corps districts do not have access to the data or models needed to analyze the habitat impacts of water resources projects. Moreover, data sets needed to simulate environmental change (beyond hydrology) are woefully incomplete. Existing planning models and data bases are too simplistic to rely on for higher-order predictions of system and subsystem interactions. The ecosystem aspects of water project planning must account for such knowledge gaps, particularly by incorporating an adaptive framework with well-defined biologic targets that can be used to redirect management actions. Environmental economics knowledge. Most Corps projects involve multiple and typically conflicting objectives. Effective water resource decision making on river basin and coastal system scale will require an improved ability to evaluate trade-offs among noncommensurate objectives. Methods for assessing environmental effects that can be implemented within existing Corps budgetary constraints and organizational structures must be developed. Although the Corps has taken steps to incorporate environmental effects in a systematic way in the planning process, it stops short of translating such effects into project benefits and costs that can be directly compared with national economic development (NED)

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers benefits and costs. This topic is discussed in more detail later in this chapter, as well as in Chapter 4. Adaptive Management and Project Evaluations The combination of multiple objectives, data gaps, knowledge gaps, and limitations in the state of the art introduces considerable uncertainty in project planning and design. This uncertainty is an inherent part of the management of all natural systems and its consequences are particularly obvious when ecological outcomes are added to the list of project objectives. To accomplish resource planning and management in the face of such uncertainty, the concept of adaptive management has gained increased acceptance in the Corps and other land resources agencies. As discussed extensively in the recently released National Research Council (NRC, 2004a) report Adaptive Management for Water Resources Project Planning, the concept of adaptive management is not new, nor is it complicated. Essentially it is a management tool that is multi-disciplinary and especially useful in the natural sciences. Adaptive management is premised on the fact that neither natural nor social systems behave in a predictable, linear fashion, but rather are comprised of a significant amount of noise and inherent unpredictability. This unpredictability, or uncertainty, is particularly evident when various systems interact with one another. As a greater number of systems interact, the uncertainty increases with regard to the ability to predict an outcome. This uncertainty is amplified when applied to multiple, complex, and interacting systems (e.g., ecological response to changes in the hydrology, land use, and water quality of a watershed). Thus, predicting the outcome of a project that attempts to manage many complex systems is filled with varying levels of uncertainty. In response to this uncertainty, it is useful to treat a management action as a type of experiment, whose results dictate how to continue with the project. In this context, it is necessary to identify key elements of the system whose monitoring will indicate the success of the project in meeting its objectives. Persistent monitoring provides the opportunity to change project features in ways that can correct for unintended or inferior results. Ongoing evaluations of project performance are critically important when dealing with increasingly complex and highly interactive systems. Evaluations are a basic and integral part of the scientific process. Without some type of appraisal during or after construction of a project, it is impossible to know if the project succeeded and to identify parts of the pro-

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ject that require modification. Importantly, without post-project evaluation, it is not possible to learn how to improve the design and implementation of future projects. A post-project evaluation (PPE) is a type of summative evaluation conducted after the project is completed that focuses on the outcome to determine whether the project met the goals outlined at its beginning. For some projects, such as dam reoperation or beach nourishment, the necessary evaluation is ongoing and assesses whether the project is progressing as intended and, if necessary, informs changes in project design. Such evaluations have gained favor over the last decade as more Corps projects require performance data for adaptive management. The PPE should not be limited to ecologic assessment but should examine all aspects of the project—technical, institutional, financial, social, management, and ecological. The PPE should reflect, at the very least, the same criteria with which alternative plans were reviewed in the feasibility phase. These criteria could be modified for a PPE in the following manner (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1997): Completeness: Were the desired results obtained? Did the plan include all the necessary parts and actions to produce the desired results? Effectiveness: Did the project meet the plan’s objectives? Efficiency: Did the project minimize costs and was it cost-effective? Acceptability: Is the project acceptable and compatible with existing laws and policies? These criteria are a general guide for a project evaluation, whether the evaluation is carried out dung the project (ongoing) or after the project is completed as a PPE. Determining whether the project is “acceptable” requires that a determination be made at the beginning of the project to define a set of multiple and compatible objectives. As the project progresses toward completion, all of the above criteria can be used to ensure that the project achieves its goals in an effective and efficient manner. The PPE does, however, require flexibility in the scope of the evaluation (not all projects would require an extensive evaluation) and should be explicitly defined, and cost-sharing agreed to, in the feasibility phase. Because the complexity and potential consequences will vary from project to project, the current cost limits on post-project evaluations should be replaced with a flexible system in which the scope, tasks, standards, and costs of PPE are determined on a case-by-case basis as part of a feasibility study. The decision to move ahead with a project should be contingent on

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the judgment, informed by appropriate internal and external review, that the post-project evaluation plan is sufficient to document the achievement of project objectives, as well as identifying unintended consequences and undesired cumulative effects associated with the project. Recommendation 5-5: Post-project evaluations should be a required component of all projects and should be cost-shared with the local sponsor. The scope, timing, spatial and temporal scale, and funding for these evaluations should be determined during the feasibility study. Further review of Corps evaluation and adaptive management procedures can be found in the reports on peer review, project planning, and adaptive management that form the other parts of this NRC review of Army Corps project planning methods and procedures (NRC, 2002a, 2004a, 2004b). The Corps’ Knowledge Base The current state of knowledge is so vast in the water resources area that it can be difficult for one agency to harbor the full range of scientific, engineering, and socioeconomic skills that might be required on a particular project. The Corps must seek to find a useful balance of in-house and outside expertise. However difficult it is to build and maintain Corps expertise for these disciplines, it must be stressed that Corps management must continue to make a concerted effort to recruit, train, and maintain such staff. As Corps projects expand (e.g., more watershed analysis and planning) and diversify (e.g., more ecosystem restorations), they will have to rely on these subject matter experts to bring relevant professional experience and institutional knowledge for analyses and planning. Additionally, the Corps should take advantage of outside scientists and engineers who can bring specialized knowledge or a detailed understanding of the project area (in all aspects of the project’s domain including economics, hydrology, etc.) These experts may be especially useful in filling specific knowledge gaps and possibly providing proprietary or other data sets that could help the Corps expedite and improve its planning. Outside experts in various disciplines could also help the Corps develop core competencies, whether they are hired as advisers or as contractors to train Corps staff. The Corps, like other federal agencies, is currently losing significant parts of its institutional and core competency to retirement. An August 2002 memo on planning capability from Chief of Engineers George Griffin

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to division chiefs addresses the continued retirement of Corps personnel who were responsible for watershed-wide planning prior to the WRDA 1986. As these employees retire, they take with them the technical skills and institutional knowledge of how to conduct river basin planning acquired before the Corps moved more toward local, cost-shared, project-by-project planning. The Corps should consider conducting workshops and training seminars using senior Corps planners, involved in earlier water resources planning projects, to train junior planners in watershed-level water resources planning. The Corps has recognized that the lack of training curricula has led to a knowledge gap in Corps planning and to a large number of planners with limited experience. As a result, the Corps is reemphasizing planning as an area of expertise and has instituted the following training initiatives: (1) planner core curriculum, (2) planning associates program, and (3) master’s degree program. These programs are vitally important and should be consistently supported to provide not only effective in-house capabilities, but also incentive for the retention of strong employees. Recommendation 5-6: The Corps should undertake an effort to review current staffing practices and, if necessary, expand these practices to maintain a well-trained in-house staff and to employ the services of outside scientists and engineers who can bring specialized knowledge or a detailed understanding of the project area. Need for Revised Planning Guidelines Fully integrated water resource planning and management requires effective guidance to determine appropriate time and space scales, and to evaluate non-commensurate objectives. Comprehensive guidance on integrated planning is not found in the current Principles and Guidelines (P&G), particularly regarding the evaluation of noncommensurate social, environmental, and economic objectives and the identification of appropriate spatial and temporal scales to analyze a diverse range of project objectives. Existing guidance is thorough on traditional benefit-cost analysis (BCA), but the heavy reliance on analytical methods must be relaxed in the context of multi-objective, multi-stakeholder integrated studies. The P&G has not been revised for 20 years and should be updated to provide sufficient and balanced information on how to conduct integrated water systems planning within river basins and coastal systems.

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers In today’s environment, planning water projects at the river basin and coastal systems scale requires a balanced evaluation of environmental, social, and economic effects of water projects in project planning. For many years, a bedrock of the Corps planning process has been the use of BCA to assess the economic benefits and costs of water projects. Although the P&G recognizes the need to account for such effects through the national ecosystem restoration (NER) accounts, the challenge of monetizing environmental costs and benefits of water projects has prevented the Corps from weighing these costs and benefits directly along with the traditional economic benefits identified for inclusion in the NED account. Methods for a balanced evaluation of environmental and economic objectives are evolving. Different approaches have been attempted. In some cases, environmental restoration has been included as part of the total NED cost of each project alternative (Box 4-1), as in the case of alternatives considered under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Watershed plan. In other plans, such as the Central and Southern Florida Indian River Lagoon South Project, environmental and economic benefits and costs are evaluated through the use of cost-effectiveness and incremental cost analysis. Under this procedure, the ecosystem benefits of alternative water projects are measured in terms of physical dimensions such as acres of wetlands or habitat units. Estimates are then made of the economic costs of achieving these physical changes in output, with the objective of determining the least-cost means of achieving each possible level of environmental benefit, measured in physical units. The resulting lists of “least-cost plans” are then compared to each other to identify the plans that produce more environmental benefits at the same cost or lesser cost than other alternatives. These approaches to accounting for both NER and NED effects are among the feasible current alternatives, given continuing controversy over the reliability and validity of some approaches for monetizing environmental benefits and costs, but they can also exclude otherwise superior alternatives. Including the costs of environmental restoration while failing to include the economic benefits can cause some alternatives to appear costlier to society than is actually the case. Similarly, even sophisticated cost-effectiveness studies depend heavily on how the physical attributes of environmental benefits are defined and combined. The Corps should continue to take steps such as those outlined in New Directions in Water Resources Planning for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (NRC, 1999b) and Analytical Methods and Approaches for Water Resources Project Planning (NRC, 2004b) to develop protocols and standards for

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers incorporating environmental benefits and costs into project planning in a manner that is comparable to traditional NED benefits and costs. Recommendation 5-7: The Corps’ planning guidance should be modified to provide Corps planners with contemporary analytical techniques necessary for integrated systems planning on large scales within river basin and coastal systems. Guidelines for identifying all relevant factors affected by a water project and their spatial and temporal scales, and standards for a balanced evaluation of economic, social, and environmental factors, should be updated and expanded to a level of detail comparable to current standards for traditional BCA of the economic objectives of a project. CONCLUSIONS An ideal water planning environment—or even a reasonably good one—will take time to develop. The approach emerging over the past decade is one that emphasizes multiple objectives and gives a voice to a wide range of stakeholders. As the list of project objectives expands to more consistently include environmental and recreational objectives, the planning environment in which the Corps operates has become increasingly complex. The range of objectives and of the stakeholders who advocate them push water project planning and evaluation ever further in the direction of integrated analyses at the scale of river basins and coastal systems. The Corps has demonstrated that it is able to participate effectively in integrated studies at the river basin and coastal system scale. Despite the need for integrated planning, the political and popular support for river basin and coastal systems planning has been neither consistent nor unanimous. Of particular importance is the powerful combination of a focused local sponsor with a well-defined project and a receptive member of Congress willing to carry the project forward to congressional authorization. The current piecemeal approach to project planning and evaluation works at cross-purposes to integrated water resources management at the river basin and coastal system scale. Such planning would clearly be facilitated within an entirely new context in which a clearly stated federal water policy was implemented by a central entity with the resources and authority to carry out the necessary analyses and select the most beneficial projects. The history of such central resource planning and

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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers management in the United States is mixed, and its prospects in the current fiscal and political climate are not strong. Nonetheless, the panel has identified interim, largely internal, steps that can be taken, although falling well short of comprehensive water systems planning. The actions proposed in this report would represent significant improvements within the Corps’ planning environment that would raise Corps planning studies closer to the standards of integration and environmental stewardship articulated by federal regulations and Corps leadership. Effective integrated water resources planning at the scale of river basins and coastal systems requires a clear mandate, consistent guidance and standards, and capable staff who are given the opportunity to evaluate all relevant aspects of a water project with adequate data, current tools, and necessary collaboration. The panel finds that policy guidance from Corps leadership is now quite clear regarding the need to pursue planning and regulatory activities in an integrated fashion, and that many on the Corps’ planning and technical staff are motivated to carry out this mandate. At the same time, full and consistent implementation of this approach takes time and faces a variety of barriers. To provide a clear general direction, more complete and balanced guidance is needed regarding integrated planning, particularly in the evaluation of environmental, social, and economic costs and benefits and the identification of appropriate spatial and temporal scales at which different aspects of water projects must be evaluated. The Corps has identified serious and growing gaps in knowledge and capabilities and is taking steps to expand or reinstate training opportunities for its staff. These steps are essential and can help improve staff recruiting and retention, but more widespread use of outside expertise is also needed to complement in-house analytical capabilities in this increasingly complex planning environment. Beyond building analytical capabilities and lowering barriers to collaboration with other agencies, stakeholders, and outside experts, the most important step that can be taken to facilitate widespread implementation of integrated water resources planning is to promulgate clear standards requiring such an approach. If a clearly articulated and externally reviewed study plan of the salient social, economic, and environmental factors, at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales, is required to proceed to a feasibility study, and if a monitoring plan identifying key system properties that indicate project success is required to proceed to project implementation, project managers will have a clearer opportunity to implement existing Corps guidelines in the planning and evaluation of individual projects.