Given the large number and wide range of existing and proposed projects, the Corps plays a dominant role in the stewardship of the nation’s ecosystems. The Corps has increasingly embraced this role and now states that environmental stewardship is a central part of its mission (U.S. Senate, Committee on Environment and Public Works, 2002). Environmental restoration is a significant and growing part of the Corps’ portfolio. Evaluation of environmental impacts and benefits of project alternatives are now a standard part of Corps practice, although the methodology is neither fully developed nor consistently implemented. Chapter 2 illustrates the
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 3 Role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Environmental Restoration and Stewardship Chapter Highlights The Corps’ commitment to ecosystem restoration and environmental stewardship increases the demand for and complexity of integrated water project planning and evaluation. Cumulative impacts of existing and planned projects must be considered, and effective methods for evaluating environmental as well as economic objectives must be implemented. This chapter examines the Corps’ obligations in environmental stewardship in its role as a water project agency, as well as an environmental regulator. Given the large number and wide range of existing and proposed projects, the Corps plays a dominant role in the stewardship of the nation’s ecosystems. The Corps has increasingly embraced this role and now states that environmental stewardship is a central part of its mission (U.S. Senate, Committee on Environment and Public Works, 2002). Environmental restoration is a significant and growing part of the Corps’ portfolio. Evaluation of environmental impacts and benefits of project alternatives are now a standard part of Corps practice, although the methodology is neither fully developed nor consistently implemented. Chapter 2 illustrates the
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers complex interconnectedness of hydrologic systems and the ecosystems they support. Successful environmental restoration projects, like more traditional water resources projects, require integrated systems planning. The unique challenges and opportunities presented by this increased focus on restoration and stewardship thus warrant fuller exploration. ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION IN RIVER BASINS AND COASTAL SYSTEMS In the early 1990s, ecosystem restoration was formally stated as a primary mission of the Corps of Engineers civil works program. The Corps’ objective in ecosystem restoration planning is to “contribute to National Ecosystem Restoration (NER). These contributions, or NER outputs, are defined in the Corps Planning Guidance Notebook (PGN) as “increases in the net quantity and/or quality of desired ecosystem resources” (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2000b, Section 2.2[b]). When Lt. General Henry Hatch, former chief of engineers and commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, addressed the American Society of Civil Engineers in the fall of 1989, he said, “It is we engineers who hold most of the keys to the solutions of the world’s environmental problems.” As Corps leaders accepted their new mission to protect the environment, they also conceded that the Corps’ past practices unintentionally damaged sensitive ecosystems and asserted that adequate engineering expertise exists to correct these problems. The $9.4 billion Corps budget for fiscal year (FY) 1990-1991 included roughly $1 billion for environmental restoration projects, which ranged from hazardous waste cleanups at military bases to the creation of wetlands. The FY 1990-1991 budget also included funds to modify several existing Corps projects for the purposes of ecosystem restoration, such as restoring wildlife areas along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and rebuilding fish habitat along the Columbia River. Funding for the Corps’ environmental programs has increased dramatically over the past decade (Figure 3-1); most notable is funding for extraordinarily large-scale projects such as the Everglades restoration and the restoration activities being considered in Louisiana. By 2003, the Corps had proposed environmental enhancement and restoration projects in 35 states; some examples include requests for $95 million for fish habitat restoration in the Columbia River basin, $22 million for Missouri River fish and wildlife mitigation, and $127 million for ecosystem restoration in South Florida. Environmental enhancement and restoration projects comprise one-third of new Corps projects (including
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers FIGURE 3-1 Increase in the environmental portion of the Corps’ budget over the past few decades. Figure courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. reconnaissance “surveys”) proposed for FY 2004 (U.S. Department of the Army, 2003). With the approval of the $8 billion Everglades ecosystem restoration program in the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 and the ongoing discussion of devoting approximately $14 billion to a Louisiana coastal area restoration project, the Corps has embarked on a large-scale “ecosystem restoration” approach. With this new approach, the Corps is undertaking restoration as a primary project objective, without dependence on a flood control or beach nourishment project as a basis for plan initiation. For environmental restoration to be a successful component of Corps activities, it is important to acknowledge it is still a young science. Consequently, it is critical that the Corps allocate sufficient funds to monitor the efficacy of restoration efforts and generate information that will ultimately improve the success of restoration projects (this point is discussed in the newly released [NRC, 2004a] report Adaptive Management for Water Resources Project Planning). The duration, scope, and scale of monitoring of these projects should be sufficient to predict successful restoration and mitigation efforts. Designing and monitoring restoration projects so that either success or failure of a project can provide information to be used in improving the effectiveness of future efforts is an economically and environmentally sound practice. Currently, the Corps is limited to spending only 1 percent (up to 3 percent for adaptive
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers management projects) of project funds on monitoring and assessment for restoration projects. Adaptive Management for Water Resources Project Planning specifically called on Congress to provide new authority and direction to strengthen the Corps’ ability to adjust operations of existing projects (in order to increase overall project benefits) and increase its ability to monitor post-construction changes. Furthermore, the report called for Congress to appropriate sufficient funding (with appropriate cost-sharing by cosponsors) for post-construction monitoring and evaluation of environmental and economic objectives and subsequent outcomes (NRC, 2004a). Nowhere is this need more acute than in large, complex, environmental restoration projects. Maximizing the probability of current and future success in environmental restoration in complex systems with multiple jurisdictions requires the Corps and its partners to adopt a consistent approach to adaptive management. Accepted adaptive management approaches argue that once a project is designed and constructed, a plan is put in place to implement changes in the management of restored habitat in response to undesired system changes. A successful example of this approach can be seen in the Delaware Bay, where coastal restoration is being conducted by the New Jersey-based Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) (Mitsch and Jørgensen, 2003, 2004; Weinstein et al., 1997, 2001). This restoration uses the extent of coverage of coastal marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora) and other desirable flora to trigger management responses. The Corps is also adopting this management approach in other restoration efforts such as the new plan for oyster restoration in the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay (see Box 3-1). Role of Ecological Engineering The emerging discipline of ecological engineering can greatly aid the Corps in this environmental-steward role and in the rehabilitation and restoration of habitats. Sustainable ecosystem restoration requires emphasizing entire ecosystem function over a species-by-species analysis. Ecosystems are inherently self-designing, and restoration efforts should recognize this process through the application of sound environmental engineering principles. Traditionally, restoration efforts have focused on improving land and water resources for specific plant and animal species and have not taken a holistic approach to planning and management. Box 3-2 provides some background on an ecological engineering framework and how the Corps may benefit from planning within that framework.
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers CUMULATIVE EFFECTS OF THE CORPS’ ACTIVITIES IN RIVER BASINS AND COASTAL SYSTEMS A central concept of ecosystem analysis is that the response of individual species—and the ecosystem as a whole—to any event cannot be examined in isolation. The cumulative effects of a variety of anthropogenic stressors—not simply individual stressors or incremental changes from human influence (Breitburg and Riedel, in press)—must be examined. The potential for many small individual projects to lead to large-scale habitat degradation, the occurrence of interactions among stressors, and the importance of threshold values of environmental variables to organisms make it apparent that a narrow evaluation of individual stressors or incremental changes can severely underestimate the potential for environmental damage. Instances of stressor interactions and threshold effects are common. For example, the expression of trace element toxicity can depend on nutrient loadings and ratios (Breitburg et al., 1999); habitat alteration can influence the success of invasive species (Stachowicz et al., 2003); and small changes in dissolved oxygen (affected by nutrient loadings and flow) can increase the mortality of aquatic organisms (Miller et al., 2002). Although single events or large-scale stressors can negatively impact a system, over time unchecked small or interactive occurrences can be equally, if not more, destructive. Alternatively, an incremental increase in habitat alteration that affects a particular species’ population or the overall ecosystem function may be small, yet the cumulative impacts can be great. A piecemeal approach to environmental management without strong focus on cumulative effects is likely to result in a gradual erosion of habitat quality and quantity. A change in procedures for project and permit evaluation is needed so that cumulative effects can be factored in when estimating environmental impacts. For example, the potential impact of increasing the depth of a shipping channel should be evaluated not only by estimating the impact of the new increment to be dredged, but also by estimating the total impact of a shipping channel from the proposed dredging. Historically, the Corps estimated ecological impacts of an incremental change when a project was expanded. For example, the environmental impact statement (EIS) examining the effects of extending several locks on the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway considered only the environmental risk resulting from increased barge traffic, not the long-term effects of operation and maintenance of the entire navigation system (NRC, 2001a).
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers BOX 3-1 Oyster Restoration Plan for the Virginia Portion of Chesapeake Bay The population and therefore the harvests of the Eastern oyster (Crassostea virginica) have declined during the past century due to a combination of overharvesting, habitat destruction, and disease (Mann, 2000; Rothschild et al., 1994). In response, oyster restoration efforts have been under way in both the Maryland and the Virginia portions of the Chesapeake Bay. The 2003 plan for oyster restoration in the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay exemplifies the value of many of the recommendations of this panel, which are also embodied in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Environmental Operating Principles. These include the following: making the best use of available scientific expertise; taking an innovative approach to comparing potential economic and environmental benefits of a project strongly incorporating adaptive management into the plan to acknowledge the uncertainty involved in successfully restoring oysters; and increasing funding for monitoring to evaluate project success, allow adaptive management strategies to be implemented, and plan the project on a watershed scale (D. Schulte, Virginia Sea Grant, personal communication, 2003). The oyster restoration plan was developed with close collaboration of and advice from scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences. This allowed the plan to be developed using the most up-to-date scientific information. The Corps adopted the consensus recommendation on the strategy for oyster restoration with the highest likelihood of success—a plan that included consideration of oyster genetics, disease susceptibility, and characteristics of the physical environment. State-of-the-art approaches will be used to evaluate and improve the success of Chesapeake Bay restoration projects, including tracking genetic markers to provide information on the contribution of planted
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oysters to local populations (a measure of the success of the project) and using newly developed disease-tolerant oyster strains. The planning process also broke new ground in that it included a critical examination of two categories of restoration goals by comparing the value of constructed oyster harvest grounds with the value of creating sanctuaries in which oyster removal would be prohibited. The Corps decided to focus all of its efforts on the creation of sanctuary reefs because the benefits associated with the ecological function of oysters would be lost if harvesting were permitted, and these ecological benefits were not compensated by the economic benefits associated with the creation of harvest sites. Although the adopted plan deviates from that originally proposed by the state sponsor, over time the predicted benefits to the fishery through increased oyster reproduction and seed production are greater than would be expected if the majority of effort had been designated for construction of harvest sites. The oyster restoration plan also emphasizes adaptive management and deviates from standard Corps practice by designating 10 percent of the budget for monitoring and adaptive management rather than the usual 1 to 3 percent. The lower, more typical level of funding for monitoring was judged as inadequate to address the uncertainties surrounding oyster restoration. More extensive monitoring will permit a more accurate assessment of the success and benefits of the restoration projects and will provide data needed for the implementation of corrective actions should they be required. Finally, project planning included spatial scales far larger than the size of individual restoration projects and considered the interconnectedness of the aquatic environment. Planning has been on a state-wide basis and includes the entire Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and 30 monitoring sites throughout the region. Increased attention to the cumulative effects of Corps projects and permitting is also important because river basins and coastal systems are exposed to multiple stressors resulting from both human activities and natural disturbances such as storms and floods. Altering the landscape or hydrology potentially increases the susceptibility of ecosystems and indi-
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers BOX 3-2 Ecological Engineering Although there was some early use of the term ecological engineering in the 1960s, the use of this term and the development of the ecological engineering field in industrialized countries has occurred more recently and did so primarily due to the following factors: (1) the loss of confidence that all environmental problems can be solved through conventional technological means; (2) the continued loss of sustainable ecosystems including rain forests, coral reefs, riverine habitat, riparian forests, and wetlands; and (3) the recognition that many solutions to environmental problems and pollutants merely shift these problems and pollutants from one form or location to another (Mitsch and Jørgensen, 2003, 2004). Ecological engineering involves both (1) the restoration of ecosystems that have been substantially disturbed by human activities such as environmental pollution or land disturbance, (2) the development of new sustainable ecosystems that have both human and ecological value (Mitsch and Jørgensen, 2004). Five ecological engineering principles have been suggested by Mitsch and Jørgensen (2003, 2004): It is based on the self-designing capacity of ecosystems. It can be the acid test of ecological theories. It relies on system approaches. It conserves non-renewable energy sources. It supports biological conservation. Several restoration fields have developed somewhat independently of ecological engineering, and many appear to have the design of ecosystems as their theme as well. A definition of ecological restoration, which resulted from a National Academy of Sciences study in the early 1990s on aquatic ecosystem restoration, is “the return of an ecosystem to a close approximation of its condition prior to disturbance” (NRC, 1992, p. 5). Although related to ecological engineering or even a part of it, many restoration approaches seem to lack one of the two important cornerstones of ecological engineering, namely: (1) recognizing the self-designing ability of ecosystems or (2) basing the approaches on a theoretical foundation in ecology, not just empiricism. Furthermore, restoration of ecosystems to what they
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were previously thought to be is not always possible due to changed hydrologic, geomorphic, and biogeochemical factors. A popular view is that ecological restoration is a subfield of ecological engineering. In any event, the fields of ecological engineering and ecosystem restoration, slightly different in their goals, yet conjoined because they both involve designing ecosystems, are distinctly different from the better-known fields of environmental engineering, industrial ecology, and biotechnology (see discussion in Mitsch and Jørgensen, 2004). Ecology as a science is not routinely integrated with engineering, even in environmental engineering programs. Creating stronger linkages between these fields will be a challenge and an opportunity for organizations such as the Corps as these organizations carry out complex restoration projects. vidual organisms to the negative effects of additional stressors. In some cases, two or more stressors interact in ways that increase the environmental problems or introduce new challenges. That is, although each stressor may have little or no effect on the system by itself, when stressors occur simultaneously the overall impact can be greater than the sum of the individual effects. One obvious example of cumulative effects is well recognized in planning water resource projects dealing with flood prevention. The construction of a single levee or floodwall has limited impact on the overall system because floodwaters are simply diverted away from protected areas into adjacent floodplain or downstream. However, extensive construction of levees and floodwalls within a river basin results in higher flood stages downstream. The Corps recognizes this potential for cumulative effects of flood control structures and accounts for it in project design. However, building complex water resource projects, significantly changing land uses, and extensively modifying geochemical or hydrologic cycles (through use of pesticides or fertilizers or water diversion) are not as easily accounted for by Corps project planners, especially given that the Corps is not involved in the majority of these activities. The consequences of these multiple stressor interactions may be expressed at a distance from the site of impact, affecting the success of restoration projects and increasing the temporal variability of important ecosystem processes (Breitburg and Riedel, in press).
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers UNDERSTANDING THE CORPS’ REGULATORY RESPONSIBILITIES In addition to its role in planning, developing, and maintaining water projects, the Corps also plays a major role in environmental stewardship through its regulatory responsibilities regarding the disposal of fill (sediment) in U.S. waters. For completeness, this section first describes the scope and responsibilities of the Corps. The Corps of Engineers was granted the authority to regulate activities in U.S. navigable waters by the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 401 et seq.). The regulatory responsibilities created by this act focused on controlling activities that would interfere with navigation. Section 9 of the act required Corps of Engineers approval of “any bridge, dam, dike, or causeway over or in any port, roadstead, haven, harbor, canal, navigable river, or other navigable water of the United States.” Section 10 of the act states that “it shall not be lawful to excavate or fill, or in any manner to alter or modify the course, location, condition, or capacity of, any port, roadstead, haven, harbor, canal, lake, harbor of refuge, or enclosure within the limits of any breakwater, or of the channel of any navigable water of the United States” without prior permission of the Corps of Engineers. Section 10 permits include structures (e.g., piers, wharves, breakwaters, bulkheads, jetties, weirs, transmission lines) and work such as dredging or disposal of dredged material, or excavation, filling, or other modifications to navigable waters of the United States. “Navigable waters” are defined as waters that have been used in the past, are now used, or are susceptible to be used as a means to transport interstate or foreign commerce up to the head of navigation. The environmental consequences of these types of activities were acknowledged with the passage of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972; this law became commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA broadened the Corps’ authority over dredging and filling in “waters of the United States.” Section 404 of the CWA of 1972 prohibits the discharge of materials, such as dredged sediments, into coastal and inland waters of the United States unless authorized by a permit issued by the Corps of Engineers or a state with a regulatory program approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). The waters of the United States, as defined by the Corps and the USEPA for the purposes of the Section 404 regulatory program, include most wetlands.
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers The Corps issues two types of permits under its regulatory programs: general permits and standard permits. General permits are issued for activities that have only minimal impacts on the aquatic environment. General permits can be issued on a nationwide, regional, or state basis. Examples of activities that are permissible under nationwide permits include aids to navigation, some forms of bank stabilization, installation of utility lines, Coast Guard-approved bridges, boat ramps, oil spill cleanup, and modification of existing marinas. In total, the Corps issued 35,768 nationwide permits under the Section 404 program in FY 2002 (see Table 3-1). A regional permit may be issued by a district engineer when proposed activities are similar in nature and cause minimal environmental impact (both individually and cumulatively) and if the regional permit reduces duplication of regulatory control by state and federal agencies. Individual permits, the most common form of permit issued by the Corps, are issued on a case-by-case basis for projects involving the discharge of materials into waters of the United States when a review of the proposed activity is in the public interest, as it is defined in the Corps’ regulatory program regulations that govern administration of the Section 404 permitting program of the CWA. Individual permits are issued following a full public interest review of an individual application for a Corps permit. After evaluating all comments and information received, a final decision on the application is made. The Corps may decide to deny the proposed activity, permit the proposed activity, or permit the proposed activity with modification. The Corps (or an approved state program) may attach conditions to permits, including a requirement for compensatory mitigation. The permit decision is generally based on the outcome of a public interest balancing process in which the benefits of the project are balanced against the detriments. A permit is granted unless the proposal is found to be contrary to the public interest. The Corps periodically issues policy and guidance that govern its administrative procedures for the granting of permits, public review, interagency review, and enforcement of the Section 10 and Section 404 regulatory programs. After a permit is issued, the Corps may visit the construction site to determine compliance with the permit decision. If a Section 404 permit requires compensatory mitigation, the permit applicant may be instructed to conduct periodic environmental monitoring. If the Corps discovers that permit conditions were violated by the permittee, it may issue a compliance order, suspend or revoke the permit, or initiate civil judicial action against the permittee (NRC, 2001a). The information re-
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers TABLE 3-1 U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Regulatory Program, Total Permit Decisions, FY 2002 Permit Decisions Number Standard permitsa 4,023 Nationwideb 35,768 Regionalc 38,125 Letter of permissiond 3,258 Deniale 128 Withdrawnf 4,143 TOTAL 85,445 a Permits that require public notice, opportunity for public hearing, and an analysis of project alternatives and completion of an environmental assessment. b General Permits issued by Corps Headquarters to authorize activities with minimal impacts across the country. c General Permits issued by division or district engineers to authorize activities in particular geographic areas. d Permits issued where it is determined by the district engineer that the proposed work would be minor and have no significant impact on the environment. e Applications denied with or without prejudice: • Denial with prejudice occurs when a permit is denied because it is contrary to the public interest or result in unacceptable environmental impacts. • Denial without prejudice occurs when a permit is denied because the applicant lacks the necessary approval, such as water quality certification. f Individual permit applications withdrawn by the applicant or by the Corps. SOURCE: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2003c; available [on-line] at http://www.usace.army.mil/inet/functions/cw/cecwo//reg//2002webcharts.pdf [accessed March 24, 2004]). presented by these permits forms an extensive catalogue of activities within the nation’s river basins and coastal systems. THE U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS ROLE IN ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP The Corps controls or strongly influences an enormous range of activities that alter ecological systems, watersheds, and riverine and coastal
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers systems, both through the projects that the Corps plans and implements and through the permits it issues. The potential of the Corps to alter the structure and functioning of the nation’s ecosystems is immense. The Corps, itself, acknowledges that it must “move away from and avoid a way of doing business that would contribute to greater irreversible changes to natural ecosystems, and instead, move us toward environmental and ultimately, economic and social improvements” (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2002b, p. 3). Federal agencies are being challenged to look beyond the immediate impact of their activities and promote land and water management actions that increase overall ecosystem health. For example, the Corps, which is part of the Department of the Army, was one of 14 signatory agencies of a 1995 memorandum of understanding to foster the ecosystem approach. The stated goal of the ecosystem approach is “to restore and sustain the health, productivity, and biological diversity of ecosystems and the overall quality of life through a natural resource management approach that is fully integrated with social and economic goals” (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1999a, p. 16). Thus, the Corps, along with other agencies, is being charged to go beyond minimizing harm to enhancing environmental quality and living resources. Because of the Corps’ activities, expertise, authorities, and infrastructure, its staff is in a unique position to enhance environmental quality and should seek opportunities for environmental stewardship as a part of all projects and permitting activities—not only when it is requested to do so by state and local partners. This emphasis on environmental stewardship should not be limited to restoration projects, but instead should be a major consideration in planning, design, and decision making for all Corps activities. The federal Economic and Environmental Principles for Water and Related Land Resources Implementation Studies (P&G) (WRC, 1983), signed by President Reagan in 1983, guides Corps’ pre- and post-authorization studies and requires that alternative plans be “formulated in consideration of four criteria…completeness, effectiveness, efficiency, and acceptability” (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2000c, p. 2-4). Given the emphasis the Corps and other agencies are placing on environmental stewardship, the following are suggestions by members of the panel on how to retain the important role of environmental stewardship in project planning, construction, and perhaps permitting. This will require, but should not be limited to, the following: Consideration and evaluation of opportunities for environmental stewardship, including restoration, in all Corps projects
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Consistent consideration of the cumulative effects of all human activities, in water project planning in river basins and coastal systems; such consideration should take into account not only the spatial scales over which cumulative impacts may occur, but also the time frame over which these impacts might occur; guidelines to determine the spatial and temporal framework required in project evaluation should be incorporated into the P&G or documented in Corps policies and procedures Expansion of the spatial and temporal scales of the system to be analyzed in connection with permitting and projects, and the application of a watershed approach to planning (thereby allowing full consideration of the geographic scope of benefits, the environmental effects of planned projects and permits, and the complementary and antagonistic effects of multiple activities within a watershed) Improvement of evaluations to measure the effectiveness of mitigation and restoration efforts and the adoption of an adaptive management approach to restoration including increasing Corps expertise in ecosystem restoration Improvement of interagency collaboration and coordination on actions affecting natural resources (see Chapter 5) Improvement of methods for balancing environmental and economic costs and benefits in project planning and evaluation (see Chapter 4) Protection of sensitive and ecologically important habitat, species, and ecosystem functions Many of the above issues and challenges to fully integrating a sound program of environmental stewardship into the Corps’ activities have been acknowledged and acted on by the Corps. Announcement of the new Corps Environmental Operating Principles (Box 3-3) by Chief of Engineers Lt. General Robert Flowers marked an important step in increasing the role of environmental stewardship in Corps activities. The challenge that the Corps must now address is the thorough integration of these principles into its operating and evaluation procedures, and the development of mechanisms to foster a strong, uniform emphasis on environmental stewardship throughout the agency. A protocol for prioritizing projects for implementation could be developed and could take into account not only social needs and costs, but also environmental effects
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (positive and negative) and the effects of implementing or not implementing other projects within the watershed. The Program Management Plan for Integrating the Environmental Operating Principles Within HQUSACE describes an extensive list of ongoing and planned activities to increase the focus on environmental stewardship within the Corps (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2003c). Several of the issues highlighted in the plan have also been identified in this report, including: improved training and education on the concept of sustainability; improved planning methods to achieve a greater balance between economic and ecosystem benefits attributed to projects; and increased interagency cooperation and collaboration with nongovernmental organizations with a specific focus on environmental protection and restoration. Based on the arguments and logic presented in this chapter and in this report as a whole, the Corps is encouraged to progress as rapidly as possible in meeting its goal of incorporating “environmental restoration and sustainability” into the planning and implementation of all Corps projects (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2003c, p. 22). The September 2002 Corps of Engineers strategic plan expresses the Corps’ commitment to fully integrate environmental stewardship and restoration into its activities (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2002c). As part of its commitment to a sustainable future, the Corps acknowledges shifting national values assert that “growth and development must occur in a sustainable manner so as to protect vital ecosystems” and it accepts “responsibility for the condition of the environment and natural resources through…stewardship, regulatory, project planning, engineering, construction, and operations activities” (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2002c, p. 6). Two of the five strategic goals are (1) providing sustainable (including environmentally sustainable) development and integrated management of the nation’s water resources, and (2) repairing past environmental degradation and preventing future environmental losses—and the Corps’ associated objectives and initiatives offer the potential to position it as a key player in the protection and restoration of our nation’s environment. The environmental stewardship record of the Corps is mixed and includes both successes and failures. Some of the most ambitious and costly restoration projects (e.g., the Kissimmee River, the Everglades, and the Louisiana coast) are designed to correct damage caused by previous Corps’ projects that were conducted at a time when controlling water regimes was far more important to society than environmental stewardship. The challenge to the Corps will be to make substantive changes in procedures that have not historically made a positive contribution to stew-
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers BOX 3-3 Environmental Operating Principles of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Strive to achieve environmental sustainability. An environment maintained in a healthy, diverse, and sustainable condition is necessary to support life. Recognize the interdependence of life and the physical environment. Proactively consider environmental consequences of Corps programs and act accordingly in all appropriate circumstances. Seek balance and synergy among human development activities and natural systems by designing economic and environmental solutions that support and reinforce one another. Continue to accept corporate responsibility and accountability under the law for activities and decisions under Corps control that impact human health and welfare and the continued viability of natural systems. Seek ways and means to assess and mitigate cumulative impacts to the environment; bring systems approaches to the full life cycle of Corps processes and work. Build and share an integrated scientific, economic, and social knowledge base that supports a greater understanding of the environment and impacts of Corps work. Respect the views of individuals and groups interested in Corps activities, listen to them actively, and learn from their perspective in the search to find innovative win-win solutions to the nation’s problems that also protect and enhance the environment. SOURCE: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2001a; available [on-line] at http://www.hq.usace.army.mil/cepa/envprinciples.htm [accessed March 25, 2004]).
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ardship of our nation’s environment. This will require support from Congress as well as leadership and support from within the Corps. Chapter 5 considers various barriers and possible remedies to more fully and consistently implementing an integrated approach to water resources management—one that incorporates environmental stewardship. SUMMARY The extended time period from the request by a sponsor to project execution and post-project evaluation, combined with the rapidly changing importance of environmental restoration and stewardship in the Corps’ agenda, make it difficult to separate historical problems from current procedures. Some (mostly older) Corps projects have caused great and, in some cases irreparable, harm. Other (mostly newer) Corps projects can be seen as demonstrable successes in promoting environmental restoration. The potential for increasing success of the Corps as an important agent for environmental stewardship and restoration is illustrated in the following documents: the Environmental Operating Principles (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2001a); the Program Management Plan for Integrating the Environmental Operating Principles Within the HQUACE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2003c); the Corps Environmental Operating Principles and Implementation Guidance (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2002g); and the draft strategic plan (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 2002c). The Corps and other federal agencies have been charged with fostering an “ecosystem approach,” which seeks to integrate social and economic goals with the restoration and preservation of natural ecosystems. Simply minimizing harm to the environment is, therefore, no longer sufficient. The Corps should endeavor to improve environmental quality in all of its projects (not just its restoration projects). Potential impacts should take into account not only the spatial scales over which cumulative impacts may occur, but also the time frame over which they might occur. Recommendation 3-1: The Corps should ensure that all project plans include an assessment of how the project fulfills the Corps’ commitment to environmental stewardship. The cumulative effects of each project, together with other past and future human activities in the same river basin or coastal system, should be consistently evaluated for all projects.
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River Basins and Coastal Systems Planning within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Stewardship of hydrologic systems and the ecosystems they support requires that water resource projects be designed, implemented, and evaluated in a way that accounts for economic as well as environmental objectives at appropriate temporal and spatial scales. The analysis necessary to identify and appropriately evaluate these objectives and trade-offs forms the foundation of integrated water system planning. Chapter 4 examines the basis and methods of Corps integrated water project planning within the river basin and coastal system context.
Representative terms from entire chapter: