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Report Purpose and Scope

INTRODUCTION

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed and operates much of the nation’s water resources infrastructure for inland navigation enhancement, flood management, port and harbor channel maintenance, and beach and coastal protection. The agency’s projects include flood control levees, large hydropower and navigation facilities on the Columbia, Mississippi, and Missouri rivers, and ecosystem restoration projects (the largest of which is currently in the Florida Everglades). Much of this infrastructure was built during the middle of the twentieth century. At the time, the need for these projects to promote economic development and human well-being by promoting navigation and commerce, by preventing damages from floods, and by providing jobs, was generally agreed upon. The Corps of Engineers was widely viewed as the consummate rational, expert-driven resources planning and management agency. Some concerns were voiced—sometimes strongly—over potential environmental impacts of some projects, but those views tended to be overshadowed by more direct economic concerns and needs. In the ensuing decades, the nation’s social preferences broadened. Environmental quality became more important to many citizens (as evidenced, for example, by increases in many citizens’ willingness to pay for environmental improvements, for example), and the Congress passed many pieces of environmental legislation. Moreover, it became clear that many water projects had produced unintended and not fully anticipated environmental consequences.

The Corps’ traditional mission areas were broadened during the 1990s in connection with these shifting preferences. As a result of both congressional guidance and its own initiatives, the agency today is involved in ecological restoration efforts in many parts of the U.S. Meanwhile, traditional interests and users have largely remained in place. Many U.S. river and coastal systems are thus currently experiencing deep



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Adaptive Management for Water Resources Project Planning 1 Report Purpose and Scope INTRODUCTION The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed and operates much of the nation’s water resources infrastructure for inland navigation enhancement, flood management, port and harbor channel maintenance, and beach and coastal protection. The agency’s projects include flood control levees, large hydropower and navigation facilities on the Columbia, Mississippi, and Missouri rivers, and ecosystem restoration projects (the largest of which is currently in the Florida Everglades). Much of this infrastructure was built during the middle of the twentieth century. At the time, the need for these projects to promote economic development and human well-being by promoting navigation and commerce, by preventing damages from floods, and by providing jobs, was generally agreed upon. The Corps of Engineers was widely viewed as the consummate rational, expert-driven resources planning and management agency. Some concerns were voiced—sometimes strongly—over potential environmental impacts of some projects, but those views tended to be overshadowed by more direct economic concerns and needs. In the ensuing decades, the nation’s social preferences broadened. Environmental quality became more important to many citizens (as evidenced, for example, by increases in many citizens’ willingness to pay for environmental improvements, for example), and the Congress passed many pieces of environmental legislation. Moreover, it became clear that many water projects had produced unintended and not fully anticipated environmental consequences. The Corps’ traditional mission areas were broadened during the 1990s in connection with these shifting preferences. As a result of both congressional guidance and its own initiatives, the agency today is involved in ecological restoration efforts in many parts of the U.S. Meanwhile, traditional interests and users have largely remained in place. Many U.S. river and coastal systems are thus currently experiencing deep

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Adaptive Management for Water Resources Project Planning and protracted conflicts over the goals and benefits of river management and infrastructure operations, with the Corps at the center of many of these controversies. Citizens and interest groups today tend to be better informed about the economic, environmental, and analytical aspects of federal water projects and planning studies. The Corps’ professional judgment and analytical expertise is often called into question, and interest groups demand a strong voice in decision making. In its efforts to address these tensions more effectively, the Corps is exploring additional, more efficient means for incorporating principles of “adaptive management” into its operations. Adaptive management is a strategy that aims to create flexible resource management policies that can be adjusted as project outcomes are better understood and as stakeholder preferences change. Although its roots extend into many disciplines, adaptive management’s broad features are based on research conducted by ecological scientists in the early and mid-1970s. The concept gained greater currency in U.S. federal water and science agencies during the 1990s. For example, congressional legislation mandates that the Florida Everglades restoration project be managed under an adaptive management rubric, the federal science and management program for the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam is framed by adaptive management principles, and the Corps is promoting the concept as a guiding principle in managing the Missouri River dam and reservoir system. Adaptive management is interdisciplinary, has a strong theoretical component, and represents a departure from traditional management approaches in many ways. The adaptive management paradigm views management actions as flexible and amenable to adjustments. It emphasizes careful monitoring of economic and environmental outcomes of management actions. It also seeks to engage stakeholders in a collaborative “learning while doing” process. This study was congressionally-mandated in Section 216 of the 2000 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA 2000). In that legislation, Congress directed the National Academy of Sciences (part of “The National Academies”1) to review the Corps’ peer review procedures and its methods of analysis (see Appendix A, Section 216 of WRDA 2000). In response to that request, four study panels and a coordinating committee were appointed (this report’s Foreword and Preface list all the study panels and further explain the 216 study structure and process). The reports from the panels and the report from the coordinating committee all stand 1   The National Academies consists of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council is the operating arm of The National Academies.

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Adaptive Management for Water Resources Project Planning as independent studies, and all of which were subjected to standard National Research Council review procedures. The reports are collectively referred to as the “216” studies. This is the report from the Panel on Adaptive Management, which was charged to review and comment on the Corps’ efforts at implementing the adaptive management concept, and to recommend ways in which the Corps might effectively implement adaptive management approaches (see Box 1.1). This report summarizes the Corps’ experiences with the adaptive management concept, identifies challenges and limitations associated with implementing the concept, and provides recommendations on how adaptive management might be more effectively implemented within the Corps’ activities and work program. This panel held four meetings during the course of its study: a first meeting in Washington, D.C. in May 2002, during which adaptive management was discussed with staff from Corps Headquarters and from the Corps Institute for Water Resources, a second meeting in July 2002 at the Corps St. Paul, Minnesota district office, a third meeting in November 2002 in West Palm Beach, Florida (where the panel discussed adaptive management in Florida’s Everglades National Park with Corps staff and other experts), and a fourth and final meeting in February 2003 in Washington, D.C. In addition to these meetings, panelists reviewed Corps of Engineers documents and spoke with other Corps officials and with several adaptive management and water resources experts. BOX 1.1 Charge to the Panel on Adaptive Management for Resources Stewardship The panel will review the Corps of Engineers’ efforts in applying adaptive management concepts to project and program planning and operations, identifying adaptive management’s potential and its limitations. The panel will consider the range of Corps of Engineers’ responsibilities that relate to adaptive management concepts, including ecosystem restoration, flood damage reduction, and navigation enhancement. The panel will review the Corps’ methods for implementing and practicing adaptive management and will identify barriers to implementing the concept. The panel will also recommend ways in which adaptive management might be usefully applied in Corps project planning and operations.

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Adaptive Management for Water Resources Project Planning ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT CONCEPTS AND RATIONALE Conceptual Bases Interest in the concept of adaptive management has developed in response to perceived limitations of traditional natural resources management approaches in the United States and around the world. Those limitations have included a limited ability of organizations and policies to cope with environmental changes and surprises, incomplete application of ecosystem science principles to management decisions, and a limited ability to resolve science-policy “gridlock” in large ecosystems, including river systems, in a timely fashion. Interest in adaptive management concepts may also reflect a burgeoning realization of the limits of science and engineering to redress complex public policy problems. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was widespread optimism that scientific advances were leading toward a world of increasing certainty and precision, as well as greater social benefits through application of scientific knowledge. During the twentieth century, scientists like Bohr and Heisenberg challenged traditional paradigms with discoveries and theorems that emphasized uncertainties, complexities, and the limits of scientific knowledge (Peat, 2002). These contrasting paradigms are today reflected in distinctly different scientific schools of thought. On one hand, a Newtonian vision of the world is based on stability and predictability of natural systems. On the other, the vision promoted by Bohr and Heisenberg recognizes that change and surprises are the essence of natural systems. Newtonian principles are appropriate when working in stable systems and for designing civil engineering structures, for example, but are not fully adequate when applied to complex, dynamic ecosystems. The late Kenneth Boulding provided an eloquent statement on these contrasting paradigms: Prediction of the future is possible only in systems that have stable parameters like celestial mechanics. The only reason why prediction is so successful in celestial mechanics is that the evolution of the solar system has ground to a halt in what is essentially a dynamic equilibrium with stable parameters. Evolutionary systems, however, by their very nature have unstable parameters. They are disequilibrium systems and in such systems our power of prediction, though not zero, is very limited because of the unpredictability of the parameters themselves. If, of course, it were possible to predict the

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Adaptive Management for Water Resources Project Planning change in the parameters, then there would be other parameters which were unchanged, but the search for ultimately stable parameter in evolutionary systems is futile, for they probably do not exist (Boulding, 1981). Adaptive Management Applications Changes and surprises cause managers in many fields to adjust strategies as new information accumulates and as new practices are developed. The reality of changing conditions is especially relevant to public works projects with life spans measured in decades, and to agencies like the Corps of Engineers that construct and operate those projects. Unintended consequences have often attended the operations of Corps projects because of incomplete knowledge of ecological and economic conditions and trends. As the world changes, or as unanticipated consequences are revealed, organizations should adjust plans and operations to deal with the new conditions and to incorporate improved understanding. Adaptive management is a commonsense strategy for addressing the reality of a changing and uncertain environment. Recognition of the need to adjust management strategies can derive from at least three broad sources. First, scientific advances can provide better understanding of the complex linkages between human activities and environmental impacts. The Corps has experienced such paradigm shifts, one of the most famous being the abandonment of its “levees only” strategy in the early twentieth century (Barry, 1997). Through much of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, the Corps of Engineers based its flood control program on the notion that levees were, by themselves, adequate for controlling all floods, and that other measures (e.g., upstream reservoirs) were not necessary. Devastating floods along the lower Mississippi River in 1927 proved the inadequacy of this policy and ultimately resulted in the Corps moving toward a broader approach to manage flood risks (ibid.). Second, environmental changes and variability affect the operations and impacts of Corps projects. For example, climatic variability may affect precipitation patterns, which in turn may affect the parameters of dam and reservoir operations (Rhodes et al., 1984). Human-induced changes may also affect local and regional environments in ways that change project performance or management goals. Thirdly, shifts in social objectives and preferences may challenge conventional operations schemes. In the United States, for

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Adaptive Management for Water Resources Project Planning example, the 1960s and 1970s marked a period of increasing concern over environmental issues. The Corps is addressing these types of change in many river systems across the U.S. (Table 1.1 lists examples where new objectives may conflict with or limit full achievement of original objectives). Within the Corps civil works program, adaptive management applications have been mainly limited to environmental or ecosystem restoration projects. In the context of Corps water resources projects, ecological restoration generally entails re-establishing some degree of natural hydrologic and related physical, chemical, and biological processes. It may also entail re-establishing some level of biotic resources, with the notion that the ecosystem being restored will eventually sustain itself structurally and functionally. Because navigation and flood control projects also entail complex interactions and uncertain outcomes, TABLE 1.1 Original and Subsequent U.S. Water Project and System Management Objectives Original objective(s) Additional/new objective(s) Upper Mississippi River: navigation ecological and recreational benefits Middle Mississippi River: navigation, flood control ecological and recreational benefits Lower Mississippi: navigation, flood control wetland restoration/preservation Columbia River: hydroelectric power, navigation, flood control salmon habitat and population restoration Missouri River: navigation, flood control, irrigation ecological and recreational benefits Everglades: arable land, irrigation, flood control Everglades restoration, water supply Coastal Louisiana: flood protection, navigation, oil and gas development wetland restoration Glen Canyon Dam: hydroelectric power recreation; endangered species protection Kissimmee River: flood control wetlands restoration

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Adaptive Management for Water Resources Project Planning adaptive management approaches hold promise for managing the full array of Corps of Engineers projects. Moreover, as the types of social benefits expected from Corps projects have broadened over time, an approach that periodically (re)evaluates project outputs and subsequently adjusts operations policies is essential to ensure that project outputs and social demands remain synchronized over time. REPORT ORGANIZATION Chapter 2 builds upon discussions in this introductory chapter and further explores adaptive management theories and practices. It notes the many disciplines from which contemporary adaptive management concepts are derived, and lists the key components of adaptive management programs. Chapter 3 describes internal and external factors that affect the use of adaptive management approaches within the Corps of Engineers. Examples of internal factors include organizational structure and disciplinary expertise of Corps staff, while external factors include congressional legislation and the Corps’ relationships with other federal and state agencies. Chapter 4 presents case studies of efforts to implement adaptive management in large river and aquatic ecosystems. All these case studies focus on Corps efforts, but a case study of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon is also included for comparative purposes. Chapter 5 offers several recommendations for ways in which the Corps might successfully apply adaptive management. Chapter 6 presents a brief epilogue.