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


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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