nomic and social values in the U.S.; one manifestation of this problem is increasing criticisms and tensions surrounding many Corps projects. If the Corps is to be properly prepared to meet water management objectives in the twenty-first century, the agency, with support of the Congress and the administration, must devise management approaches that can better adjust to changing conditions. The basic requirement for adaptive management to establish management objectives (see Chapter 2) may initially appear to be in conflict with the notion of ever-changing social values and priorities. This need not be the case, however, as adaptive management programs should include periodic reassessment of objectives based on both shifting social priorities and on new environmental and economic information. Clearer advice from the administration and the Congress with regard to water management priorities and direction would be useful in instances in which a line agency like the Corps is unable to duly resolve conflicts or identify preferred alternatives.
Another reason why the Corps is correct to move toward an adaptive management paradigm is that the future roles of the agency will be vastly different than its past roles. The Corps of the future will not be the nation’s dam-building agency as it was during the 1950s and 1960s. It is unlikely that many more large U.S. federal dams will be constructed. But the Corps will continue to operate a multi-billion dollar infrastructure that controls a large portion of the nation’s hydrologic systems. The agency today is thus in a transition from a past, construction-based mode to a future, management-based mode. In a management-based setting, the alternative to proactive, science-based, collaborative water management is reactive management, with fixed policies and practices not designed for evaluation and change. The latter is likely to lead to organizational rigidity and increasing conflict. Although it is by no means a panacea for resolving conflict, restoring degraded ecosystems, or eliminating uncertainties associated with complex decisions, adaptive management currently represents the most promising path for the Corps to better manage its existing infrastructure.