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Overview of Individual Panel Reports

U.S. Army engineers trace their history to Revolutionary War battle-fields. Congress established the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1802 during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. It was the era of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. By 1824, the U.S. population had grown to almost 10 million people—about the size of New York City today. It was in that year that Congress first charged the Corps with improving navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. These directives launched the Corps into the first of thousands of projects that reshaped virtually all of the nation’s river basins and coastal areas. In recent decades, budgetary constraints, additional laws, and shifting social preferences have affected the agency’s water resources program. Traditional constituencies press the agency to complete projects that have been authorized for years, and campaign for new projects to serve flood control and navigation purposes. Simultaneously, environmental and taxpayer groups express concerns about these projects in Congress and in the courts, pressing for reformation and budget cuts.

In connection with national-level debates over the Corps’ programs and planning studies, in Section 216 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, the U.S. Congress requested that the National Academies conduct a study of the Corps’ methods of project review and analytical methods. In response to this request, the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council (NRC), in collaboration with the NRC’s Ocean Studies Board, appointed four study panels on (1) peer review; (2) methods of planning and analysis, (3) river basin and coastal systems planning, and (4) adaptive management—and a coordinating committee to follow these panels’ progress and write a synthesis report. This chapter of the coordinating committee report summarizes findings and recommendations of the four panel reports.

Several themes emerged from two or more of the 216 panel reports. These themes included the importance of increased flexibility of management and planning regimes; more active roles for the administration,



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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service 1 Overview of Individual Panel Reports U.S. Army engineers trace their history to Revolutionary War battle-fields. Congress established the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1802 during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. It was the era of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. By 1824, the U.S. population had grown to almost 10 million people—about the size of New York City today. It was in that year that Congress first charged the Corps with improving navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. These directives launched the Corps into the first of thousands of projects that reshaped virtually all of the nation’s river basins and coastal areas. In recent decades, budgetary constraints, additional laws, and shifting social preferences have affected the agency’s water resources program. Traditional constituencies press the agency to complete projects that have been authorized for years, and campaign for new projects to serve flood control and navigation purposes. Simultaneously, environmental and taxpayer groups express concerns about these projects in Congress and in the courts, pressing for reformation and budget cuts. In connection with national-level debates over the Corps’ programs and planning studies, in Section 216 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, the U.S. Congress requested that the National Academies conduct a study of the Corps’ methods of project review and analytical methods. In response to this request, the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council (NRC), in collaboration with the NRC’s Ocean Studies Board, appointed four study panels on (1) peer review; (2) methods of planning and analysis, (3) river basin and coastal systems planning, and (4) adaptive management—and a coordinating committee to follow these panels’ progress and write a synthesis report. This chapter of the coordinating committee report summarizes findings and recommendations of the four panel reports. Several themes emerged from two or more of the 216 panel reports. These themes included the importance of increased flexibility of management and planning regimes; more active roles for the administration,

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service Congress, and the states; Corps internal organizational structures and arrangements; post-construction monitoring of projects; and changes in planning guidance. A review of federal and Corps planning guidelines identified several procedures that might be revised to better accommodate social and ecologically sustainable considerations. Among the problems identified in some of these reports was that the Corps is hampered by sometimes conflicting legislation, a lack of clear policy directives, and the lack of a central body to coordinate its mission and programs with other federal agencies with water management responsibilities. A broad observation was that the development and execution of Corps planning methods are closely entwined with broader, federal-level organization policy structures and processes that frame and guide those methods, and that improvements in planning methods should thus be linked with appropriate changes in larger, policy-relevant structures. Other overarching themes identified by one or more of the study panels included: A need for an increased emphasis on and resources for post-construction evaluations, or ex post studies, at Corps projects. This increased emphasis will require support from the administration and the Congress; The value of more thorough analyses during the early stages of Corps planning studies (the so-called “reconnaissance phase”). Recommendations on this topic included the need for more resources for reconnaissance studies, the need to more actively include stakeholders during study reconnaissance, the prospects for independent review in a planning study’s early stages, and the possibility of eliminating the current distinction between initial reconnaissance and subsequent “feasibility” studies; The need to carefully consider the implications of study “cost sharing” (the contribution of a local sponsor to a Corps civil works project). All panels discussed cost sharing for Corps studies, and generally noted that increased cost sharing requirements resulted in a complex mix of positive and negative outcomes. Further investigations into and advice on this topic were beyond the scope and resources of the study panels, but it was generally felt that Congress and the Corps should carefully investigate cost sharing’s implications. A need for a greater degree of centralization and streamlining of Corps planning programs and studies. The Corps is a highly decentralized organization, with dozens of district-level offices spread across the

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service United States. This arrangement may be inadequate for the Corps’ more complex and larger planning studies, and it may inhibit the sharing of information, and subsequent learning from experience, throughout the agency. It was also noted that Corps planning studies are often extremely lengthy and do not always clearly convey key assumptions, methods, costs and benefits, environmental problems and concerns, and primary stakeholder differences and conflicts. A small, summary document within every Corps planning study that reviews key issues and thus makes them more understandable by stakeholders, other agencies, and congressional staff should thus be included in every Corps planning study. One observation made by most of the study panels was that the Corps and other U.S. federal water resources management agencies today rely on a diverse collection of policies, regulations, and case law that comprise the de facto national water policy. The Corps is immersed in mandates, being governed by no fewer than 219 public laws, some of which date back to the late 1800s. Many of these laws have only limited relevance to contemporary water resources needs and, in some cases, are not fully consistent with more recent laws. Because the Corps operates under a body of laws that contains some internal inconsistencies, their directives are often confusing and inconsistent. The situation occasionally results in confusion, or worse, conflict, between federal agencies. There is a need for better coordination among federal agencies with water resources-related responsibilities, as well as a better means for addressing inter-agency conflicts. Inter-agency coordination in itself represents a challenge, but it is made more difficult by an incoherent framework of laws, guidance, and other directives. All the study panels discussed these issues, with their ultimate recommendations sometimes presented in slightly different ways. Recommendations included, for example, the specific assignment of inter-agency coordination responsibilities to a governmental body (Panel on Analytical and Planning Methods), and for clarification from the administration and Congress in sorting out inconsistencies within the de facto body of national water policy (Panels on River Basins and Coastal Systems and Adaptive Management). The coordinating committee recommended that in order to address planning controversies that executing agencies like the Corps and others could not legitimately resolve by themselves, that a process for elevating those conflicts to higher authorities within an existing governmental body be created. Another important theme within the studies was the need to create more flexible management regimes for the Corps. These discussions

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service manifested themselves as comments regarding cost sharing, available resources, ex post studies and other post-construction evaluations, relations with federal agencies and other stakeholders, and planning guidance. The topic of a new planning and management strategy, consistent with current budgetary, infrastructure, and social realities, is discussed extensively in this report and is framed with the term “portfolio planning.” The coordinating committee defined this planning metaphor as one that emphasizes better management of existing infrastructure, with a focus on those natural resources historically managed by the Corps—hydrologic (water) and geomorphic (sediment) processes. Portfolio planning allows for the construction of new infrastructure; even though new, future construction will occur, budgetary constraints and trends suggest that it will be at a slower pace. Portfolio planning recognizes the magnitude of past investments and the need for continued resources to ensure their vitality and operational utility. It recognizes the importance and challenge of balancing the needs of traditional flood control and navigation sectors with emerging social preferences such as ecosystem restoration. An emphasis on portfolio planning will require guidance from the administration and Congress to clarify the Corps’ ecosystem restoration mission, to broaden and streamline economic analyses within planning studies, and to provide the Corps a new study authority that will help reorient the agency’s planning emphases to help provide better and more relevant services to the nation. Congress was particularly interested in the process by which the Corps reviews its planning studies. This report was granted some priority within the “216 studies,” and in 2002, findings and recommendations from that study panel were presented in Review Procedures for Water Resources Project Planning (NRC, 2002b). REVIEW PROCEDURES FOR PROJECT PLANNING Increased concerns regarding environmental impacts, economic evaluations, political pressures, and shifting water management paradigms have led to increased criticism of Corps of Engineers planning studies and projects. The complexity and sophistication today within large water resources planning studies suggests that some degree of independent review by technical experts is valuable. There is a strong and direct correlation between the independence of reviewers—in terms of both knowledge and association with a project and organizational affilia-

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service tion—and the credibility, both real and perceived, of external review. A carefully designed review process for Corps planning studies can help increase credibility, deflect criticisms, and help ensure planning studies of the highest quality. An administrative group to coordinate planning studies within the Corps should therefore be created. Internal and External Review Independent, external experts should review the Corps’ more expensive, complex, and controversial planning studies. These independent review panels should not include Corps staff, nor should panelists be selected by the Corps. These independent panels should be overseen by an organization independent of the Corps. Examples of such independent organizations include professional science and engineering societies, the National Academy of Public Administration, a specially constituted committee of the National Research Council, or an independent federal oversight group similar to the Department of Energy’s Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board. Internal reviews are appropriate for less complex and less costly planning studies, and for those that involve lower levels of risk. These internal reviews should be conducted by panels that include a balance of Corps staff and external experts. Because the current state of scientific knowledge in the realm of water resources management is so vast, no one agency can possess the full range of engineering, ecologic, or social sciences expertise that might be required for a wide range of complicated, controversial projects. Although budget limitations may prevent the Corps from hiring experts from outside the agency to augment its expertise, independent experts would allow the agency to keep abreast of current thinking and practices across all aspects of water sciences and management. Participation of these experts will help ensure that methods employed are consistent with state-of-the-art thinking and practices. Whatever type of review process is implemented within the Corps, the role of review panels should be to identify, evaluate, explain, and comment on key assumptions that underlie technical, economic, and environmental analysis. Panels should highlight areas of disagreement and controversies to be resolved by the administration and Congress. Panels should be given the freedom to comment on topics they deem relevant to decision makers, leaving it to the recipient of the review to decide whether those issues constitute technical or policy issues. Review panels, however, should not be requested to provide a final judgment on

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service whether a particular alternative from a planning study should be implemented. Administrative Group for Project Review Corps planning studies span a spectrum from small, relatively low-impact projects to large, complex studies that consider a range of potentially large economic and environmental impacts. The diversity of these studies requires a flexible and comprehensive review process. Effective execution of this responsibility requires a small, full-time, permanent body of professional staff—not to conduct reviews, but rather to decide the appropriate level of review. For all Corps planning studies, this body would determine whether review would be conducted externally (with all experts independent of the Corps), internally (which would include some Corps staff), or within the current review structure. This decision should be open to appeal by interested parties. To carry out these functions, Congress should direct the Corps to establish an Administrative Group for Project Review (AGPR), which should be located in either the Office of the Secretary of the Army for Civil Works or in the Office of the Chief of Engineers. The AGPR should assist reviewers and panels in several ways by (1) helping reviewers clearly understand a study’s key assumptions and methods; (2) compiling a document for each review panel that clearly summarizes and explains the content, assumptions, models, and methods contained within a planning study; (3) being available to the panel during its review to answer questions; and (4) helping review panels understand the implications of their findings. The AGPR also should serve as a liaison between review panels and appropriate federal agencies, interest groups, and the public. It should produce a document that explains the Corps’ review procedures. These procedures should be flexible, amenable to change, and updated periodically. The AGPR should organize, publish, and disseminate reports authored by internal review panels (leaving publication of external reviews to a group outside the Corps). Review Advisory Board The AGPR would benefit by periodic, independent review of its mandate, structure, and decision-making processes. Periodic review and advice from an independent interdisciplinary group of experts—a Re-

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service view Advisory Board (RAB)—should be part of the agency’s overall review program. This board may have to be established within a body that has a more comprehensive review mandate of Corps programs and studies. The Review Advisory Board should assess review processes to help ensure the consistency, thoroughness, and timeliness of reviews. It should also suggest changes for improving the review process. To ensure that review procedures are examined by well-qualified professionals, the functions of the Review Advisory Board may have to be part of the mandate of a body charged with more comprehensive review of Corps planning procedures. Other Issues Results of a review should be presented to the Chief of Engineers before the final decision is made on a planning study. The review panel’s report should be a public document that appears in the water resources project planning studies submitted to Congress. To help ensure effective use of a review’s results, the review’s primary client—usually the Chief of Engineers—should respond in writing to each key point contained in a review. The Chief should either agree with the point and explain how it will be incorporated in the study, or rebut the comment and explain why it is being rejected. Timing, continuity, and costs of review are key considerations. Planning studies are conducted in two phases—a reconnaissance phase and a feasibility phase—typically lasting one to two years. The point at which the review should be initiated is not always clear because much depends on a study’s complexity and duration. If review was initiated early in the study however, findings and recommendations could be more easily incorporated into the feasibility study. In the case of highly controversial studies, reviews are best initiated early in the feasibility phase, or even earlier, during the reconnaissance phase. Periodic reviews conducted at various stages of planning studies may also have value, particularly in more controversial and challenging studies, some of which may require 10 years or more to complete. Reviewers should not become defenders of their recommendations, and periodically changing the composition of review panels will help guard against this concern. Further, encouraging some panelists to serve across multiple panels would help ensure a degree of consistency. To help implement recommendations from the peer review panel report, Congress should provide the resources necessary to help the Secre-

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service tary of the Army reformulate and strengthen the Corps’ review procedures for its water resources project planning studies. METHODS OF PLANNING AND ANALYSIS Some observers have suggested that the quality of Corps planning studies has declined over the past few decades. Reasons for this decline could include limited agency resources to effectively employ sophisticated analytical methods and models, increasing competition for engineering talent from the private sector, and a lack of clarity of planning objectives and policy direction. This panel reviewed Corps planning procedures as embodied within the federal Principles and Guidelines for Water and Related Land Resources Implementation Studies (“Principles and Guidelines,” or simply, P&G) and within the Corps’ own Planning Guidance Notebook. These two documents contain the key planning concepts and methods employed in the agency’s planning studies. The Corps is hindered in its ability to define clear management directives because of inconsistencies that exist in the large body of de facto national water policy that guides the agency. To provide clearer direction to the Corps, the administration and the Congress, in cooperation with the states, should reconcile inconsistencies within this body. The demise of the Water Resources council in the early 1980s resulted in the loss of a key forum for interagency collaboration on water management issues. As a result, administration-level coordination has been much less frequent, and today conflicts and loose ends abound. A body should therefore be specifically charged to coordinate water policies and activities among the administration, the Congress, the states, and federal agencies with water resources management responsibilities. The Corps (along with three other federal agencies) is mandated to follow the planning guidelines embodied within the federal Principles and Guidelines. This document, authored by the federal Water Resources Council, has not been updated for over 20 years. Over this period there have been changes and advances in planning and analytical techniques, such as valuation techniques, adaptive management, and shifting views of stakeholder participation. The Principles and Guidelines should thus be revised to better reflect contemporary management paradigms, analytical methods, legislative directives, and social, economic, and political realities. Regardless of whether the administration chooses to revise the Principles and Guidelines or not, the Corps should draft a revision to its Planning Guidance Notebook that is consistent with

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service this panel’s report, and propose it to the administration. When the Flood Control Act of 1936 was signed into law, conventional wisdom of the day dictated that a proposed water resources project would be considered viable only if its projected benefits exceeded the projected costs. Today, although the principle of benefit-cost analysis is still recognized as a vital component of sound decision making, it often is no longer is considered the sole criterion regarding public policy or investment decisions because such an analysis may contain substantial uncertainties and may not adequately reflect relevant, difficult-to-measure (often qualitative) factors such as stakeholder opinions, nonmarket values, and equity considerations. Benefit-cost analysis should thus not be used as the lone decision criterion in judging whether a proposed planning or management alternative should be approved. Corps of Engineers planning studies are conducted in two phases, a preliminary reconnaissance study and a more detailed feasibility study. Reconnaissance studies are currently limited to $100,000 and are to last no more than one year. These limits, although often reasonable for some smaller, less expensive studies, are inadequate for the Corps’ more complicated studies. The resources and time allocated for Corps of Engineers reconnaissance studies should be commensurate with the scale and complexity of the water resources issues at hand. Among the changes in Corps planning studies projects in recent years are those mandated by the Water Resources Development Act of 1986. This act altered the participation of local communities by requiring larger financial contributions from local project sponsors. On one hand, this has resulted in co-sponsors and other special interest groups being more actively involved in project design and implementation. On the other hand, it may place limits on the conduct of more comprehensive planning because study cosponsors typically have a specific alternative in mind and thus have little interest in providing resources for evaluations of, for example, how their project might affect upstream or downstream areas. According to current guidelines, the Corps cannot conduct a feasibility study without a local sponsor. The effects of cost-sharing are multiple and complex. To help better understand the implications of cost-sharing, Congress should commission a study of its positive and negative effects. Corps planning studies are routinely hundreds of pages in length. This volume of information often makes it difficult to identify and comprehend all important assumptions, alternatives, models employed, data sets, and other factors. A summary document that identifies the primary environmental and social issues, as well as key assumptions and alterna-

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service tives considered and evaluated in the investigation, would facilitate better understanding among all parties involved in a planning study. This document should also identify objectives sought, benefits and costs (monetized and nonmonetized), and trade-offs. This summary should be presented with a consistent format and should be a standard component of all Corps planning studies. Periodic monitoring of completed projects should be a routine part of project planning and management. Congress should provide resources to conduct retrospective, or ex post, evaluations of water projects and systems, as these types of studies are essential to improving water resources planning and management. These retrospective reviews can serve as effective means for understanding how demands from particular projects may have changed over time or how closely a project has come to meeting its stated goals. The limited number of reviews of Corps projects may represent a missed opportunity to evaluate the strength and weaknesses of planning methods and how project operations have or have not changed to meet changing conditions. The monitoring of project outcomes is also a core adaptive management principle. Post-construction assessments should include the monitoring of ecological and economic variables, as well as broader evaluations of project or program effectiveness. These types of evaluations should become standard if adaptive management is to be implemented within individual project operations and within the agency. RIVER BASIN AND COASTAL SYSTEMS PLANNING Over the past 30 years, the objectives sought for water projects have shifted to include an increased emphasis on environmental and recreational objectives, which has increased the complexity of water project planning. To meet these demands, the Corps is being asked to undertake integrated water project planning, adopt a watershed or regional approach, and include ecosystem perspectives in its planning processes. Integrated water resources planning is endorsed within the academic and engineering communities, and is supported by Corps policy and in state-ments from Corps leaders. Integrated water resource planning at the river basin and coastal system scale provides a framework within which trade-offs among competing objectives can be evaluated; multiple stressors, unintended consequences, and cumulative effects can be identified; and the true costs and benefits of a project can be examined in a context that incorporates the interests of all those with any substantial stake.

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service Such efforts represent a challenge not only because of the complexity of the contemporary multiobjective, multistakeholder planning environment, but also because of the complex and conflicting mix of legislation, congressional committee language, administrative rulings, and legal precedent that defines the nation’s water policy. The clear policy guidance and consistent funding and authority that would support integrated planning at the scale of river basins and coastal systems does not presently exist. When given the necessary authority and funding, the Corps has been able to carry out multistakeholder, multiobjective studies that incorporate a diverse range of economic and environmental issues over the necessary spatial and temporal scales. The lack of consistent national policy guidance and coordinated authority and funding, however, together with pressures to quickly develop water projects with well-defined local benefits, has hampered the Corps’ ability to consistently plan water resources projects within a broader and integrated systems context. Furthermore, efforts to more fully integrate water resources planning across relevant spatial scales must compete with pressures to focus on local projects advocated by local interests and their congressional representatives. Toward More Effective Integrated Water Resources Planning Integrated water resources planning requires effective guidance on evaluating non-commensurate objectives and determining the appropriate time and space scales of the study. Corps planning guidance has not been substantially revised for 20 years and is weighted heavily toward analytical benefit-cost analyses that are more appropriate for traditional water resources projects than for complex, multi-objective water and ecosystem projects. Planning guidance should be updated to provide more balanced and complete information on conducting integrated water systems planning within river basins and coastal systems. The Water Resources Development Act of 1986 significantly modified project planning procedures by introducing equal cost-sharing between a local sponsor and congressionally authorized Corps funding. This arrangement gives local sponsors a greater role in project selection, design, and scoping. Although this has made the Corps more responsive to local needs, it has also led to a project-by-project approach to water planning that can work against broader evaluation of water resources and ecosystem needs, with the possibility that undesired impacts or more desirable or equitable projects at a broader scale are not adequately consid-

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service ered. Planning studies concerned with a broader evaluation of benefits and costs are a federal interest and should be fully federally funded. To maintain local accountability and interaction, equal cost-sharing should be maintained for those portions of planning studies concerned directly with project development, including design, land acquisition, and construction. Approval of planning studies should be contingent on the judgment, informed by peer review, that an appropriate study plan of the salient social, economic, and environmental factors—at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales—has been defined, along with a cost-sharing plan that clearly identifies those portions of the study that will be federally funded. Uncertainty is an inherent part of the management of all natural systems, and its presence is especially particularly obvious when ecological attributes are included in the list of project objectives. In the face of such uncertainty, water resource planning and management require an adaptive approach in which management actions are framed as experiments that are used, in part, to inform and enhance future decisions. 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. On-going evaluations of project performance are critically important when dealing with increasingly complex and highly interactive systems. Project evaluation should be a required component of all water projects and should be cost-shared with the local sponsor. Because the complexity and potential consequences will vary from project to project, current cost limits on project evaluations should be replaced with a flexible system in which the scope, tasks, standards, and costs of project planning and evaluation are determined on a case-by-case basis within a feasibility study. The decision to proceed with a project should be contingent on the judgment, subject to peer review, that the project evaluation plan is sufficient to document the achievement of project objectives, as well as identify unintended consequences and undesired cumulative effects associated with the project. Looking Ahead An ideal water planning environment—or even a reasonably good one—will require the support and cooperation of Congress, the executive branch, and the U.S. citizenry. Although general policy guidance man-

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service dating watershed, regional, and ecosystem analysis is clear and publicly supported by Corps leadership, political support for true watershed or coastal systems planning has been neither consistent nor unanimous. Changes in planning guidance and institutional procedures of the Corps can allow it to more effectively and consistently perform integrated water resources planning and environmental stewardship in a river basin and coastal systems context. Effective changes need not require wholesale—and politically controversial—changes in the Corps’ organization or its relations with local clients and federal sponsors. ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT The traditional operating mode of the Corps of Engineers has been to plan for and construct a new project, then identify and begin planning for the next project. There are limits to such an approach, however; for example, project goals may change over time (necessitating operational adjustments), and important feedback and lessons from project outcomes may not be adequately incorporated into revised operational regimes. Moreover, in the water resources setting at the beginning of the twenty-first century, resources and available sites for new projects are limited, and many sectors of the U.S. economy are seeking to better manage existing infrastructure (as opposed to building more and more civil works projects). The concept of “adaptive management” gained attention during the late twentieth century as an approach that could help increase natural resources management flexibility and project and system benefits. Adaptive management calls for policies that can be adjusted as new information is gathered and discovered. It calls for the monitoring of outcomes to advance scientific understanding and to help adjust policies or operations within an iterative learning and management process. Adaptive management recognizes the biological value of natural ecosystem variability. It calls for stakeholder collaboration in a process that seeks to learn more about natural and social systems and their linkages. The true measure of adaptive management is how well it helps meet environmental, social, and economic goals, and the extent to which it increases scientific knowledge and reduces tensions among stakeholders. Adaptive management is an evolving concept, and its implementation represents a challenge for a construction- and operations-oriented agency like the Corps of Engineers. The core principles of adaptive management emphasize uncertainty, surprise, and resilience, which run

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service counter to traditional engineering planning concepts of deterministic systems, precision, and model predictions. The key elements of adaptive management are the establishment of a process for reviewing and revisiting management objectives, a range of management options, monitoring and evaluating outcomes, a framework for incorporating new knowledge (e.g., economic, engineering, ecological) into management decisions, and stakeholder collaboration. Adaptive management provides a means of responding to changing conditions through revised management actions, while seeking to avoid costly or irreparable mistakes and unintended consequences. It allows for operational changes that respond to changing social preferences and new scientific information. A word of caution with regard to adaptive management is in order, however. Despite its promise, it remains a largely untested concept, and its successful implementation will entail not only patience in working with this sophisticated concept, but also a degree of willingness among stakeholders to find some common ground. Stakeholders must at least agree on some fundamentals within adaptive management, such as the key scientific or other questions that they would like to pursue using adaptive strategies. Absent any degree of cooperation, adaptive management—which may not be appropriate in all circumstances—will not be viable. New Emphasis in Corps’ Water Project Planning and Operations The Corps began experimenting with adaptive management approaches in the early 1990s in an effort to increase operational flexibility, restore environmental benefits in some areas, and reduce conflicts. With support from its military and civilian leaders, the agency is moving forward with adaptive management in selected areas and with varying degrees of authorization and resources from Congress. At this time however, the Corps has no mandate from Congress to implement these management principles throughout the agency and in all projects that could benefit from its use. Congress should strengthen the Corps’ continuing authorities to enhance the Corps’ ability to monitor operations outcomes and make necessary adjustments to the relevant project. For a number of reasons, there is a shifting, national-level emphasis from new project construction to a stronger emphasis on better management of existing infrastructure and related assets. An adaptive approach to managing this infrastructure entails proactive, science-based, collaborative water management, an approach that would require some

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service changes within the Corps. It also requires that the administration and Congress provide resources and additional legislative guidance and clarity to the Corps. The Corps should implement adaptive management at different scales and in different settings, track progress, and aim to learn from successes and setbacks. There is a spectrum of possible adaptive management approaches. More “passive” programs generally focus on monitoring the results of management actions, while more “active” programs may design specific actions to test multiple models of system behavior. The Corps should consider the full spectrum of possible adaptive management approaches, and begin developing guidance regarding suitable approaches in different circumstances. Adaptive management strategies may be particularly useful in large, complex ecosystem restoration projects, which often entail high degrees of risk and uncertainty, along with multiple objectives and phases. The Corps should also promote adaptive strategies based on lessons learned from previous, smaller-scale efforts. Although adaptive management strategies are closely linked with natural resources management projects, they can be used in other systems as well. The Corps should consider ways in which adaptive management or similar strategies could be applied to its navigation and flood risk management programs, as well as to ecological restoration. Adaptive management programs should systematically incorporate means for stakeholder collaboration into planning and management decisions. The administration and Congress should ensure that adequate resources are provided to promote sustained, meaningful participation within adaptive management initiatives. The monitoring of physical, biological, and economic aspects of natural systems often poses substantial water resources management challenges. The ambiguities that often attend the monitoring of complex ecosystems can hinder adaptive management’s cycle of action, observation, evaluation, learning, and new action. Independent expert review (discussed in the report from the peer review panel; NRC, 2002b) can identify inadequacies in modeling, monitoring, and assessment and can help resolve scientific disputes, and should therefore be a standard in adaptive management programs. A Center for Adaptive Management The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a decentralized organization, with staff disbursed in 41 district offices across the country. These local district offices conduct the planning studies that provide the analytical

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service groundwork for Corps projects. Although adaptive management practices must be tailored to local circumstances, district office personnel should also have a common understanding of adaptive management principles and best practices. No mechanism currently exists to facilitate comparison of adaptive management strategies and best practices from across the agency. Moreover, implementation of adaptive management requires interdisciplinary expertise. Congress should thus establish and provide appropriate resources for a Corps of Engineers Center for Adaptive Management. This Center should provide agency-wide guidance on adaptive management concepts where none currently exists, supplying training, facilitation, and assistance in developing management schemes and monitoring designs. It also could facilitate information sharing from within and outside the Corps, including the promotion of inter-agency collaboration with other agencies that are pursuing adaptive management. SUMMARY AND PROSPECTS The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is one of the nation’s oldest and most recognized federal agencies, with a long history of national service. However, the Corps is experiencing challenges to its authority, its competence, and even its future existence. By recommending procedures that aim to increase the Corps’ decision making flexibility, these 216 study reports may provide a small contribution toward helping the Corps move into a new national water management era. There will have to be increased emphases on post-construction monitoring and subsequent operational adjustments. This increased emphasis should reflect a clear recognition of inevitable uncertainties and surprises associated with Corps projects, as well as shifting social preferences for the benefits of civil works projects. The preliminary stages of Corps planning studies should be strengthened for more complex and costly studies; this strengthening in a study’s early stages could take the form of additional resources, time, stakeholder input, and independent review. Cost-sharing has clearly had benefits for Corps planning studies and projects, but it has also had unintended and perverse consequences that may hinder progress toward more spatially integrated water resources planning. Cost-sharing should thus be reviewed and its details reconsidered. There is clearly a need for the administration, the Congress, and the states to play more active roles in defining the Corps’ missions and programs. This is necessary to coordinate the Corps’ efforts with other agencies, to provide

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service clearer direction within a complex and sometimes inconsistent body of de facto water policy, to provide adequate resources for the Corps to make necessary transitions and changes, and to forward to a higher authority conflicts that the Corps and other line agencies cannot legitimately resolve. Finally, there is a need for a greater flexibility of Corps management and planning regimes, which includes an increased ability to monitor post-construction outcomes and make necessary adjustments. This concept is captured in the coordinating committee’s “portfolio planning” metaphor and is explained in further detail in the following chapters. The updating of planning guidelines, and the linkage of more flexible planning and analytical procedures to broader federal-level organizational and policy changes, will allow the Corps to be better prepared to provide a third century of service to the nation. These and other overarching themes reappear in this report’s subsequent chapters, which elaborate on them and which identify additional considerations for improving Corps planning procedures.