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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report 2 The Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway System This chapter provides background information relevant to the Corps of Engineers’ UMR-IWW feasibility study. It explains the multiple uses and users of the UMR-IWW’s vast resources, concepts and practices of integrated river management, and efforts at accommodating multiple uses in the management of the Upper Mississippi River 9-foot channel navigation project. USES, VALUES, AND LINKAGES The Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway (UMR-IWW) system contains natural resources of immense value to the nation. Stretching roughly 2350 miles from its headwaters at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi is the world’s third-longest river (Robinson and Marks, 1994). The UMR-IWW supports a commercial navigation system that transports hundreds of millions of tons of commodities including grain, coal, chemicals, and petroleum products. According to the Corps’ 2004 draft feasibility study (USACE, 2004), the Upper Mississippi River carried approximately 60 percent of the nation’s corn exports and 45 percent of the nation’s soybean exports. Environmental goods and services provided by the UMR-IWW’s river-floodplain ecosystem include drinking water (the Mississippi River supplies drinking water to numerous cities and towns), hundreds of thousands of jobs related to recreation and tourism, and billions of dollars of revenues generated by residents and by visitors who travel to enjoy the region’s natural and aesthetic resources. Many people use the river and its resources for boating, hunting, trapping, fishing, and sightseeing, and recreational and associated uses on
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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report the Upper Mississippi River generate revenue estimated at more than $1 billion per year (USACE, 1993). The UMR-IWW supports a rich array of ecosystems, species, and biodiversity, including the Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, which was authorized by Congress in 1924 and extends from Wabasha, Minnesota, to Rock Island, Illinois. The refuge has the largest annual public use of any unit in the U.S. national wildlife refuge system (Holland-Bartels, 1992). Floodplains along the river provide sites for hundreds of communities, contain large agricultural areas, and serve as important highway and railroad corridors. Many areas in these floodplains are subject to flooding. Record floods occurred throughout the region in the summer of 1993, and the river system also experiences many smaller floods. The Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway systems have long supported this wide variety of human and economic uses, and different users of these systems have had various and changing effects on one another. Nineteenth century steamboats on the Upper Mississippi, for example, had few large impacts on river ecology; in fact, given the problems posed to the steamboats by snags, currents, and shifting sandbars during the steamboating era, the river system may have had more impacts on navigation activities rather than vice versa (Merrick, 2001, provides an account of mid-nineteenth century Upper Mississippi River steamboating). Urban and industrial activities and waste products have affected river ecology for decades. For example, concerns regarding the impacts of water pollution on the Upper Mississippi River’s mussel fishery were expressed as early as 1898 (Smith, 1899; cited in Scarpino, 1985). Water quality continued to be a concern into the 1920s, when steadily declining mussel populations were attributed to not only aggressive harvesting practices, but also “stream pollution from the large cities along the rivers” (ibid.). There have been improvements in water quality since passage of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (amended in 1977 and known today as the Clean Water Act). Raw sewage, oil slicks, and phosphates are better controlled, but some aspects of water quality, such as sedimentation, have become a greater concern (Ellis, 1993). An important water quality issue today is fertilizer applications across the upper basin. These applications contribute to high flows of nutrients downstream in the Mississippi River, which contributes to hypoxia (an oxygen-deficient condition) in the Gulf of Mexico. These flows ultimately contribute to the creation of an area known as the “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico (Mitsch et al., 2001; Rabalais et al., 2002). Commercial logging and increases in mechanized agriculture across the upper Midwest in the middle and late twentieth century changed the region’s vegetative cover, which has had important implications for soil ero-
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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report sion and sedimentation rates, and related ecological processes, in UMR-IWW backwater areas. Recreational boating has long been popular across the region; boaters who use modern power watercraft enjoy benefits from the 9-foot channel project, because the project provides reliable and adequate draft depths for today’s large and powerful vessels. Floods across the river system have a variety of beneficial ecological effects (e.g., Sparks, 1996), but those floods also cause economic and related damages to many floodplain communities. Flood control levees constructed along the river provide some degree of flood protection for communities and agricultural areas; these levees, however, restrict the ability of floodwaters to spread into floodplain areas and may thus increase peak flows downstream. These examples of how activities in various economic and other sectors have affected various uses and purposes across the region also form a backdrop of environmental changes against which impacts of the construction and operation of the UMR-IWW system should be considered. Navigation improvement projects on the Upper Mississippi River in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included a 4-1/2-foot channel project authorized by Congress in 1878 and a 6-foot channel project authorized by Congress in 1907. These projects focused on constricting the river channel and had noticeable, but limited, ecological effects. The 9-foot navigation project, authorized by Congress in 1930, represented a different approach to navigation improvements, however, because it created a series of navigation pools that fundamentally altered river hydrology (Anfinson, 1993). The 9-foot channel project was constructed and completed in the 1930s, and it has had important effects on river ecology that continue to affect the river ecosystem today. It should be pointed out, however, that the 9-foot channel is operated in a setting of many other environmental changes across the river basin, such as levee construction, floodplain and watershed agricultural practices, water quality changes, and population growth and urbanization, which complicates programs designed to help improve ecological conditions of the river system. Sound water management strategies will acknowledge and consider these issues and connections. In the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River systems, finding management regimes that provide the greatest return to society entails not only consideration of these multiple linkages, but also collaboration between federal, state, and local agencies, numerous nongovernmental organizations, and citizens. These relationships and the management structures that have been developed to address them fall under the rubric of “integrated river management.” The following section discusses the concept and previous embodiments of “integrated” river and water management, and how the concept relates to UMR-IWW system management.
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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report INTEGRATED RIVER MANAGEMENT: CONCEPTS AND APPLICATIONS Many discussions and proposed actions within the broad scope of the UMR-IWW feasibility study have been presented in terms of an “integrated” management approach. Many groups with stakes in the feasibility study support “integration,” and the Corps has proposed that “an integrated plan be approved as a framework for modifications and operational changes to the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway System” (USACE, 2004, p. xii). Within the context of river system planning or management, however, the term integration is not easily defined or implemented. A review of various definitions and applications of the term may be useful as the Corps, in collaboration with other federal and state agencies, proceeds with managing UMR-IWW navigation in the context of several other concerns and interests. Integrated river resources management generally refers to both integration across space and to integration across sectors or purposes. For example, the river basin has long been viewed as the optimal unit for managing water and related resources. In the late nineteenth century, John Wesley Powell was an early advocate for the creation of administrative units to manage western U.S. water resources along watershed boundaries. President Theodore Roosevelt was a proponent of integrating water use sectors within waterway systems (see, for example, Roosevelt’s 1908 report to the Inland Waterway Commission). The ideas of managing rivers and waterways comprehensively among sectors and across space have a rich tradition in the United States, and the Corps of Engineers and the U.S. federal government both have a long history of promoting water planning at the river basin scale. The Corps, for example, conducted “308” studies in the early twentieth century. These studies, authorized in 1927 by the U.S. Congress in House Document No. 308, consisted of reviews of river basin systems across the nation for the purposes of identifying prospective hydroelectric power and flood management projects. The concept of integrated river or water management is complex, and it incorporates economic, engineering, social, and cultural considerations. The term “integrated” implies a process of seeking, recognizing, and establishing new linkages among various aspects of the system (Wescoat and White, 2003). The concept’s broad and ambitious nature makes it difficult to clearly and concisely express (Biswas, 2004). Nevertheless, there have been notable and eloquent statements on this subject. For example, a panel of experts appointed by the United Nations (1958) interpreted integrated river basin development as “the orderly marshalling of water resources of river basins of multiple purposes to promote human welfare.” In another
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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report seminal statement on the topic, U.S. water expert Gilbert White (1957) identified the three core components of integrated river basin development as (1) the multiple-purpose storage project—White cited the example of Hoover Dam and its multiple purposes of irrigation, water supply, hydroelectric power, flood control, and navigation; (2) the basin-wide program—this approach treats a river basin as a single hydrologic unit, and White identified the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as the prototype; and (3) comprehensive regional development—White described this third component as “more difficult to describe than the other two, because it has not been fully realized in any part of the earth.” The twentieth century saw a variety of efforts aimed at integrated river and water management across the United States, the most durable and best-known of which is embodied by the TVA. Created during the Franklin Roosevelt administration in 1933, the TVA sought to promote rural development in the Tennessee River Valley and nearby regions through water resources development, especially hydroelectric power generation. The middle of the twentieth century saw the creation of several federal interagency river basin commissions, known as “FIARBC” programs. As part of the 1965 Water Resources Planning Act, the U.S. Congress established several “Title II” river basin commissions. There had been flaws in the basin interagency committee system, and the Title II commissions allowed greater roles for the states. The commissions, however, had their own set of limitations: they were generally unsuccessful at incorporating the environmental concerns of the era (Rieke and Kenney, 1997), they relied heavily upon consensus, and they had few powers beyond their roles in coordination. It is worth noting that in the middle of the twentieth century, the integrated river management concept—especially as embodied by the TVA model—was exported to many river basins in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Even though today the notion of strong federal centralized planning and management has lost some of its luster, the rationale for comprehensive water resources management across space and among sectors remains strong. A recent report from a National Research Council (NRC) committee that reviewed water withdrawal and salmon survival issues in the Columbia River, for example, recommended that “the State of Washington and other basin jurisdictions should convene a joint forum for documenting and discussing the environmental and other consequences of proposed water diversions…” (NRC, 2004b; emphasis added). Another recent NRC panel, which reviewed Corps of Engineers river and coastal system planning, also confirmed the importance of considering and planning for the spatial, hydrologic effects of individual Corps projects (NRC, 2004c). Also, an NRC committee that reviewed Missouri River ecosystem science recommended
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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report that adaptive management for the Missouri “be examined and conducted within a systems framework that considers the entire Missouri River ecosystem from headwaters to mouth, as well as the effects of tributary streams on the mainstem” (NRC, 2002). The pursuit of integrated water management in the United States today might be characterized as one that continues to seek useful aspects of integrated planning, but with a more realistic (perhaps even skeptical in some instances) approach regarding the challenges of integrated river basin planning, especially across large systems with multiple jurisdictions like the UMR-IWW. Water resources management schemes for large U.S. river systems today tend to be more modest than those of an earlier era, with a decreased emphasis on primarily federally driven and centralized programs and an increasing emphasis on creating systems for basin-wide communication and federal-state cooperation (Rieke and Kenney, 1997). A decreasing faith in large-scale, “top-down” river basin-scale planning schemes has been accompanied by increasing interests in alternative programs, such as a variety of smaller-scale “watershed” planning initiatives across the nation. These watershed planning exercises generally emphasize decentralization of decision-making authority and vigorous public participation (Rieke and Kenney, 1997). In addition, a better appreciation of the limitations of linear systems planning for the “optimization” of river basins (Maass et al., 1962) has encouraged the development of approaches that recognize system complexity and surprises, and promote management actions that are to be monitored and adjusted accordingly. Many of these concepts are captured under the “adaptive management” rubric that the Corps and other federal water agencies are implementing at different scales in different regions, including the UMR-IWW. Nevertheless, despite the financial, institutional, technical, and social challenges posed by integrated river and water management, the rationale for comprehensive management of water and related sectors across space and time remains compelling. The experience with integrated water and river management in the United States and around the world is exceptionally broad, and caution must be used in trying to distill lessons from the diversity of settings in which it has been applied. With this caveat in mind, some of those lessons that may be useful as the Corps proceeds with its feasibility study include the following: there are important linkages across water-related sectors and across space in watersheds and river basin systems; institutional frameworks and policy regimes must recognize and respect these linkages and trade-offs if the various sectors of commerce and ecology are to be managed in a balanced way;
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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report recognition of the importance of these linkages and trade-offs is widespread, as evidenced by numerous and continuing attempts at managing across river basins and watersheds in the United States and around the world; no two river systems are the same (White, 1957), and an ideal prototype for integrated water or river management has not yet been developed; sound and balanced water resources management across sectors and across space requires collaboration among agencies, nongovernmental bodies, and citizens; and to be effective, policies and organizations aimed at integrated water management must be flexible and adaptive in order to gain knowledge of economic, environmental, and related systems, and to adjust to changing conditions. The Corps is conducting its UMR-IWW feasibility study in a setting in which the concept of integration is widely viewed as useful, but in which definitions of the concept are diffuse and continue to evolve. The following section examines more specific issues that may merit consideration in promoting integrated planning and management of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River system. INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT OF THE UPPER MISSISSIPPI RIVER-ILLINOIS WATERWAY The complexities in a study of Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway shipping and the navigation industry represent analytical challenges to the Corps because of the vast extent of areas affected by this system, and because of the various economic sectors related to the system. In spatial terms, a comprehensive study should consider hydrologic linkages consistent with the theme of integrated water management. However, grain exports from the upper Midwest compete in the global marketplace, and this market is affected by factors such as income and consumer preferences in China and by government investment in waterway transport systems in Brazil. Price, supply, and demand features of grain markets around the world should be considered in integrated management of the UMR-IWW. From a sectoral perspective, a variety of issues are relevant and could be considered in managing UMR-IWW resources, including U.S. agricultural policies and grain production in the upper Midwest, fishing and boating on the Upper Mississippi River, flood and floodplain management, land use practices across the watershed, and water quality in the Gulf of Mexico. Thus, not only do integrated management of the UMR-IWW and the Corps’ feasibility study
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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report pose considerable analytical challenges (e.g., spatial grain modeling, ecosystem science), the Corps must also establish sufficient and reasonable bounds for the spatial extent and the breadth of issues considered in the study. Integrating river management decisions across an area the size of the Mississippi River basin and its vast number of states and water management organizations represents a daunting task. Nevertheless, failure to address key water quality and quantity relationships adequately in a basin-wide context may contribute to excessive resource degradation and other problems. The issue of nutrient fluxes and eutrophication provides one example. The Mississippi River transports a substantial amount of nitrogen to the Gulf of Mexico, an amount that has increased nearly threefold since 1970 (Goolsby et al., 1999). The large amounts of nitrogen transported to the Gulf of Mexico have resulted in eutrophic conditions in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with hypoxic conditions occurring periodically over a widespread area (hypoxia is a condition in which dissolved oxygen concentrations are less than 2 mg/L, which most aerobic forms of aquatic life cannot tolerate for extended periods) (Mitsch et al., 2001; Rabalais et al., 2002). The severity of this problem in the Gulf of Mexico has led to hypoxia-reduction strategies becoming a national-level priority (NRC, 2000). Scientists have noted the important biogeochemical roles that wetlands historically played in the Upper Mississippi River basin and some of these scientists have proposed wetland restoration in the basin as a means to increase the removal of nitrogen from river water by denitrification (Mitsch et al., 2001). Proposed restoration efforts within the feasibility study thus have important implications for managing water and related resources across the entire basin and into the Gulf of Mexico. These types of spatial and interdisciplinary linkages should be considered within the context of an integrated UMR-IWW management program. In addition, long-term environmental changes may affect the UMR-IWW region. For example, some climate records indicate that rainfall, runoff, and flood frequencies and durations have been increasing over the past several decades in several portions of the basin (e.g., the Illinois River; see Singh and Ramamurthy, 1990). At the same time, some global climate system models suggest that any increased precipitation associated with global warming will occur during the winter, with summer rainfall remaining roughly the same (Wuebbles and Hayhoe, 2004). Geologic evidence shows that very large floods were part of past climate conditions across the Upper Mississippi River basin. Sediment cores taken from the bed of the Mississippi River and in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, record several episodes of Mississippi River floods. Some of these floods had flows equivalent to what are today regarded as 500-year or greater floods, but that recurred much more frequently in the geologic past (the most recent occurring
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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report around 1000 B.C. and from about A.D. 1250 to 1450; Brown et al., 1999; Knox, 1993). These episodes were associated with increases in mean annual regional temperatures of only 1-2° C and by changes in mean annual regional precipitation of 10 to 20 percent (Knox, 1993), which are within some projected twenty-first century climate change projections for the region (e.g., Wuebbles and Hayhoe, 2004). Increases in flood frequencies, stages, or durations may strengthen the case for reconnecting rivers and their floodplains to better convey floods and reduce damages. The focus of the Corps’ study is the entire lock and dam system of the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway. The study was originally conceived as two separate studies, but in the early 1990s the Corps merged them into a single study. The study originally emphasized the navigation system and economic and commercial considerations (e.g., shipping rates, demand for waterway traffic, grain exports). Over time, however, the Corps has broadened the study to include ecological considerations, first of the river channel itself, and then the floodplain. Many of the Corps’ analytical efforts within the study are unprecedented, and the agency—to its credit—has shown a willingness to expand and experiment with the boundaries of issues considered in the spirit of creating a more “integrated” and informative study. Given that the concept of integrated river system management contains some degree of abstractness, there is no clear criterion by which the Corps’ study can be objectively considered to be integrated. There are, however, varying degrees of spatial integration relating to issues considered within the study. A study of the entire lock and dam system, for example, is on a broader scale than a study of only those locks that experience waterway traffic congestion. Moreover, different components of the study likely require different degrees of integration. For example, development of a spatial price model for grain exports from the Upper Mississippi region should consider trends in global grain demand and supply. The consideration of flood risks and water quality issues, both of which extend downstream to the Gulf of Mexico, requires evaluation on a regional scale. Models of fish passage, or the effects of towboat passages on river ecology, are linked to smaller, local-scale phenomena. The Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study As mentioned, the Corps has expanded the scope of the feasibility study since the early 1990s, broadening it from a focus on the navigation system to more fully consider other sectors—especially river ecology and measures designed to improve ecosystem productivity. The study thus currently contains
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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report two distinct components, commercial navigation and restoration (of river ecology). Much of this broadening occurred in the year from July 2003 to June 2004, and the Corps demonstrated a good deal of creative thinking in doing so. The navigation and river ecology components of the study have proceeded largely on separate tracks. The navigation component has generally proceeded on the assumption that the length of the commercial navigation seasons and channel depth (minimum of 9 feet) would remain unchanged, with ecosystem restoration projects being developed subject to these constraints. This approach, however, essentially places navigation in a superior position to other uses and does not fully reflect the reality and importance of interconnections between navigation and other sectors (and the values of those sectors) to the Upper Mississippi-Illinois system. Navigation plays an important role in the UMR-IWW and in the regional economy, but operation of the navigation system, including the system of navigation pools and the movement of towboats, affects other sectors that are also of great value to people and economies in the region and across the nation. The linkages between navigation and these other sectors are undeniable, and sound management of the UMR-IWW system will seek to minimize negative impacts to any of them. The challenge on the UMR-IWW is to find a balanced management program that maximizes the collective value of the resources of the UMR-IWW to the nation. The challenge of integrating socioeconomic and ecological concerns is tremendous, as reflected in a recent volume on global water management: “To arrive at truly integrated water management no aspect has been more difficult than the joint evaluation of social and environmental consequences” (Wescoat and White, 2003). A well-integrated feasibility study would recognize these types of economic and ecological linkages and would consider navigation system management options in terms of their implications for other sectors. Navigation system management options would thus not only be considered in terms of direct economic costs and benefits to the commercial shipping sector, but would also recognize that operation of the navigation project has implications for river ecology and may thus entail “costs” to ecology and related sectors, such as ecotourism. A well-integrated study would, for example, consider a broad range of potential trade-offs between commercial navigation, river ecology, and other sectors such as recreational boating and floodplain management. Examples include shortening the commercial shipping season (which could be on various pools or on segments of the channel) while experimental drawdowns are conducted; allowing channel depths of less than 9 feet for a given period and loading tows lighter during that period; and considering how increasing the amount of land in floodways (through voluntary buy-outs) might affect commercial navigation.
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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report Legislation and Authorizations The Corps of Engineers operates under a large body of authorities, legislative acts, and congressional committee language. This body of directives has accumulated over time without the benefit of any overall strategy or framework. Consequently, new authorities or legislation may be inconsistent with existing directives to the Corps. In instances in which guiding legislation or authorities are not clear or are contradictory, the Corps is placed in the position of having to choose which authority or act will be given precedence. Within the context of the UMR-IWW feasibility study and the operations of the navigation system, the 1930 Rivers and Harbors Act that authorized the 9-foot channel project for the Upper Mississippi River has been considered the primary authority. Although a legal analysis of this situation was beyond the scope of this report, the current situation poses ambiguities for the Corps and confounds the agency’s ability to manage the system in a way that maximizes its value to the nation. Legislation subsequent to the 1930 Rivers and Harbors Act (e.g., the Upper Mississippi River Management Act of 1986) has proposed broader objectives for river management; nevertheless, the 9-foot channel authorization of 1930 remains the overriding authority in managing the resources of the UMR-IWW system. This single-purpose authority represents a barrier to the Corps and other agencies in adequately addressing other system values and uses, especially restoring river ecology. Many stakeholders within the UMR-IWW system with interests in the feasibility study support the notion of a broader management authority. The feasibility study explains this as follows: The stakeholders of the UMR system have expressed their desire to seek a balance between the economic, ecological, and social conditions to ensure the waterway system continues to be a nationally treasured ecological resource as well as an efficient national transportation system. It is proposed that an integrated plan be approved as a framework for modifications and operational changes to the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway System to provide for navigation efficiency and environmental sustainability, and to add ecosystem restoration as an authorized project purpose. The integrated plan will provide better focus and flexibility to adaptively manage the operation and maintenance of the system for both navigation and the environment. (USACE, 2004, p. xii, emphasis added)
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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report If the Corps of Engineers is to manage the multiple resources of the UMR-IWW in a balanced and integrated fashion, it must have the authority to do so. Without additional and broader authority from the U.S. Congress, the Corps will be hindered both in its ability to fully integrate navigation, ecology, and other appropriate considerations in the UMR-IWW feasibility study and in its efforts at integrated, balanced management of the UMR-IWW system. The Corps’ efforts to seek broader authority for planning and implementing projects on the UMR-IWW system are appropriate. The Corps should request a multiple-purpose planning and operations authority for the UMR-IWW, which would permit the agency to address flood management, navigation, and ecosystem restoration issues concurrently.
Representative terms from entire chapter: