The following section explains and comments on the broad features of the feasibility study’s plans for river restoration. Before that discussion, it is appropriate to first consider the literature on large floodplain river science and restoration.

Large Floodplain River Science and Restoration

There is near-unanimous opinion that UMR-IWW system management should proceed according to the best scientific knowledge available. This is especially important in the realm of ecosystem restoration because this field is relatively young and restoration actions are conducted in highly complex and dynamic systems. The Corps and other actors in the UMR-IWW will thus necessarily have to learn and adjust ecosystem restoration measures through time, and it is crucial that learning and adjustments proceed in accord with science-based principles. As the Corps proceeds with ecosystem restoration efforts, it should stay abreast of the literature in the field of “river science,” which includes a strong focus on the roles of ecosystem dynamics in sustaining and promoting ecosystem processes and productivity (e.g., Bayley, 1995; Church et al., 1995; Junk et al., 1989; Koel and Sparks; NRC, 2002; Sparks, 1995; Sparks et al., 1998). It is worth noting that the federal-state Environmental Management Program (EMP) for the Upper Mississippi River, sponsored by the Corps, has produced a large body of scientific reports that have made notable contributions to the river science field.

At a 1994 conference held on the Upper Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin, several internationally recognized scientists synthesized the guiding principles of floodplain river ecology. These principles have held up well in the years following their formulation, and they should be used to help guide river restoration programs. They are especially applicable to the Corps’ restoration program because they were developed from knowledge and experiences in large floodplain river systems such as the UMR-IWW:

Ecological research and experience from a wide variety of large floodplain rivers indicates that the following principles for river management should have broad applicability:

  • River form and condition is a function of the totality of many actions and processes that occur in the basins, stream network, and floodplain.

  • The degree of connectivity between the main channel and its floodplain is a primary structural attribute of river ecological integrity.

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