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A Process for Setting, Managing, and Monitoring Environmental Windows for Dredging Projects: Special Report 262 4 Key Findings and Recommendations The committee’s key findings and recommendations are presented below. Broad-Based Management Strategies Dredging and disposal operations are only one of a number of human activities that affect the nation’s waterways. They need to be evaluated not only in the absolute sense so that management strategies for reducing environmental impacts to acceptable levels can be developed but also in the context of other activities that affect the uses and value of water bodies important to society. Recommendation 1. The decision-making process for managing dredging and disposal operations to achieve sustainable waterways and to protect natural resources, both living and nonliving, should be broadly based. Management Tools Environmental windows are one of a number of management and technological tools that can—when properly selected and applied—not only reduce the environment impacts of dredging and disposal operations but also increase the efficiency and effectiveness of those operations.
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A Process for Setting, Managing, and Monitoring Environmental Windows for Dredging Projects: Special Report 262 Recommendation 2. All tools, including windows, should be considered in designing a management plan for carrying out dredging and disposal operations. Proposed Process for Setting, Managing, and Monitoring Environmental Windows Existing processes for setting, managing, and monitoring environmental windows vary widely from region to region. The variations reflect differences among natural environments and their living resources; sociopolitical contexts; and experience with involving stakeholders in resolving complex, multidimensional issues. It is only through testing and refinement of the proposed process in a variety of settings that the methodology can be refined, endorsed, and incorporated into existing decision-making processes to provide greater consistency. Recommendation 3. The proposed process for assessing the need for windows and for managing and monitoring windows when selected should be pilot tested in a small number of districts. Scientific Data and Information A series of technical syntheses encompassing field and laboratory studies of environmental stressors, biological resources, and specific life-history stages affected by dredging and disposal operations needs to be undertaken and regularly updated. These syntheses should focus on integrating and interpreting local and regional data and information and placing them in a larger context. Through this process, gaps in scientific information will become apparent and can serve as the focus of future research. These syntheses should be undertaken as an integral part of the recommended pilot studies. Recommendation 4. All existing scientific data and information should be exploited in evaluating and setting windows as part of an overall management strategy for dredging and disposal operations. Opportunities for Cross-Training The current divide between those responsible for engineering dredging projects and those responsible for protecting biological resources needs to be narrowed. Each discipline must become better educated about and sensitive to the pres-
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A Process for Setting, Managing, and Monitoring Environmental Windows for Dredging Projects: Special Report 262 sures faced by the other if management tools that satisfy the needs of both parties are to be developed. Recommendation 5. Cross-training opportunities should be created for resource managers and dredging operators. For example, resource managers should be encouraged to observe the operations of a wide array of dredges in various weather and sea states. Opportunities should also be created for dredge owners and operators to observe, and perhaps even take part in, the public participation processes undertaken by resource managers and to learn about the biological constraints, natural history, habitat types, and issues related to dredging and its consequences for the natural environment. Structured Decision-Making Tools Although the process outlined above for setting, managing, and monitoring environmental windows is intuitively simple, its implementation will be challenging because it calls for a balancing of priorities. The most difficult step is Step 4, the balancing of scientific conclusions against economic and societal considerations. Structured decision-making tools can be helpful in addressing these issues. Recommendation 6. A special effort should be made to identify existing tools for structured decision making in complex sociopolitical situations and to evaluate their applicability to the process of setting, managing, and monitoring environmental windows for dredging. One or two of the most promising tools should be selected for additional testing, research, and refinement aimed at enhancing their acceptability and use in the windows-setting process. Funding If resource agency staff are expected to fulfill their mandates under the law and participate in the windows-setting process in a timely manner, the agencies will need additional funding. Recommendation 7. Additional funding should be allocated to resource agencies to ensure full, thorough, and active participation in the windows-setting process.
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A Process for Setting, Managing, and Monitoring Environmental Windows for Dredging Projects: Special Report 262 Adaptive Management The justification for windows needs to be reviewed periodically. All windows ought to be viewed as subject to change on the basis of new data and information that should be incorporated routinely into the windows-setting process. Recommendation 8. The windows-setting process should reflect the principle of adaptive management. That is, as new data and information are acquired and experience is gained, they should be fed back into the process.
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