the natural system will respond to management interventions. An IAR approach is not simply a reshuffling of priorities in the MISP. Instead, it reflects an incremental approach using steps that are large enough to provide some restoration and address critical scientific uncertainties but generally smaller than the CERP projects or project components themselves, since the purpose of IAR is to take actions that promote learning that can guide the remainder of the project design. The improved understanding that results from an IAR approach will provide the foundation for more rapidly moving forward with restoration. Without appropriate application of an IAR approach, valuable opportunities for learning would be lost, and subsequent actions would be likely to achieve fewer or smaller environmental benefits than they would if they had built upon previous knowledge. IAR is likely to be of particular value in devising management strategies for dealing with complex ecosystem restoration projects for which probable ecosystem responses are poorly known and, hence, difficult to predict (e.g., the role of flows, including extreme events, in establishing and maintaining tree islands and ridge-and-slough vegetation). An IAR approach would also help address current constraints on restoration progress, including Savings Clause requirements, water reservation obligations, water quality considerations, and stakeholder disagreements.
An IAR approach would support the innovative adaptive management program now being developed for the CERP. IAR can be used in combination with a rigorous monitoring and assessment program to test hypotheses, thereby yielding valuable information that can expedite future decision making. A significant advantage of IAR over the present CERP adaptive management approach is that there may be early restoration benefits, as major restoration projects proceed incrementally in ways that enhance learning, improve efficiency of future actions, and potentially reduce long-term costs.
The existing authorization and budgeting process can be modified to accommodate the IAR process. To facilitate the IAR process and better support an adaptive management approach to the restoration effort, a modified programmatic authorization process would be needed that allows for the continuing reformulation and automatic authorization of subsequent next-added investment increments, subject to an overall budget cap set by Congress. This budgeting authority would still require securing individual appropriations for each new investment increment. This would constitute a variant of the current CERP programmatic authorization of groups of projects, where a project implementation report is required before the final authorization of a project is secured and funding can be requested.