The U. S. Army Corps
of Engineers is preparing to release a draft proposal for public comment and review in the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway Navigation Feasibility Study. The Corps' study team met with federal principals from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service and Maritime Administration to discuss the range of possible alternatives.
The next step will be the preparation of a draft report in May, which will contain the draft proposal. The Corps will hold public meetings
in June before preparing the final report late
this summer. All comments will be reflected in the final report. A Chief of Engineers Report containing recommendations will be prepared this fall for review by the Administration and submission to Congress.
Brigadier General Don T. Riley, Commander of the Corps' Mississippi Valley Division, recently issued guidance for preparing the draft report that included directions that the report contain a preferred alternative for both the ecosystem restoration and navigation components. He also took note of the age of the locks. "They were constructed in the 1930s, and they are deteriorating. Failure of these locks is not an option," he said.
Details of the preferred alternative include:
· An initial 15-year increment of ecosystem restoration actions with continuous analysis and review to shape the next increment.
· Immediate non-structural and small-scale structural navigation measures, together with monitoring and reporting of traffic and economic conditions.
· Pre-construction engineering and design of seven new locks, together with further analysis, with construction subject to congressional review.
· A framework plan to evaluate the need for construction of five other lock extensions.
"This draft report will be just that - a draft," Brig. Gen. Riley said, "The preferred alternative will be defined to let us seek adaptive management of both the ecosystem restoration and navigation components, with additional reporting requirements, so that we offer the most current information and the greatest flexibility to Congress and the Administration during implementation."
A recent National Research Council report recognized the uncertainties of projecting river traffic over
a 50-year period and suggested delaying the study until the Corps refined its modeling techniques. Brig. Gen. Riley noted that the Congress had asked that the study be completed this year and acknowledged that the Corps will never have perfect analytic tools.
"We will take note of the need for an adaptive management schedule to minimize risk in decision-making," Brig. Gen. Riley said. "This will help ensure that our recommendations are based on the best available evaluation tools that become available over time. This has also been an open and collaborative process, and we have enjoyed the benefit of extensive input from other federal agencies, the states, non-governmental organizations and the public.
Additional information about the study is available at http://www2.mvr.usace.army.mil/umr-iwwsns/