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Tribes work with MRRIC on committee’s future role

Published Aug. 10, 2017
Tribal members of MRRIC seated at a table.

Tribal representatives attend MRRIC's 38th plenary session in Omaha.

Catherine J. Warren, Native American consultation specialist, Omaha District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (left) and new MRRIC Tribal member Joni Tobacco, Ogalala Sioux Tribe (right) seated at a table.

Catherine J. Warren, Native American consultation specialist, Omaha District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (left) welcomes new MRRIC Tribal member Joni Tobacco, Ogalala Sioux Tribe (right).

OMAHA, Neb. - The Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC) held its 38th meeting Aug. 8-10. Maj. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, commander, Northwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), and Noreen Walsh, regional director of the Mountain-Prairie Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), spoke to the committee about the importance of MRRIC as a collaborative forum. Members learned about the public comments submitted on the draft Missouri River Recovery Management Plan-Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Adaptive Management (AM) Plan released by the Corps in December 2016. The Corps anticipates completing a biological assessment for the plan in the fall of 2017, and the Service expects to complete its Biological Opinion in early 2018.

The AM Plan serves as the framework for implementing potential actions described in the EIS that support the recovery of three threatened and endangered species (the pallid sturgeon, interior least tern, and piping plover) while maintaining the Missouri River’s eight authorized purposes (flood control, navigation, irrigation, hydropower, water supply, water quality, recreation, and fish and wildlife). At its May 2017 meeting, MRRIC agreed on an approach to active engagement in governance of the AM program in the future and approved a restructuring of its work groups to implement the new approach. A key achievement at the August meeting was to establish bird, fish, and human considerations work groups.

“Taking an adaptive management approach is essential for a program at this scale,” said MRRIC Chair Gail Bingham. “MRRIC has been working closely with the Corps and the Service for many years to understand the science surrounding the lifecycles of the three species and where important questions remain. Adaptive management provides a structured opportunity to learn from actions taken so that efforts to achieve the objectives of the Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP) become more successful over time. It is exciting that MRRIC can be involved as a strategic partner in this effort.”

MRRIC and the Tribal members welcomed Joni Tobacco, newly-appointed member of the Ogalala Sioux Tribe. Other Tribes were represented by Dr. Andrea Hunter, Osage Nation; Dr. Kelly Morgan, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Alan Kelley, Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska; Deb Madison, Fort Peck and Assiniboine and Sioux Tribe; Shannon Wright, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska; and Randy Teboe, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

MRRIC’s Tribal and Communications Work Groups discussed ways to increase the awareness of the MRRP and MRRIC’s work among Missouri River Basin Tribes and stakeholder groups. The Corps also presented information about current and future recovery program budget allocations.

MRRIC is a 70-member committee that comprises stakeholders and representatives of tribal, state, and federal governments throughout the Missouri River Basin. MRRIC was authorized by Congress in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act and was established in 2008 by the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). It provides recommendations to the Secretary of the Army and other Federal agencies on efforts to recover the three listed species, mitigate habitat loss, and restore the ecosystem to protect other native species. The committee makes decisions by consensus.

The next MRRIC meeting will be Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2017, in Kansas City, Missouri. For more information on MRRIC, please contact the committee chair at mrric@usace.army.mil. Additional information on Missouri River recovery efforts is available online at www.mrric.org and www.moriverrecovery.org.

Omaha District Public Affairs

Release no. 17-079