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Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee enters new phase

Published Nov. 3, 2017
Conference room filled with people.

Committee members and support staff at the 39th MRRIC plenary meeting.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representative, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative, and MRRIC chair seated at a table.

MRRIC Chair Gail Bingham (right) opens the committee's 39th plenary session. Also pictured are Michael Thabault (left), assistant regional director for ecological services, Mountain-Prairie Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and David J. Ponganis (center), regional director of programs, Northwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC) met here Oct. 30-Nov. 2. Committee members continued their work on the transition to an adaptive management framework that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will use to help protect the pallid sturgeon, the interior least tern, and the 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).

A key activity at this meeting was the first in-person meetings for the new Fish, Bird, and Human Considerations Teams. The Fish, Bird, and Human Considerations Teams are part of the Corps’ draft Science and Adaptive Management Plan (AM Plan) for the Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP). The Teams are made up of agency experts and MRRIC members, alternates and appointed experts. The teams have the opportunity to learn about and discuss the implications of the science informing the Corps’ management actions.

The MRRP’s Independent Science Advisory Panel (ISAP) provided comments at the meeting on monitoring approaches under development by the Corps that will help assess the effectiveness of management actions intended to help the species. “The ISAP is an invaluable resource both for MRRIC and the Corps,” said MRRIC Chair Gail Bingham. These scientists bring expertise and insights that ensure the Recovery Program benefits from the best available science.”

Also at this meeting, Corps provided committee members a copy of the Biological Assessment for the Operation of the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System, the Operation and Maintenance of the Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project, the Operation of the Kansas River Reservoir System, and the Implementation of the Missouri River Recovery Management Plan (BA) that was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in October. The BA will inform the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion (BO); both the BA and the BO are required under the Endangered Species Act. The Service expects to complete its Biological Opinion in early 2018.

In addition, MRRIC reached consensus on specific recommendations related to the MRRP, including its support for the Corps’ commitment to conduct supplemental flood risk modeling, a request for clarification in the AM Plan about the information and criteria to be used in evaluating management strategies, and its interest in ongoing discussions about funding for the Integrated Science Program, among other recommendations. MRRIC also selected a Vice Chair to serve for the coming year, confirmed the continuation of the Chair in accordance with the MRRIC Charter, and approved changes to its operating procedures to implement the adaptive management process.

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 Corps and other Federal agencies and serves as a basin-wide collaborative forum for developing a shared vision and plan for the MRRP. The committee makes decisions by consensus.

The next MRRIC meeting will be held March 27-29, 2018. 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. 17-101