I wish all of you the best for 2022. This is the first “Chair’s Quarterly Update” for the year, with a recap of activities since our November plenary in Omaha and then a look ahead to the next few months.
First, though, I want to say how much I appreciate the renewed opportunity to serve you as MRRIC Chair. I am confident that, working together, MRRIC can make meaningful contributions to the Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP) and for the people you represent. As always, I welcome suggestions about how I can be helpful, as well as what you’d like to see included in these quarterly updates.
In this update you can find:
- A recap from the 2021 plenary and recent work group activity;
- Major milestones through April, including highlights about upcoming work group activities;
- Launching of a monthly “Chair’s coffee hour;” and
- “News you can use.”
Plenary follow-up… As you know, MRRIC met in November 2021, with some members participating in person and others participating remotely. MRRIC approved a temporary change in the Operating Procedures to enable MRRIC to function remotely, fully in person, or in a hybrid format in 2022 (our “2022 virtual participation experiment”). This flexibility will sunset at the end of 2022 unless further action is taken. MRRIC will assess lessons learned regarding this change during the year.
Other highlights from the plenary are that:
- Four sets of substantive recommendations received tentative consensus in November and were approved in a second vote during a virtual plenary on December 16.
- I sent these recommendations to the appropriate individuals in the Lead Agencies on December 21, and copies were emailed to you by Maya Breitburg-Smith on December 23.
- USACE and USFWS aim to send a response to the Committee on at least some of these recommendations in late February.
Several work group calls were held since the November plenary including:
- A Bird Team call on December 2, to discuss follow up questions from the Bird Fall Science Meeting webinar related to the:
1) nest caging and effectiveness monitoring pilot and
2) the recent piping plover Population Viability Assessment (PVA) conducted by USGS for the USFWS Species Status Assessment.
The PVA discussion included the concept of extinction probability: what it is, how it is determined, and how new understandings of plover dispersal from the metapopulation study could contribute to increased extinction risk. Discussion of these topics will continue at the AM Workshop and through the SSA.
- An Agenda Work Group call on December 10, to provide feedback on the November plenary and to share thoughts about 2022. Some of the takeaways for me were that:
- external speakers add value, but should be linked to MRRIC tasks and we should be intentional about follow up;
- we should continue to make process tasks as efficient as possible, e.g. expanding the consent agenda and adding a second one at the end of the meetings; and
- member preparation is crucial to the success of virtual and hybrid meetings, so it might be worth considering a more substantive materials review session.
- A Communications Work Group call on December 13, at which members suggested a monthly digest listing the emails that have gone out that month to make it easier to keep up, and encouraged this chair’s quarterly update and the idea of a monthly “coffee hour” described below. The group also expressed frustration with APAN. Lisa Rabbe and I agreed to take a look at the USACE web site to ensure external communications are up to date.
- A joint Fish/HC Work Group call on December 14, at which members were briefed on the progress of repairs to MRRP structures damaged during recent flood events and associated plans for higher control structures at MRRP chutes to create more backwater habitat.
- A Human Considerations Work Group call on December 15, at which members learned more about the Flood Risk Management Study. They also worked through a list of BSNP Mitigation Program questions and concerns raised on past calls to clarify them for future discussion.
- An Adaptive Management Governance Planning call on December 20, at which members reviewed a proposed allocation of the 20 work group calls currently in the budget, as well as webinars and meetings within the funding levels presented at the November plenary meeting. They also discussed ideas for how additional funds might be prioritized should they become available. The results of this call are in the MRRIC 2022 Work Plan, the first version of which will be shared in the near future.
- A Membership Policies and Procedures call on January 5, at which members developed a proposed approach for identifying possible revisions to the Charter and Operating Procedures this year. All MRRIC will be invited to make suggestions, both by email and at a Chair’s coffee hour (see below). MP2 then will propose a list of priorities and the rationale to MRRIC later in the year, along with any specific changes related to our 2022 virtual participation experiment.
- A Tribal Interests Work Group call on January 7, at which members expressed frustration about lack of follow up to a report from Dr. Norder, which summarized concerns raised in interviews he conducted with MRRIC members representing various Tribes in the basin. Comments highlighted the need for greater clarity about what MRRIC wants from Tribes and what Tribes can expect from MRRIC, while at the same time avoiding marginalizing the Tribes as somehow separate from MRRIC. They expressed the desire for more participation by Tribes in MRRIC, and noted that the barriers not only include lack of travel funding but also lack of trust in what might come from participating, based not only on lack of follow up to issues raised at MRRIC meetings but also other experiences with USACE and the Department of Defense.
Note: all of these calls were funded under the 2021 MRRIC budget, so don’t affect the 2022 budget.
Upcoming Activities – January to April
The next few months include several important milestones in the annual adaptive management cycle.
- The draft Adaptive Management Compliance Report (AMCR) is expected to be out in early/mid-March.
- Webinars to orient MRRIC and others to what is in the draft AMCR will be held the week of March 14-18.
- The Adaptive Management Workshop will be held the week of April 11-15 to discuss the draft AM Compliance Report and implications for the MRRP Strategic Plan. Specific topics under consideration (time permitting) include, among others:
- the decision scenarios for IRCs and for a possible test flow from Gavins Point Dam;
- the relationship of “sweet spots” monitoring to IRC design to maximize benefits for the pallid sturgeon;
- IRC implementation over the next few years and critical milestones by year;
- the approach to implementing Ft. Peck test flows;
- suggested changes to the Pallid Sturgeon Population Assessment Program (PSPAP); and
- piping plover topics, TBD.
As in past years, all MRRIC members will be sent the draft AMCR and information about the associated webinars. Members of the Bird, Fish and HC Work Groups will be sent information about the AM Workshop. If you are not on one of those Work Groups but are interested in observing the AM Workshop please reach out to either Paul or Maya at RESOLVE.
The following work group activities also are anticipated:
As noted, the budget can support 20 work group calls. At present, no formal work group calls are planned for January and February. However, further discussions are anticipated during this period between USACE engineers, Tribes, and stakeholders regarding remaining questions and concerns about the five candidate IRC sites identified as the more promising options to consider for further design and analysis through the Environmental Assessment (EA) process. One or two calls may emerge as the work unfolds.
- ERDC WRDA preliminary findings concerning Interception Rearing Complexes (IRCs) are expected early in the month.
- We may hold up to two Joint Fish/HC Work Group calls to: a) continue discussion of any remaining issues that apply to the IRC management action as a whole; and b) discuss what the preliminary ERDC WRDA findings imply, if anything, for site design, HC concerns, and for which sites might be most suitable to move forward to the EA process.
An HC Work Group call to discuss the BSNP Mitigation Program, originally planned for, March will be held later in the spring to allow time to organize information to ground the conversation.
The focus for April is the AM Workshop. No work group calls currently are planned.
Chair’s Coffee Hour
Given that the Recovery Program budget has been cut back so significantly for 2022, there will be fewer MRRIC calls and webinars as well. Maintaining good communication among us all still remains important (or perhaps becomes even more important) for MRRIC to function effectively. Thus, I plan to hold regular, informal “coffee hours” via Zoom, principally for MRRIC Tribal, state and stakeholder members and alternates, with key lead agency staff participation if they wish. I see these somewhat like the optional evening sessions we have had at in-person plenaries and hope they will offer friendly, less structured time to share information, strengthen our understanding of one another’s concerns, and provide input to me as appropriate.
The first Chair’s Coffee Hour will be February 24 (the fourth Friday in February) at 3:00 p.m. Central, with the tentative plan to hold one every fourth Friday of the month.
I thought it would be fun to have these on fourth Fridays at 4:00, but worried that might be a little late on a Friday. Please email me individually about topics of interest to you and your thoughts about timing. Logistics for the coffee hour will be sent in February.
News You Can Use
➢ Caroline Pufalt sent me a link to an ERDC document, “Engineering with Nature: The Heartlands
Tour,” which describes a range of creative water resources engineering projects along the Missouri
and Mississippi Rivers. You can access it here: https://ewn.erdc.dren.mil/?page_id=4226
➢ Dan Engemann has a new position as Director of Regulatory Affairs for the Missouri Farm Bureau.
He intends to continue as an agriculture representative on MRRIC and as co-POC for the Human
Considerations Work Group. His new email address is: email@example.com. His phone
number remains the same.
➢ I moved to northwest Arkansas last fall. My phone number and email address remain the same. My
new mailing address for the next year is 4891 W. Waverly Road, Fayetteville AR 72704.
➢ RESOLVE updated the roster just prior to the November plenary. Please let them know if you need
to update your contact information using the following link:
Again, I welcome your input any time.