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Navigation & Ecosystem Sustainability Program Background Resources for NGOs
and local governments (LGs)

NESP Background and Timeline

This resource page is intended to be a guide to the long, complex, and controversial background and history of NESP specifically from the viewpoint of, and to assist, members of the NGO/LG community (ie, entities other than official state and federal partners) who wish to be involved in NESP.

Please note that some of these documents are in draft form. Draft documents would NOT necessarily represent official agency positions. They are included here only to give perspective on the background of NESP's origins.

  1. 1970s - 2004: An era that began in legal conflict over NEPA compliance for dredge spoil disposal and navigation capacity expansion (1970s), saw the start of cooperative partnerships for management of River issues, ecosystem restoration projects, and environmental monitoring (1980s), and ended with the Corps Navigation Feasibility Study. This era is well summarized in the June 10, 2020 draft UMRBA document: "Summary of the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program Consultation and Navigation Servitude Elements"

  2. 1995 Forging a New Framework for the Future: A Report to the Governors on State and Federal Management of the Upper Mississippi River, UMRBA (in UMRCC collection at UW-L).

    1. Synopsis: reviews federal management on the River from 19th century through 1995, with comprehensive list of federal authorities and responsibilities on the River for 11 federal agencies. The ongoing USACE navigation capacity study "has demonstrated the inherent inability of the existing decision-making process to fully integrate multiple-use considerations". Recommends improving institutional arrangements for managing the River, proposing six alternative institutional arrangements. Refines future role of UMRBA

  3. 2000 A River that Works and a Working River: A strategy for the natural resources of the upper Mississippi River system. UMRCC/Audubon. (alt link)

    1. Synopsis: Describes strategy for maintenance and operation of the natural resources of the Upper Mississippi River and its navigable tributaries. Recommends "next steps" to implement the strategy with potential leadership roles for agencies and organizations.

  4. 2001 National Academies review of UMR Navigation System Planning

  5. 2004 Navigation Feasiblity Study Final Report and Programmatic EIS (sets the stage for NESP)

  6. July, 2004: "Guiding Principles" for Institutional Arrangements (26 July 2004 draft) for Interagency Coordination and Integrated Management of the Upper Mississippi River

    1. Synopsis: Articulates six principles for efficient, comprehensive institional arrangements to begin guiding what will become NESP. Does not address scale or unified management structure.

    2. NGO/LG notes: "Provide mechanisms for public input and stakeholder involvement. Ensure that deliberations and decisions are documented in a publicly accessible format."

  7. December, 2004: An overall "River Management Council" (RMC) is proposed to collaborate on integrated management of the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) at the system level. (A 20 December, 2004 draft document describing proposed institutional arrangements incorporating the RMC concept has been requested but is not yet approved for release).

    1. Synopsis: Early draft proposal of a rather new institutional arrangement structure that incorporates a systemic viewpoint from project, through reach, and up to watershed scale, and even contemplates formal connection to lower Mississippi entities. Articulation of a "Science Panel" as a tool of institutional arrangements, other stakeholders, and the public as well as the agencies it was set up to serve.

    2. NGO/LG notes: First appearance of the 2/2/1 NGO/LG panel membership, the NGO rep selection process, and a statement of open process intent: "COE and FWS will ensure that their processes for program development and implementation are open to review and comment by all interested stakeholders and the public." Mentions inclusion of local units of government (LGs) along with NGOs.

  8. April 2005: "Volunteer Committee" recommends modified Institutional Arrangements (Draft)

    1. Synopsis: Draft report of a "volunteer committee" of state and federal partners and NGOs aiming to modify institutional arrangements to enable more integrated, science-driven adaptive management of the UMRS. A River Managers Council (RMC) is further articulated to manage the UMRS at the system level, supported by a Communications Panel, Science Panel, and the existing River Managers Teams (RMT - technical level).

    2. NGO/LG notes: Some NGOs have seat(s) on the RMC, are not expected to represent the entire NGO communities, but should be capable and willing to communicate with organizations of similar interest. Non-member NGOs may attend RMC meetings and participate in discussion, but to a more limited extent. (Page 2-4). All interested parties (including NGOs) would be notified of RMT meetings and the view of any affected or interested party would be welcome at RMT meetings. (Page 2-6)

  9. May 25 2005: UMRBA Response to Volunteer Committee Recommendations (UMRBA-USACE correspondence)

    1. Synopsis: Recommends using existing institutional arrangements with NO new overall RMC; recommends keeping scope narrow and focused on NESP rather than expanding to overall River management; primary institutional arrangement should focus on NESP, EMP, and O&M and balancing the nexus of commercial navigation and ecosystem needs.

    2. NGO/LG Notes: does not specifically deal with role of NGOs or public.

  10. May 26, 2005 EMP Coordinating Committee Response to Volunteer Committee Recommendations (transmitted from UMRBA to USACE June 1)

    1. Synopsis: Advises waiting for NESP to be actually authorized before making changes to Institutional Arrangements and expresses concern over disrupting a functioning EMP process; Needs clearer functional development on how the parts would work together, especially the proposed Science Panel.

    2. NGO/LG notes: "While broadening stakeholder participation is an important goal, this should be done carefully to ensure that the RMC and RMTs can function effectively. Clearly defined goals and responsibilities, along with skilled facilitation, are vital." Concept of "umbrella stakeholder groups" introduced.

  11. November 2005 Revised River Council Draft Operational Model

    1. Synopsis: Appears to be a USACE-developed proposal that provides functional detail lacking in earlier proposals for an overall River Council, river teams, and a Science Panel, noting that the Feasibility Report called for integration of Federal river management activities to address the dual-purpose nature of the UMR. Science panel does not address navigation, only ecosystem. Introduces concept of "comparable progress" for balancing navigation and ecosystem components. River Council provides "State of the UMRS" annually, at first quarterly meeting. First appearance of NESP systemic projects (inc 1200 locks).

    2. NGO/LG notes: AP seats still 2/2/1 with AP developing project ranking system. Six NGOs on the River Council (3 conservation/environmental, 3 navigation interests). "The public would also have the opportunity to participate in river management activities at the local, regional, and Federal levels."

  12. January 2006 UMRBA Comments on River Council Draft Operational Model (UMRBA-USACE correspondence)

    1. Synopsis: Overall recommends to start implementing RMC now, no more planning: by starting to implement the River Council we will learn how to do it. RC can't easily replace EMP CC. Discusses UMRBA role. Recommends Keeping focus on EMP, NESP, and O&M, not getting overly broad.

    2. NGO/LG notes: Nothing specific to NGO, LG or public involvement.

  13. November 2007 River Council Draft Operational Model (with revisions)

  14. February 2008 USACE Implementation Guidance for NESP

    1. Synopsis: Summarizes WRDA 2007 NESP authorization and funding levels, anticipating construction starts in FY 2009. Ecosystem restoration includes addressing cumulative impacts of navigation. Cost sharing guidelines. Requests recommendations on how the AP would be established. Introduces "comparable progress" guidelines for navigation vs ecosystem projects. First implementation report to Congress not later than 30 June 2009.

    2. NGO/LG notes: NGOs will be involved in prioritizing project plans (7e, page 5). AP to have 2/2/1 non state-federal partner representation as authorized.

  15. February 2008 Alternative River Council Configurations to Achieve FACA Compliance (12 Feb 2008 Draft)

    1. Synopsis: Prior River Council configurations would likely trigger FACA requirements perceived to be burdensome. This document explores configurations that would function for NESP but avoid triggering FACA.

    2. NGO/LG notes:

  16. May 2008 Institutional Arrangements Focus Group Report (draft)

    1. Synopsis: Recommends creating a "River Advisory Panel" (RAP) to function as the NESP-mandated AP, with a scope narrower than earlier "River Council" proposals but expanded from the strict interpretation in NESP's authorizing language using the intent of WRDA 2007 Title VIII Section 8004(g). Using this mechanism the RAP and its related working groups are interpreted to be exempt from FACA. Presents a rough sketch of function and Institutional Arrangements.

    2. NESP/LG notes: the new RAP maintains the 2/2/1 NGO/LG members. Focus Group Major Conclusion 3: "It is important to NESP’s success that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) be fully engaged in the institutional structure created to support the program."

  17. March-June 2009 UMRBA-MVD Advisory Panel Correspondence

    1. Synopsis: Discusses rank of State-Federal members of the Advisory Panel (director level vs lower, more technical), difficulties of director-level attendance at meetings, and creation of a work group chartered to perform at system level.

    2. NGO/LG notes:

  18. February 2009 USACE 2009 Advisory Panel Recommendation

    1. Synopsis: AP scope limited to ecosystem restoration only, with a separate group to facilitate coordination with navigation interests. Annual meetings only, with River Forum every 4 years. Advisory panel role does not have to be limited to the functions specified in Title VIII. Submitted through USACE, never approved.

    2. NGO/LG notes: AP members must fund their own participation (except USACE members). 4 year terms for NGO members. Draft stakeholder/NGO application form and process.

  19. c. 2011 NESP is essentially "mothballed" until federally funded.