Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Investments: Proposed Authorization Legislation in the 108th Congress
CRS Report for Congress
Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway
Investments: Proposed Authorization Legislation
in the 108 Congress
Updated April 5, 2005
Nicole T. Carter
Analyst in Environmental Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Analyst in Environmental and Energy Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Investments:
Proposed Authorization Legislation
in the 108th Congress
Thirty-seven lock and dam sites and thousands of channel training structures
create a 9-foot-deep, 1,200-mile-long navigation channel known as the Upper
Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway (UMR-IWW) System. The UMR-IWW makes
commercial navigation possible between Minneapolis and St. Louis on the
Mississippi River, and along the Illinois Waterway from Chicago to the Mississippi
River, thus facilitating low-cost barge transport of agricultural and other products to
and from upper midwestern states. Since the 1980s, the system has experienced
increasing traffic delays, raising concerns about competitiveness of U.S. products in
some international markets. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the agency
responsible for the system, began studying the feasibility of navigation efficiency
improvements in 1993. The study has been the subject of much controversy. In 2000,
a Corps economist alleged that the agency manipulated analyses to support
navigation investments, and a series of newspaper articles criticized the Corps’
planning process for the UMR-IWW study and other Corps studies.
In response, the Corps halted the study, and reinitiated it in 2001 with a
reformulated economic analysis and an ecosystem restoration objective. Ecosystem
restoration was included to respond to criticisms that the study was too limited in its
environmental analysis. The study objective for restoration is to identify measures
that address ecosystem decline, including the ongoing effects of navigation operation
and maintenance; the goal is to benefit a broad array of species by reducing the loss
of habitat, habitat quality, and habitat diversity. Under the reformulated study, in
September 2004, the Corps produced a final feasibility report recommending (1) a
50-year plan for combined navigation improvements and ecosystem restoration, and
(2) authorization of an initial set of measures, including seven new locks, and an
initial 15-year increment of restoration measures. The Corps recommended that the
investments in the 50-year plan be made within an adaptive implementation
framework, which would provide checkpoints for the Administration and Congress
as more information was gained and project milestones were reached. The feasibility
report was approved by the Corps’ Chief of Engineers on December 15, 2004. At theth
end of the 108 Congress, the debate over the urgency, necessity, and national benefit
of expanded UMR-IWW navigation capacity revolved around the possible
congressional responses to the Corps’ recommendations.
Three pieces of legislation in the 108th Congress — H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S.
2773 (Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2004) — would have
authorized combined investments in navigation ($1.73 billion) and ecosystem
restoration ($1.46 billion). The bills would have authorized most of the initial set of
activities recommended in the Corps’ feasibility report. A fourth bill — H.R. 4686
— proposed investing in UMR-IWW ecosystem restoration using an existing
Environmental Management Program, without authorizing navigation improvements.
This CRS report compares the bills with each other and with the Corps’ preferred
plan. This report is unlikely to be updated.
In troduction ......................................................1
Navigation Conditions .........................................1
UMR-IWW Feasibility Study Evolution............................4
Final Feasibility Report.....................................5
Project Development and Authorization Process.........................6
Standard Process .............................................6
UMR-IWW Feasibility Report....................................7
Proposed Legislation ..........................................7
Corps Navigation Plan..........................................9
Comparison of Legislation and Corps Navigation Plan................10
Ecosystem Restoration Investments...................................12
Corps Ecosystem Restoration Plan...............................12
15-Year Restoration Increment..............................13
Comparison of Legislation and Corps Restoration Plan...............14
H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S. 2773.............................14
List of Tables
Table 1. Comparison of Corps Navigation Plan and H.R. 4785, S. 2470,
and S. 2773..................................................11
Table 2. Comparison of Corps Restoration Plan and H.R. 4785, S. 2470,
and S. 2773..................................................16
Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway
Investments: Proposed Authorization
Legislation in the 108 Congress
In September 2004, the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) released its Final
Integrated Feasibility Report and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement
for the UMR-IWW System Navigation Feasibility Study.1 It set out a 50-year plan for
combined navigation investments ($2.4 billion) and ecosystem restoration
investments ($5.3 billion) for the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway (UMR-
IWW). From the 50-year plan, the Corps recommended authorization of a first
increment of investments — $1.88 billion for seven new locks and small-scale
navigation measures, and $1.46 billion for ecosystem restoration. The feasibility
report was approved by the Corps’ Chief of Engineers on December 15, 2004.
Three bills in the 108th Congress — H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S. 2773 — would
have authorized many of the UMR-IWW investments recommended by the Corps;
they would have authorized $1.73 billion for navigation, and $1.46 billion for
ecosystem restoration. No action was taken on H.R. 4785 or S. 2470. Water
Resources Development Act (WRDA) is the traditional legislative vehicle for
authorizing Corps projects. On August 25, 2004, the Senate Environment and Public
Works Committee reported S. 2773 — WRDA 2004. The Senate did not hold a floor
vote on the bill. The House passed a WRDA 2003 (H.R. 2557) without a UMR-
IWW authorization on September 26, 2003. (That vote took place before the Corps’
UMR-IWW feasibility report was available).
A fourth bill — H.R. 4686, the Mississippi River Protection and Restoration
Act of 2004 — would have expanded ecosystem restoration under the existing
Environmental Management Program (EMP) for the Upper Mississippi River System
(UMRS); it would not have authorized navigation investments. No action was taken
on H.R. 4686.
The UMR-IWW is a 1,200 mile, 9-foot-deep navigation channel created by 37
lock and dam sites and thousands of channel training structures. The UMR-IWW
1 Hereafter referred to as Corps, Final Feasibility Report and PEIS. Available at [http://
www2 . mvr . u s a c e.army.mil/umr -i wws ns/documents/FINAL_FES_EIS_Report_Cove r
(2004).pdf], visited on April 5, 2005.
makes commercial navigation possible between Minneapolis and St. Louis and along
the length of the Illinois Waterway. Five of the nation’s top agricultural production
states — Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin — have relied on the
UMR-IWW system as a principal conduit for export-bound agricultural products —
mostly bulk corn and soybeans. The low-cost, high-volume UMR-IWW system has
provided an important competitive advantage for U.S. agricultural products in
international markets. Commercial users of the waterway argue that this
competitiveness is in danger because of increasing transit delays.
Most of the lock and dam infrastructure of the UMR-IWW navigation system
were built by the Corps in the 1930s. These 600-foot locks require the prevalent
1,100-foot barge tows to split in half and pass through in two steps. This decoupling
process contributes to wait times at some locks; the Corps reports that the UMR-
IWW system has over half (19 of 36) of the most delayed locks of the country’s
inland waterways.2 Commercial users advocate that the federal government should
expand lock capacity by building new 1,200-foot locks parallel to the existing 600-
foot locks (keeping both operational). They argue that commercial UMR-IWW barge
operators have been paying a fuel tax into the Inland Waterway Trust Fund (IWTF)3
for making this type of infrastructure investment. In contrast, a taxpayer advocacy
group — Taxpayers for Common Sense — and some environmental groups have
argued that inexpensive small-scale measures like traffic scheduling, congestion tolls,
and switchboats could manage demand and reduce lockage delays; and unlike new
locks that will take years to design and build, small-scale measures can be
implemented quickly at a fraction of the cost.4 Navigation investment supporters
argue that in practice the usefulness of small-scale measures is limited. Some
environmental groups are also concerned that additional stress, caused by
construction activities and increases in barge traffic above current levels, could
accelerate ecosystem decline. (For a discussion of the environmental impacts of
incremental navigation improvements and traffic on the UMR-IWW, see CRS Report
RL32470, Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Navigation Expansion: An
Agricultural Transportation and Environmental Context, coordinated by Randy
2 Ibid., p. 57.
3 The IWTF is funded by a 20 cent per gallon diesel tax paid by barge operators of vessels
engaged in commercial transportation on designated waterways. The IWTF pays half the
cost of new construction and major rehabilitation of barge infrastructure. In recent years,
collections have exceeded expenditures, so there is a growing unspent balance in the fund.
For further information on the IWTF, an archived copy of CRS Report RL32192, Harbors
and Inland Waterways: An Overview of Federal Financing, by Nicole T. Carter and John
F. Frittelli, can be obtained from the authors.
4 Twice-Cooked Pork: The Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Navigation Study, a
report prepared by a coalition of interest groups in opposition to large-scale lock expansion;
available at [http://www.environmentalobservatory.org/library.cfm?refID=36178], visited
on April 5, 2005. Hereafter referred to as Twice-Cooked Pork. In response to Twice-
Cooked Pork, Midwest Area River Coalition 2000 (MARC 2000) — “a coalition of
shippers, carriers, agricultural, industrial, environmental and government interests to
promote Midwest economic growth by responsibly developing and improving the UMR-
IWW” — released a report available at [http://www.marc2000.org/Documents/Twice_
Cooked_Pork_vs_Reality_Final.pdf], visited on April 5, 2005.
Opponents of expanding capacity contend that the improvements are not
economically justified based on current agricultural and transportation trends and
costs.5 They argue that steady barge traffic on the UMR-IWW, since the mid-1980s,
indicates that foreign demand for U.S. feedstuffs is stagnant. Navigation proponents
counter that barge traffic has been steady recently because of delays; that is, delays
are forcing grain shippers to switch to alternate transportation modes to ensure timely
arrival at downriver processing plants or gulf ports. Navigation supporters cite that,
since the late 1940s, the UMR-IWW has experienced substantial traffic growth —
from less than 10 million metric tons in the mid-1940s to more than 80 million
metric tons in the 1990s. For an analysis of the historic trends and the prospect for
future traffic, see CRS Report RL32470, Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway
Navigation Expansion: An Agricultural Transportation and Environmental Context,
coordinated by Randy Schnepf.
Although 1,200-foot locks are expected to reduce current waiting times at locks,
they are not expected to eliminate all lock delays, because decoupling is only one
cause of delay. Lock delays also occur because of closures for operation and
maintenance and the variability in demand — more than one boat arriving at the
same time results in a queue, and the seasonality of crop harvesting assures strong
autumn demand. The Corps has not published an estimate of the proportion of delays
expected to be eliminated by new locks.
The Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) — an ecosystem defined as
including the UMR-IWW navigation system, and the aquatic and terrestrial habitats
and species that are critically important to the river floodplain ecosystem6 — is losing
the habitat and habitat diversity that support the ecosystem’s diverse species. Two
structural elements — dams and locks that facilitate navigation, and flood reduction
levees — have changed the riverine ecosystem’s structure and functions, altering
basic processes and habitats by modifying water levels and their fluctuations. The
UMRS provides habitat and food to at least 485 species of birds, mammals,
amphibians, reptiles, and fish, including 10 federally listed endangered or threatened
species and 100 state-listed threatened or endangered species. It is a critical
migration corridor for 40% of North America’s waterfowl and shorebirds, and home
to at least 118 fish species and almost 50 freshwater mussels species.
In WRDA 1986 (P.L. 99-662), Congress declared the UMRS a nationally
significant ecosystem and a nationally significant commercial navigation system, and
created the Environmental Management Program (EMP) for conducting habitat
rehabilitation/enhancement projects and long-term resource monitoring for the
UMRS. The ecosystem encompasses four National Fish and Wildlife Refuges, and
three national parks lie within or immediately adjacent to the river system. The
UMRS ecosystem also is viewed as significant because of its recreational use and the
5 Twice-Cooked Pork.
6 The lateral boundaries of the UMRS are defined by the full extent of the floodplains —
toe-of-bluff to toe-of-bluff, varying from 300 to 500 meters (1,000 feet to 1,600 feet) wide.
Corps, Final Feasibility Report and PEIS, p. 113.
economic value of recreation. Annually, there are 12 million daily visits for
recreation in the UMRS; boating, sightseeing, sports fishing, hunting, and trapping
are some of the popular recreational uses.7 It is estimated that recreational activities
generate $1.2 billion and over 18,000 jobs annually.8
According to the Corps, current annual environmental investments — $33.9
million, on average, in federal and state funds — are inadequate to prevent continued
degradation. Side channels, backwater, and wetlands are filling in with sediment.
The ecosystem is also experiencing a loss of connectivity of the floodplain to the
river, impeded fish migration, loss of island habitat, and loss of native plant
community diversity and abundance. Although the navigation system and levees
significantly altered conditions, they are not the only stressors causing decline. The
Mississippi River and Illinois River have a long history of impaired water quality
largely caused by contamination from agricultural, industrial, residential, and
municipal sources,9 as well as increased sedimentation and altered runoff patterns
from land use changes.
Environmental groups seek investments in ecosystem restoration that will
support a mosaic of habitats and river management that more closely resembles a
natural hydrograph and river-floodplain connectivity. Some cite the loss of migratory
birds in the areas of the Illinois River and the Middle and Lower Mississippi River
as examples of a possible outcome if investments are not made. Environmental
groups want to reverse ecosystem decline and to increase the services and benefits
provided by a healthy ecosystem (e.g., recreational uses).
UMR-IWW Feasibility Study Evolution
To inform the congressional decision on whether to authorize UMR-IWW
investments, the Corps conducted a feasibility study.10 The Corps’ feasibility study,
which began in 1993 to investigate the long-run navigation needs of the UMR-IWW,
has been the subject of controversy. In February 2000, a Corps economist
approached the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative
and prosecutorial agency that protects government whistleblowers, and contended
that the Corps manipulated a cost-benefit analysis to support UMR-IWW lock
The feasibility study was temporarily halted while the allegations were
investigated by the Army Inspector General, and available study documents were
reviewed by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of
Sciences. The Inspector General’s investigation found no incidents of fraud or waste;
it did reveal serious misconduct and improprieties with the study and suggested an
7 Ibid., pp. 146-147.
8 Ibid., p. 147.
9 Ibid., p. 127.
10 For more information see CRS Congressional Distribution Memorandum, UMR-IWW
Project History, by Kyna Powers, May 3, 2004.
institutional bias that favored large-scale projects.11 The NRC pointed out several
flaws in the economic modeling methodology and the data used for navigation
estimates, including overly optimistic river traffic projections.12 It also criticized the
Corps for limiting the study’s environmental analyses to incremental effects of
expanding navigation capacity. In response, in 2001, the Corps reformulated the
economic analysis and added an ecosystem restoration component to the study.
The NRC continues to review the study. A second NRC panel produced a report
in early 2004 that reviews the reformulated study,13 and another report in October
2004 that comments on an April 2004 draft Corps feasibility report (which is similar
to the final feasibility report).14 The NRC suggested in its reports that, until small-
scale measures were investigated and implemented where feasible, it would be
impracticable to evaluate the benefits of new locks and lock extensions. Following
on the earlier reports, the October 2004 report found: “Economic feasibility for any
of the navigation alternatives has therefore not been demonstrated;” that NRC panel
concluded that “many of the flaws and omissions in this study can be corrected in the
course of implementation by the application of adaptive management principles.”15
Final Feasibility Report. In September 2004, the Corps released a final
feasibility report based on the results of the reformulated study. It recommended a
50-year plan for combined navigation efficiency and ecosystem restoration
investments. The Corps proposed authorization of a first increment of measures as
well as a dual-purpose (navigation and ecosystem restoration) management of the
UMR-IWW. The Corps’ navigation improvement plan would cost an estimated $2.4
billion over 50 years, while the ecosystem restoration plan would cost an estimated
$5.3 billion over 50 years. The Corps recommended that Congress authorize a first
increment of the navigation measures at $1.88 billion and a first 15-year increment
of ecosystem restoration measures at $1.46 billion. Although the Corps did not
implement small-scale measures as the NRC suggested, the agency evaluated them
as part of the reformulated study. A few of the small-scale measures that were
studied were included in the Corps’ recommendation for navigation investments.
The feasibility report was approved by the Corps’ Chief of Engineers on December
11 U.S. Dept. of the Army, U.S. Army Inspector General Agency Report of Investigation
(case 00-019) (Washington, DC: December 2000).
12 NRC, Inland Navigation System Planning: The Upper Mississippi River-Illinois
Waterway (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001).
13 NRC, Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Upper Mississippi-Illinois Waterway
Restructured Study: Interim Report (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2004).
Hereafter referred to as Early 2004 NRC report.
14 NRC, Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Upper Mississippi-Illinois Waterway
feasibility Study: Second Report (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2004).
Hereafter referred to as October 2004 NRC report.
15 October 2004 NRC report, p.8.
In addition to supporting navigation and ecosystem restoration investments, the
Corps recommended creating a structure for UMR-IWW investments and operations
consisting of three basic elements:
!adding ecosystem restoration as a UMR-IWW project purpose,
creating a dual-purpose navigation and restoration authority,
!approving a combined navigation and ecosystem restoration plan as
a framework, and
!adaptively implementing navigation investments and adaptively
managing ecosystem restoration investments.16
According to the Corps, these three elements combined would allow the agency to
proceed with operational changes and near-term investments for navigation and
ecosystem restoration. Investments would be part of a long-term river management
framework that minimizes risk by establishing a process to incorporate acquired
information into ongoing decision-making and phased authorizations.
Three bills — H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S. 2773 (108th Congress) — would have
authorized most navigation and ecosystem restoration activities recommended by the
Corps; a fourth bill, H.R. 4686, would have authorized expansion of ecosystem
restoration under an existing program, without authorizing navigation investments.
The next section of this report discusses the standard project development and
authorization process for Corps projects, and how the UMR-IWW feasibility report
and authorizations in H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S. 2773 differed from the standard
process. That section is followed by two other sections: one that compares the
Corps’ navigation plan to legislation proposed in the 108th Congress, and one that
compares the restoration plan to the proposed legislation.
Project Development and Authorization Process
For most Corps projects to be eligible for construction appropriations, Congress
must authorize the project, typically in a WRDA bill. Once authorized,
commencement of construction-related work must await appropriations.
Appropriations are generally made in the annual Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Act. Although some projects may be authorized and received
appropriations simultaneously in an appropriations bill, this has not been the norm.
16 Part of the Corps’ definition of adaptive management is:
An approach to natural resources management that acknowledges the risk and
uncertainty of ecosystem restoration and allows for modification of restoration
measures to optimize performance. The process of implementing policy
decisions as scientifically driven management experiments that test predictions
and assumptions in management plans, using the resulting information to
improve the plans. (sic) (Corps, Final Feasibility Report and PEIS, p. 611)
The formal Corps project development and authorization process typically has
Congress authorizing a project based on a report by the Corps’ Chief of Engineers
(i.e., a Chief’s report) that has been reviewed for compliance with Administration
policy by the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), then the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB).17 The Chief’s report contains a final feasibility
report (including studies of engineering feasibility and analyses of benefits and
costs), environmental studies, and the Chief’s recommendation for the project. In
recent years, Congress increasingly has authorized projects based on informational
copies of the Chief’s report before complete reviews by the Assistant Secretary and
OMB; however, a majority of projects are still authorized after full executive branch
review. Since WRDA 1996, Congress also has increasingly authorized Corps
projects before a Chief’s report is completed; these authorizations generally have
been contingent upon completion of a favorable Chief’s report by the end of the
UMR-IWW Feasibility Report
The Corps’ UMR-IWW feasibility report is distinct from the typical feasibility
report. The Corps usually recommends authorization of an entire project that it has
analyzed and compared to alternatives. Because the UMR-IWW is an extensive
navigation system, the Corps analyzed and compared alternative 50-year packages
of projects for navigation and ecosystem restoration, and it recommended that
Congress approve the combined plans as a framework and authorize a subset of
initial projects, with the implication that the remaining projects in the 50-year plan
would be authorized later.18 The subset of projects was not analyzed as a stand-alone
plan. For example, the Corps feasibility report did not have a benefit-cost analysis
for the first increment of navigation activities separate from the analysis of the 50-
year plan. The report also did not present a cost-effectiveness analysis for the first
increment of ecosystem restoration projects.
The authorization of UMR-IWW investments in H.R. 4686, S. 2470, and S.
2773 was distinct from the standard project authorizations. Most project
authorization language in WRDA bills state that a project is to be carried out in
accordance with the Chief’s report, rather than specifying authorized activities. The
bills specified navigation activities to be authorized, without referencing a Chief’s
report and not subject to any larger framework or plan. In contrast, the bills would
have authorized ecosystem restoration measures “in accordance with the general
framework outlined” in the feasibility report.
17 For more information on the Corps’ project development and authorization process, see
CRS Report RL32604, Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Activities: Authorization
and Appropriations, by Nicole T. Carter.
18 A similar framework approach was used for the Corps’ first large-scale restoration effort
in the Florida Everglades; WRDA 2000 (P.L. 106-541) approved the final feasibility report
as a framework, authorized a few specific projects under the framework, and established a
process for developing and authorizing additional projects.
Supporters of exceptions from the standard process generally argue that the
completion of the Administration’s reviews and the timing of authorizing legislation
are not always synchronized, and that exceptions provide the flexibility to bridge the
two schedules when most of the Corps’ analysis is already complete. Environmental
and taxpayer groups have been critical of exceptions to the Corps’ standard process;
they contend that authorizing without complete Administration review rushes
projects through review, that congressional decisions are made with incomplete
information, and that reviewers may be pressured to make favorable
The analysis performed to justify federal investment in navigation
improvements in the UMR-IWW feasibility report is atypical in some respects; the
analysis had to account for a complex set of risks and uncertainties resulting from a
50-year planning horizon for the extensive UMR-IWW system. For the Final
Feasibility Report and PEIS, the Corps used a scenario-based approach, rather than
forecasting navigation demand over 50 years (which the Corps was doing prior to the
criticism in 2000 and 2001). The scenario approach examined UMR-IWW
movements for five traffic scenarios based on differing world trade, crop area, crop
yield, and consumption patterns.
The Corps used the scenarios to arrive at a preferred navigation plan and to
make three general findings. First, no single navigation alternative was a clear best19
choice across a range of economic conditions. Second, the preferred navigation
alternative depended on two variables: (1) traffic forecasts derived from future trade20
scenarios, and (2) price sensitivity of shippers. Third, “the risks are high if no
action is taken and high traffic occurs. Risks are also high if a large investment is21
made and increases in traffic do not materialize.” Stated another way, the Corps
found every alternative (including no action) to contain risk in the face of an
uncertain future. Meeting a fundamental criterion for federal involvement — that
national economic development benefits exceed costs — depends on what the future
holds. For example according to the Corps’ analysis, if UMR-IWW traffic continues
at the fairly constant level of the last 20 years, costs of large-scale measures would22
likely exceed benefits. If navigation traffic on the system increases (i.e., follows the
longer 50-year growth trend), benefits probably will exceed costs.23 These findings
are useful for understanding why proceeding with navigation capacity expansion
remained controversial during the 108th Congress. For a discussion of the difference
of opinion on the urgency of new locks, the feasibility of using alternatives to new
locks for reducing delays, and the confidence level in the Corps analysis, see CRS
19 Corps, Final Feasibility Report and PEIS, pp. x, 437-438, and 493.
20 Ibid., pp. 462 and 493.
21 Ibid., p. 493.
22 Ibid., p. 458.
23 Ibid., p. 459.
Report RL32470, Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Navigation Expansion:
An Agricultural Transportation and Environmental Context, coordinated by Randy
Corps Navigation Plan
Adaptive Implementation. The Final Feasibility Report and PEIS stated
that sufficient analysis has been completed to support an initial navigation investment
to be implemented using an adaptive approach that minimizes risk by controlling the24
magnitude of investment decisions. The Corps recommended authorization of an
initial set of navigation investments from its 50-year navigation plan, including seven
new 1,200-foot locks; authorization for the remaining navigation investments, which
consist primarily of extending five 600-foot locks to 1,200 feet, would be sought in
later legislation. To support this adaptive approach, the Corps recommended the
continued study and monitoring of UMR-IWW navigation to produce the data to feed
into an adaptive implementation approach.
In another departure from standard practice, the Corps recommended that the
seven new locks be reconsidered after congressional authorization, as additional
information becomes available. The Corps would transmit reports to the
Administration and Congress containing acquired information. First, the Corps
would produce a notification report at the end of the first phase of lock design, and
before the award of a construction contract. The notification report would present
all new information resulting from monitoring river traffic and markets, and results
of any improved models and analysis. The Corps’ recommendation was to break up
preconstruction engineering and design work for the seven new locks into two
segments — first the design work on three locks, followed by the design work on the
remaining four locks. The design work for the first three locks was estimated to take
three years following initiation of appropriations, so the Corps anticipated a
notification report in 2008 if the full annual appropriations were received starting in
2005. The Corps estimated that it would spend $30 million on pre-construction
engineering and design for the first three lock sites. The second report would come
five to seven years into implementation (i.e., 2010 to 2012) when the Corps submits
a reevaluation report upon the development and use of “new and widely accepted
models”; the report would conclude with a recommendation to Congress on whether
to continue, stop, or delay lock construction underway.
A third report would be an updated feasibility report for the 50-year plan
evaluating investments in a second increment of measures; the second increment of
navigation measures would consist primarily of five lock extensions upstream of the
new locks on the Mississippi River. This report was anticipated for 16 years into
implementation (i.e., around 2021).
24 Ibid., p. 493.
First Increment. The Corps’ 50-year navigation plan consists of small-scale
measures (structural and nonstructural, including switchboats25) and large-scale
improvements — seven new locks and five lock extensions. The plan would have
a “first cost” (i.e., design and construction costs) of $2.4 billion plus annual
switchboat costs of $18 million. In the Final Feasibility Report and PEIS, the Corps
recommended that Congress approve the 50-year plan as a framework and authorize
a first increment of $1.88 billion (to be paid 50% from federal general revenue funds
and 50% from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, consistent with standard policy for
inland waterway projects). The first increment would include seven new locks and
small-scale measures for use during lock construction. The seven new locks would
be 1,200-foot locks parallel to existing 600-foot locks.
The $1.88 billion authorization proposed by the Corps would cover the first
costs for authorized navigation measures; like most Corps authorizations, the
authorized amount would not reflect operation and maintenance (O&M) expenses.
O&M for inland waterways is 100% a federal responsibility. The O&M for the
recommended navigation measures would be $7.8 million annually; the federal
government would be responsible for this amount as well the $115 to $126 million
annually spent on O&M of the existing UMR-IWW navigation system.
The Corps estimated that it would take 13 years for each lock to proceed from
the start of pre-construction engineering and design to completion of construction,
if fully funded. The first three of the seven new locks would be complete at the
earliest by 2019; the remaining four locks would be started three years later and
completed no earlier than 2022.
Environmental Mitigation. The Final Feasibility Report and PEIS assessed
and set out a process and specific measures for mitigating impacts directly associated
with the navigation improvements in its preferred navigation alternative. The Corps
concluded that the impacts of large-scale UMR-IWW measures could be mitigated;
it stated that by using mitigation, the net effect from both increased traffic and site-
specific impacts would be no loss to the five principal areas of concern — fisheries,
submerged aquatic plants, backwaters, secondary channels, and historic properties.26
Comparison of Legislation and Corps Navigation Plan
As recommended by the Corps, H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S. 2773 would have
authorized seven new locks and small-scale and non-structural measures (see Table
1). The language in the three bills emphasized that IWTF funds come from a tax on
commercial waterways users. The navigation sections of H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S.
25 Switchboats would be used to assist tows, by managing the second half of their hauls as
they move the first half through the 600-foot locks, resulting in a shorter lockage time.
Switchboats would be employed as hired vessels permanently stationed on both the
upstream and downstream sides of a lock.
26 Corps, Final Feasibility Report and PEIS, p. 419. The Corps did not established specific
mitigation actions; instead, it identifies potential mitigation measures for each river reach.
short, it appeared that the bills would have authorized construction of specified
activities, without committing to a long-term management framework.
Table 1 identifies other differences between the Corps’ recommendation and
the three bills. These include: (1) the bills did not include an adaptive
implementation process; (2) the bills did not include a continued monitoring and
study provision, except for development and testing of a lock appointment scheduling
system; and (3) the bills required the Secretary of the Army to provide switchboats
for five years (instead of the 15 years recommended by the Corps). In effect, the
bills relied on the continued involvement of Congress through the appropriations
process, rather than the Corps’ adaptive approach and continued study and
Table 1. Comparison of Corps Navigation Plan and
H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S. 2773
Corps’ PreferredH.R. 4785/S. 2470/S. 2773
Reference to FeasibilityDual-purpose plan approvedNo comparable provision.
Report or Planas a framework.
Adaptive Implementation15-year process with threeNo comparable provision.
First Increment. $218 million (50% IWTF and$48 million (50% IWTF and
Small-Scale and 50% general funds (GF)),50% GF), not including
Non-Structural Measuresincluding mitigation. mitigation.
Mooring FacilitiesAt 7 locks.At 7 locks.
SwitchboatsAt 5 locks for 15 years duringAt 5 locks for 5 years.
construction of 7 new locks.
First Increment. $1,660 million (50% from$1,460 million (50% IWTF
Large-Scale MeasuresIWTF and 50% GF),and 50% GF), not including
New LocksSeven 1,200-foot locks.Seven 1,200-foot locks.
MitigationMitigation was incorporated$200 million (50% from
directly into authorizedIWTF/50% general funds) for
amounts for the new locksnew locks and small-scale
and small-scale and non-and non-structural measures.
Continued Study and5 activities, including1 activity - development and
Monitoringdevelopment of a locktesting of a lock appointment
appointment schedulingscheduling system.
Total Navigation$1.878 billion (50% from$1.728 billion (50% from
AuthorizationsIWTF and 50% GF).IWTF and 50% GF).
Source: Congressional Research Service.
Ecosystem Restoration Investments
The Corps’ Upper Mississippi River System restoration plan is unique because
the investments are aimed at benefitting a diverse set of species. Most of the Corps’
other environmental investments have been for project mitigation, often targeted at
specific threatened or endangered species. For the UMRS, the Corps is proposing a
large-scale restoration effort that is not directed at specific species, but at providing
habitat and habitat diversity to benefit populations of multiple native species in situ.
(For a more detailed discussion of the ecosystem restoration proposal, see CRS
Report RL32630, Upper Mississippi River System: Proposals to Restore an Inland
Waterway’s Ecosystem, by Kyna Powers and Nicole T. Carter.) The Environmental
Management Program for the UMRS, authorized in WRDA 1986, has allowed the
Corps to test the impacts of measures similar to those proposed for the UMRS.
However, since large-scale implementation of these measures may produce uncertain
outcomes, the Corps is recommending an adaptive management approach. Since the
UMRS restoration plan is among the first large-scale restoration efforts being
planned across the country, it raises numerous unanswered policy questions (that are
not addressed in this report), including:
!What distinguishes ecosystem restoration from mitigation for past
and ongoing damages of navigation projects?
!What qualifies as restoration? For example, is a system that needs
regular intervention, such as dredging, “restored”?
!Is restoration a feasible goal for a waterway managed for intensive
commercial navigation? Is dual-purpose management for ecosystem
restoration and navigation possible for a high-use commercial
!How should federal appropriations be distributed among the
universe of ecosystem restoration projects nationally? For example,
how does restoration of the UMRS rank compared to the restorations
of the Florida Everglades, Coastal Louisiana, and the California Bay
Corps Ecosystem Restoration Plan
The final feasibility report recommended an ecosystem restoration plan for
combating the environmental damage resulting from ongoing navigation O&M and
other factors degrading the UMRS ecosystem. It recommended a long-term (50-year)
restoration framework, an adaptive management approach, and authorization of a 15-
year first increment of activities. The restoration goals of the plan are:27
!maintain viable populations of native species in situ;
!represent all native ecosystem types across their natural range of
!restore and maintain evolutionary and ecological processes (e.g.,
disturbance regimes, hydrologic processes, nutrient cycles, etc.); and
!integrate human use and occupancy within these constraints.
27 Ibid., p. 171.
The Corps limited its ecosystem restoration plan to the navigation project and
study, and to addressing the cumulative impacts of operations of federal projects and
other stressors without reducing the benefits of existing federal projects. As such,
restoration measures are constrained because they cannot harm navigation, and they
are limited to the UMR-IWW and its floodplain (rather than the larger watershed).
For example, dramatic water level changes that could produce substantial restoration
benefits are not in the Corps’ plan because they would interfere with navigation.
Another consequence of limiting restoration to the navigation project and study is
that some of the stressors leading to degradation are excluded from the preferred
plan. The recommended UMRS restoration plan does not include changes to land
use practices, flood protection practices that isolate the river from its floodplain on
a large-scale, or significant alterations to navigation infrastructure. For example, the
Corps’ plan includes backwater dredging measures; dredging addresses the symptom
of elevated sedimentation, but not the land use practices that can cause it. Directly
changing land use is outside the scope of the navigation study and navigation project.
Because only some of the stressors causing ecosystem degradation are managed
under the Corps plan, not all of the ecosystem’s natural river processes would be
restored, resulting in the need for regular human intervention to obtain some
15-Year Restoration Increment. In the final feasibility report, the Corps
proposed that Congress authorize an initial 15-year, $1.46 billion increment of the
Corps’ 50-year $5.3 billion ecosystem restoration plan. The $1.46 billion would
cover the first costs (i.e., design and construction) for the authorized activities,
breaking down as $1.33 billion (93%) federal and $0.13 billion (7%) nonfederal.
This cost-share arrangement is unusual. For most Corps’ ecosystem restoration28
projects, a cost-share of 65% federal and 35% nonfederal is applied to the project.
The cost-share arrangement proposed by the Corps for the UMR-IWW drew attention
because it distinguished between activities that have the 65%/35% split and activities
that will be 100% federal. In general, the 100% federal components address impacts29
of the existing 9-foot navigation project, or are on federal land.
According to the Corps, measures in the 15-year increment were selected to
provide (1) the best return on investment, (2) the best gains in habitat diversity, and30
(3) additional knowledge that will facilitate implementing the 50-year plan. The
Corps also favored measures for which planning, design, construction, and
28 Currently, the Corps has authorization to lead only one large-scale restoration effort —
the Florida Everglades restoration. The Everglades restoration was split 50% federal and
50% nonfederal. The Everglades ecosystem was also harmed by operations of federal
projects and encompasses extensive federal lands. For information on Everglades
restoration, see CRS Report RS20702, South Florida Ecosystem Restoration and the
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, by Pervaze A. Sheikh and Nicole T. Carter
For more information on Everglades funding, see CRS Report RS22048, Everglades
Restoration: The Federal Role in Funding, by Pervaze A. Sheikh and Nicole T. Carter.
29 The 100% federal components include any project (1) below the ordinary high water mark
or in a connected backwater; (2) that modifies navigation structures or operations; or (3)
located on federal land.
30 Corps, Final Feasibility Report and PEIS, pp. 511-512.
monitoring could occur during the 15-year window. However, some organizations
contended that 15 years would be insufficient to demonstrate substantial
improvements. Unlike the analysis of the 50-year ecosystem restoration options, the
final report did not analyze in detail the ecosystem benefits expected from the 15-year
increment; it also did not present alternative 15-year increments, or a cost-
effectiveness analysis of the 15-year increment.
The recommended 15-year increment included 225 measures, from the 1,010
measures in the 50-year plan. The 225 measures were grouped into three main
categories of activities:
!Fish Passage and Dam Operations. Fish passage construction at
four dams and fish passage planning and design at two dams ($209
million), and new dam operating procedures (and related land
acquisition or easements) at two dams ($41 million) ($250 million
total — 100% federal).
!Programmatic Restoration Authority. Programmatic authority to
implement island building, floodplain restoration, water level
management, backwater restoration, side channel restoration, wing
dam/dike alternation and shoreline protection ($935 million total,
not to exceed $25 million/measure — 100% federal).
!Land Acquisition. Land acquisition of 35,000 acres from willing
sellers, for floodplain connectivity and wetland and riparian habitat
protection and restoration ($277 million total — 65% federal).31
The $935 million in programmatic restoration authorization included $136
million for adaptive management and $136 million for restoration monitoring and
evaluation. The recommended $1.46 billion did not include O&M expenses. O&M
for ecosystem restoration for Corps projects is typically 100% a nonfederal
responsibility. Because some of the projects would be managed by federal agencies,
their O&M would be a federal responsibility. The O&M costs (which would be
incurred over the 50-year planning horizon) for the 15-year increment were estimated
at $61.5 million, with an expected split of $9.6 million federal and $51.9 nonfederal.
Comparison of Legislation and Corps Restoration Plan
Three bills — H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S. 2773 — were largely similar to each
other and used many of the Corps recommendations; they would have authorized the
same projects, the same cost-share arrangement, and the same total authorization of
$1.46 billion. In contrast, H.R. 4686 would have authorized an increase in UMRS
ecosystem restoration investments under the existing EMP, separate from navigation
H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S. 2773. Although H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S.
2773 would have required that restoration be implemented in accordance with the
general framework outlined in the Final Feasibility Report and PEIS, there were
some differences between the Corps’ 15-year increment and the proposed authorizing
31 Ibid., p. 522.
language in the three bills. (See Table 2.) For example, the Corps recommended
adaptive management of the ecosystem restoration plan, but the bills made no
mention of adaptive management. Instead, they would have required some
complementary measures. They required an ecosystem restoration implementation
report by July 2005, and every four years thereafter; the report included baselines,
benchmarks, goals, and priorities for restoration projects and to measure the progress
in meeting goals. The bills also would have authorized a science panel, which was
one of 12 elements of the adaptive management strategy outlined in the final32
feasibility report. Because the bills did not specifically authorize the adaptive
management approach, it was uncertain if the Corps would have the authority to
implement the $136 million adaptive management program and the complementary
$136 million monitoring and evaluation that the agency recommends. Similarly, the33
Corps recommended adding ecosystem restoration as a project purpose; bill
language would have required the Corps, “consistent with requirements to avoid any
adverse effects on navigation,” to modify UMR-IWW operations to address
cumulative environmental impacts and improve ecological integrity and to carry out
ecosystem restoration projects. The bills did not explicitly add ecosystem restoration
as a project purpose of the UMR-IWW. The implications of this for managing for
both navigation and restoration were unclear.
Another distinction was that H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S. 2773 would have
authorized the lump sum of $1.46 billion with one primary limitation that land
acquisition be limited to $35 million annually. In the final feasibility report, the
Corps made no recommendations on an annual limitation on land acquisition, instead
it recommends a cap of 35,000 acres on land acquisition. The final report provided
a breakdown of the $1.46 billion between three categories of restoration activities —
fish passage and dam operations, programmatic restoration authority, and land
The major difference among the three bills was that S. 2773 included three
sections that are not in H.R. 4785 and S. 2470 — restoration project design
requirements, linked navigation and ecosystem restoration progress, and project
ranking based on restoring natural river processes.
Project Design. S. 2773 would have required that before an individual
restoration project could begin construction, the Secretary would be required to
establish restoration performance measures (including a baseline indicator) and target
goals. The bill also required that the design of these projects include a monitoring
plan for the performance measures, including a timeline for project completion. The
provision appeared to be aimed at addressing concerns over what would be achieved
both under the first increment of authorized activities and the longer, 50-year plan,
and when restoration would be complete. This provision was complementary to the
Corps’ recommendation for an adaptive management approach, which required
establishing baselines and performing monitoring to incorporate new information
into on-going investments.
32 Ibid., p. 516.
33 Ibid., p. 491.
Table 2. Comparison of Corps Restoration Plan and
H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S. 2773
Corps’ Preferred PlanH.R. 4785/S. 2470/S. 2773
Ecosystem RestorationEcosystem restoration as aRequired that UMR-IWW
Authorityproject purpose.operations be modified to
environmental impacts and
improve ecological integrity
consistent with requirements
to avoid any adverse effects
Reference to FeasibilityCombined plan approved as aNo language approving the
Report or Combined Planframework.report or plan as a
framework; however, the
language required restoration
projects to be carried out in
accordance with the general
framework outlined in the
final feasibility report.
Initial 15-Year Authorized(a)Fish Passage and DamList of 15 project types to be
ActivitiesOperations, (b) Programmaticcarried out in accordance
Restoration Authority forwith the general framework
multiple project types, (c)outlined in the final
Land Acquisition limited tofeasibility report.
Adaptive ManagementCorps recommended anEstablished an advisory
adaptive management strategypanel to provide guidance in
that includes organizationsthe development of each
(River Management Council,quadrennial report. (See
Science Panel, and RiverContinued study and
Management Teams),Monitoring for
systemic studies, & evaluationcomplementary provisions.)
of restoration measures.
Continued Study andReport after 15 years.Implementation report by
MonitoringJune 30, 2005 and every 4
years after that. Reports
would include baselines,
benchmarks, and priorities,
and measures in progress to
meet the objectives.
Cost ShareMixture of 100% federalSame as recommended by
elements, & ones shared 65%the Corps.
federal & 35% nonfederal.
Total Ecosystem$1.46 billion$1.46 billion
Restoration Authorizations($1.33 billion & ($1.33 billion &
(Est. Federal & Nonfederal)$0.13 billion)$0.13 billion)
Appropriations LimitationNo comparable provision.Land acquisition limited to
$35 million in federal funds
used for land acquisition.
Source: Congressional Research Service.
Linked Progress. S. 2773 would have required the Corps to establish
milestones for the ecosystem restoration and navigation projects. It also would have
required the Secretary of the Army to determine if the projects are being carried out
at “comparable rates.” If the projects were not moving toward completion at a
comparable rate, annual funding would have been adjusted to promote comparable
progress. The provision appeared to be an attempt to address concerns about
ecosystem restoration investments being outpaced by navigation investments. Some
environmental groups were willing to accept new locks if ecosystem restoration also
was authorized and funded; they wanted investments in restoration and navigation
linked. They feared that if the two were not linked, ecosystem restoration could have
been authorized, but receive minimal appropriations. Navigation and agricultural
interests expressed their dissatisfaction with wedding navigation and restoration
progress; they considered navigation and ecosystem restoration investments as
separable. They did not want navigation construction slowed down due to
constrained federal appropriations for ecosystem restoration, in light of the multiple
multi-billion dollar, large-scale restoration projects already underway or under
development nationally. They also contended that linking may delay progress of lock
construction, thus extending the environmental and traffic disturbances caused by
construction. Linked progress ultimately is a policy decision of how Congress wants
to direct its appropriations.
Project Ranking. S. 2773 would have required the Secretary of the Army to
develop a ranking system for restoration projects that emphasized projects that
restore natural river processes. Project ranking based on restoring natural river
processes appeared to be an attempt to promote projects that trigger “self-repair and
self-maintenance over large areas at relatively modest cost.”34 This provision likely
would have given priority to water level management and other dam alterations,
floodplain measures such as levee modifications and removals, and alteration of river
training structures such as wing dams and dikes. The impact of this provision on the
implementation of the Corps’ final plan was uncertain. It would have given priority
to a single aspect of a project, rather than considering multiple objectives. For
instance, prioritizing projects that restore natural river processes may not be
appropriate for all river reaches, especially lower reaches that are more altered than
less-disturbed upper reaches. A greater number of engineered restoration activities
were recommended by the Corps in the lower basin, which is more heavily developed
and leveed, than in the upper basin. For example, the Corps recommended artificially
mimicking a natural hydrograph to restore ecological processes (e.g., pumping water
out of areas with water levels raised by dams) for reaches where natural river
restoration options were limited by the navigation system and development. A
solution using a more natural river process may have been to change dam operations
to decrease water levels, thus harming navigation, but this option was not considered
in the Corps plan because the agency considered it outside the scope of the feasibility
study and navigation project.
H.R. 4686. The Mississippi River Protection and Restoration Act of 2004 —
H.R. 4686 — would have provided for ecosystem restoration of the UMRS by
expanding the Environmental Management Program and establishing a trust fund
34 Early 2004 NRC report, p. 19.
(financed by the Federal Treasury and charitable donations) to pay for the program.
The bill called for half of the annually appropriated funds for UMR-IWW operations
and maintenance to be reserved to carry out restoration projects, recreation projects,
and monitoring of waterway traffic movements. It amended the existing EMP in
numerous ways, including increasing the authorized appropriation level for the
habitat restoration projects from $22.75 million to $80 million annually (until the
trust fund contains $2.5 billion), authorizing $35 million annually for purchase of
floodplain land, and increasing the annual appropriation limit for recreation projects
from $0.5 million to $10 million. The bill also addressed other environmental and
flooding issues along the entire Mississippi River.
In contrast, the Corps plan would create a new structure and program for
restoration investments. The Corps did not suggest dismantling the EMP; instead the
agency proposed coordinated implementation of the EMP and the ecosystem
restoration plan that it had developed.
In contrast to the annual authorization limits in H.R. 4686, the Corps supported
a 15-year authorization of $1.46 billion. This would be in addition to the existing
EMP authorization. Although the Corps recommended no annual authorization for
or annual restriction on land acquisition (beyond its 15-year limit of 35,000 acres),
H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S. 2773 would have restricted floodplain land acquisition
to $35 million annually. Neither the Corps plan, H.R. 4785, S. 2470, nor S. 2773
specified authorizations for UMRS recreation projects.
The Corps’ feasibility report recommended a first increment of investments in
navigation ($1.88 billion) and ecosystem restoration ($1.46 billion); the
recommendation was for these investments to be made using an adaptive approach
and as part of a long-term framework for dual-purpose operations. The
recommendation was to improve navigation efficiency by building seven 1,200-foot
locks to reduce delays caused by decoupling of barge tows. The ecosystem
restoration proposal was to address cumulative impacts degrading the UMRS
ecosystem, including the ongoing effects of O&M of the navigation system.
Recommendations for restoration activities were limited geographically to the UMR-
IWW and its floodplain and to the scope of the navigation project and its feasibility
study; a more comprehensive watershed approach was not part of the plan
recommended in the feasibility report.
Three bills — H.R. 4785, S. 2470, and S. 2773 — would have authorized many
of the elements of the Corps’ recommendation for the first increment of investments.
The bills would have authorized seven new navigation locks and small-scale
navigation measures; no legislative mention was made of a long-term framework or
plan for navigation investments. The adaptive implementation process that the Corps
recommended for integrating new information into the lock construction decision to
manage the risk and uncertainty of making large-scale investments also was not
addressed in the bills.
Following the Corps’ recommendations, the three bills would have authorized
ecosystem restoration activities to be carried out in accordance with the framework
in the feasibility report, and they would have required operational changes to the
UMR-IWW consistent with requirements to avoid any adverse impact on navigation.
In addition, S. 2773 contained three provisions related to implementation of
ecosystem restoration. The provisions would have required a comparable rate of
progress for navigation and restoration projects, outcome-oriented project design, and
the development of a ranking system for restoration projects that prioritizes natural
H.R. 4686 differed from the Corps’ plan, because the Corps proposed (1)
integrated investments in navigation and ecosystem restoration, and (2) a new
structure for UMRS ecosystem restoration efforts. In contrast, H.R. 4686 would have
built on the existing EMP, thus emphasizing that some groups considered the
decision to authorize ecosystem restoration investments to be separate from the
decision to authorize navigation capacity expansion.