Upper Mississippi-Illinois Waterway Investments: Legislation in the 109th Congress
Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway
Investments: Legislation in the 109 Congress
Updated December 18, 2006
Nicole T. Carter
Analyst in Environmental Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Investments:
Legislation in the 109th Congress
The Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway (UMR-IWW) is at the
center of a debate over the future of inland navigation, the restoration of rivers used
for multiple purposes, and the reliability and completeness of the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers analyses justifying investments. Consequently, authorization of
investments in navigation and ecosystem restoration of the UMR-IWW played a role
in Water Resources Development Act (WRDA, H.R. 2864) debates in the 109th
Congress; among the topics debated were the cost, urgency, necessity, and national
benefit of expanded UMR-IWW navigation capacity and ecosystem restoration,
given the constraints and competition for Corps construction funding. During the
109th Congress, the House and Senate both passed a Water Resources Development
Act bill (H.R. 2864); conferees were named, but no further action was taken.
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 built beginning in
1822. 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. It permits upper midwestern states to benefit from
low-cost barge transport. Since the 1980s, the system has experienced increasing
traffic delays, purportedly reducing competitiveness of U.S. products in some global
markets. The river is also losing the habitat diversity that has allowed it to support
an unusually large number of species for a temperate river. This loss is partially
attributable to changes in the distribution and movement of river water caused by
navigation structures and operation of the 9-foot navigation channel.
In December 2004, the Corps’ Chief of Engineers approved a UMR-IWW 50-
year framework for navigation and ecosystem restoration investments, as laid out in
a Corps final feasibility report. This framework consists of combined navigation
investments ($2.4 billion) and ecosystem restoration investments ($5.3 billion), to be
accomplished through incremental implementation. For the first increment, the Chief
recommends authorizing $1.88 billion (50% from the Inland Waterway Trust Fund
and 50% from federal general revenues) for seven new locks and small-scale
navigation measures, and $1.46 billion ($1.33 billion from federal general revenue
and $0.13 billion from nonfederal partners) for ecosystem restoration.
The House and Senate versions of WRDA would have authorized investments
in navigation ($2.03 billion) and ecosystem restoration ($1.58 billion) for the UMR-
IWW. The language would have authorized most of the initial set of activities
recommended in the Corps’ feasibility report. This CRS report compares the bill
language from the 109th Congress with the Corps’ feasibility report.
In troduction ......................................................1
Navigation Conditions .........................................1
UMR-IWW Feasibility Study Evolution............................4
Final Feasibility Report.....................................5
Feasibility Report Review...................................6
Corps Navigation Plan..........................................8
Proposed Legislation and Corps Navigation Plan.....................9
Ecosystem Restoration Investments...................................11
Corps Ecosystem Restoration Plan...............................11
15-Year Restoration Increment..............................12
Proposed Legislation and Corps Restoration Plan....................13
List of Tables
Table 1. Corps Navigation Plan and H.R. 2864 Provisions.................10
Table 2. Corps Restoration Plan and H.R. 2864 Provisions................14
Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway
Investments: Legislation in the
In September 2004, the Army Corps of Engineers released its Final Integrated
Feasibility Report and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the UMR-
IWW System Navigation Feasibility Study.1 This study 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 in December 2004.
The 109th Congress considered authorizing these investments during its
consideration of a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA, H.R. 2864). H.R.
2864 would have authorized investments in navigation ($2.03 billion) and ecosystem
restoration ($1.58 billion). During the 109th Congress, the House and Senate both
passed H.R. 2864; conferees were named, but no further action was taken. The
House and Senate versions of the bill would have authorized most of the initial set
of activities recommended in the Corps’ feasibility report. This report provides
background on UMR-IWW navigation, ecosystem conditions, and the Corps’
feasibility report. Then, it compares the plan recommended in the Corps’ feasibility
report to the WRDA legislation considered in the 109th Congress.
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
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
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 December 18, 2006.
helped U.S. agricultural products compete in international markets. Commercial
users of the waterway contend that this competitiveness is in danger because of
increasing transit delays.
Most of the lock-and-dam infrastructure of the UMR-IWW navigation system
was built by the Corps in the 1930s. These 600-foot locks require the now-prevalent
1,100-foot barge tows to split in half and pass through in two steps. This decoupling
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 for expanded lock capacity with new 1,200-foot locks
parallel to the existing 600-foot locks (keeping both operational). They contend 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 would take years to design and
build, small-scale measures would be implemented quickly at a fraction of the cost.4
Navigation investment supporters contend that the usefulness of small-scale
measures is limited in practice. 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 Schnepf.)
Opponents of expanding capacity contend that the improvements are not
economically justified based on current agricultural and transportation trends and
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, see archived CRS Report RL32192, Harbors and
Inland Waterways: An Overview of Federal Financing, by Nicole T. Carter and John F.
Frittelli, available from the authors.
4 Twice-Cooked Pork: The Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Navigation Study, a
report prepared by a coalition of interest groups opposed to large-scale lock expansion;
available at [http://www.environmentalobservatory.org/library.cfm?refID=36178], visited
on December 18, 2006. Hereafter referred to as Twice-Cooked Pork. In response to Twice-
Cooked Pork, the 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 an opposing report, available at [http://www.marc2000.org/Documents/
Twice_Cooked_Pork_vs_Reality_Final.pdf], visited December 18, 2006.
costs.5 They contend 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 mussel 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 federal 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 the economic value of its heavy
recreational use. Annually, there are 12 million daily visits for recreation in the
UMRS; boating, sightseeing, sports fishing, hunting, and trapping are some of 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.
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 environmental investments — $33.9 million
annually, 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. The Corps’ feasibility study,
begun 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, contending that the
Corps manipulated a benefit-cost analysis to support UMR-IWW lock improvements.
The feasibility study was temporarily halted while the allegations were
investigated by the Army Inspector General (IG), and available study documents were
reviewed by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of
Sciences. The IG’s investigation found no incidents of fraud or waste; it did reveal
serious misconduct and improprieties with the study and suggested an institutional
bias that favored large-scale projects.10 The NRC pointed out several flaws in the
economic modeling methodology and data used for navigation estimates, including
7 Ibid., pp. 146-147.
8 Ibid., p. 147.
9 Ibid., p. 127.
10 U.S. Dept. of the Army, U.S. Army Inspector General Agency Report of Investigation
(case 00-019) (Washington, DC: Dec. 2000).
overly optimistic river traffic projections.11 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,12 and another report in October
2004 that comments on an April 2004 draft Corps feasibility report (which is similar
to the final feasibility report).13 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”; and the 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
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.
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
11 NRC, Inland Navigation System Planning: The Upper Mississippi River-Illinois
Waterway (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001).
12 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.
13 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.
14 October 2004 NRC report, p.8.
!adaptively implementing navigation investments and adaptively
managing ecosystem restoration investments.15
According to the Corps, these three elements 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.
Feasibility Report Review. The Corps’ Chief of Engineers in a December
2004 “Chief’s report” approved the UMR-IWW feasibility report. A 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 on how to proceed. The Corps’ UMR-IWW feasibility report has
also been reviewed for compliance with Administration policy by the Assistant
Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). In contrast to the Corps’ Chief of Engineers,
who has signed off on the proposed project, the Assistant Secretary of the Army
(Civil Works) reportedly chose to support proceeding with design, and recommended
waiting until additional economic data and analysis are available before initiating
The formal Corps project development and authorization process typically has
Congress authorizing a project based on a Chief’s report that has been reviewed for
compliance with Administration policy by the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil16
Works), then the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). 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.
Supporters of exceptions from the standard process generally contend 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
15 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. (Corps, Final Feasibility Report and PEIS, p. 611)
16 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.
The UMR-IWW feasibility report evaluating the federal interest in investments
in navigation improvements 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 best17
choice across a range of economic conditions. Second, the preferred navigation
alternative depended on two variables: (1) traffic forecasts derived from future trade18
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 is19
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 would20
likely exceed benefits. If navigation traffic on the system increases (i.e., follows the
longer 50-year growth trend), benefits probably will exceed costs.21 These findings
are useful for understanding why proceeding with navigation capacity expansion
remains controversial. 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 Report RL32470, Upper
Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Navigation Expansion: An Agricultural
Transportation and Environmental Context, coordinated by Randy Schnepf.
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 it would be asked later to authorize the
remaining projects in the 50-year plan.22 The subset of projects was not analyzed as
17 Corps, Final Feasibility Report and PEIS, pp. x, 437-438, and 493.
18 Ibid., pp. 462 and 493.
19 Ibid., p. 493.
20 Ibid., p. 458.
21 Ibid., p. 459.
22 A similar approach was used for the Corps’ first large-scale ecosystem restoration effort
a stand-alone plan. For example, the Corps feasibility report did not have a benefit-
cost analysis for the first increment of navigation activities as a subset of 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.
Corps Navigation Plan
Adaptive Implementation. The Final Feasibility Report and PEIS stated
that sufficient analysis had been completed to support an initial navigation
investment to be implemented using an adaptive approach that minimizes risk by
controlling the magnitude of investment decisions.23 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
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.
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. The Corps anticipated that this report would be
written 16 years into implementation (i.e., around 2021).
in the Florida Everglades, where 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.
23 Ibid., p. 493.
First Increment. The Corps’ 50-year navigation plan consists of small-scale
measures (structural and nonstructural, including switchboats24) 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 a 100% 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
spent annually on O&M of the existing UMR-IWW navigation system.
If fully funded, the Corps estimated that it would take 13 years for each lock to
proceed to completion from the start of pre-construction engineering and design. 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
Environmental Mitigation. The Final Feasibility Report and PEIS assessed
and set out a process and specific measures for mitigating impacts directly associated
with navigation in its preferred alternative. The Corps concluded that the impacts of
large-scale UMR-IWW navigation improvement 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.25
Proposed Legislation and Corps Navigation Plan
As recommended by the Corps, the House and Senate versions of H.R. 2864 inth
the 109 Congress would have authorized seven new locks and small-scale and non-
structural measures (see Table 1). One difference between the two versions was that
the Senate-passed language directed that the investments be implemented in “general
conformance” with Corps documents, while House-passed language directed that
24 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.
25 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.
implementation be “substantially in accordance with the [Corps documents] and
subject to the conditions described therein.”
Table 1 identifies major components of the Corps’ recommendation and the
related provisions of H.R. 2864. Although the Corps’ recommendation and the bill
language are similar in many respects, there are differences. For example, the bill
language included neither an adaptive implementation process, nor a continued
monitoring and study provision, except for development and testing of a lock
appointment scheduling system.
Table 1. Corps Navigation Plan and H.R. 2864 Provisions
Corps’ PreferredH.R. 2864 th
Navigation Alternative(109 Congress)
Reference to FeasibilityDual-purpose plan approvedHouse — Authorized
Report or Planas a framework.activities to be carried out
“substantially in accordance
with the [Corps documents]
and subject to the conditions
Senate — Authorized
activities to be carried out in
“general conformance” with
the feasibility report.
Adaptive Implementation16-year process with threeNo comparable provision.
First Increment: $218 million (50% IWTF and$235 million (50% IWTF and
Small-Scale and 50% general funds (GF)).50% GF).
Mooring FacilitiesAt 7 locks.At 7 locks.
SwitchboatsAt 5 locks for 15 years duringAt 5 locks.
construction of 7 new locks.
First Increment: $1,660 million (50% IWTF$1,795 million (50% IWTF
Large-Scale Measuresand 50% GF), includingand 50% GF), including
mitigatio n. mitigatio n.
New LocksSeven 1,200-foot locks.Seven 1,200-foot locks.
Continued Study and5 activities, one of which is1 activity — development
Monitoringdevelopment of a lockand testing of a lock
appointment schedulingappointment scheduling
syste m. syste m.
Total Navigation$1.878 billion (50% IWTF$2.030 billion (50% IWTF
Authorizationsand 50% GF).and 50% GF).
Source: Congressional Research Service.
Ecosystem Restoration Investments
The Corps’ Upper Mississippi River System restoration plan is unusual in that
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 — which
were not addressed in H.R. 2864 and thus are not addressed in this report —
!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 California Bay-Delta, the Chesapeake Bay, coastal Louisiana,
Florida Everglades, the Great Lakes, and the Missouri and Rio
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 are26
!maintain viable populations of native species in situ;
!represent all native ecosystem types across their natural range of
26 Ibid., p. 171.
!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.
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 impede 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 were
not considered in 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 sustain some restoration benefits.
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, and
would be split $1.33 billion (93%) federal and $0.13 billion (7%) nonfederal. This
cost-share arrangement is unusual. For most Corps’ ecosystem restoration projects,27
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 impacts 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, and28
(3) additional knowledge that will facilitate implementing the 50-year plan. The
Corps also favored measures for which planning, design, construction, and
monitoring could occur during the 15-year window. However, some organizations
27 Another exception is the Corps only other large-scale restoration effort — the Florida
Everglades restoration. The Everglades restoration was split 50% federal and 50%
nonfederal. The Everglades ecosystem was 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.
28 Corps, Final Feasibility Report and PEIS, pp. 511-512.
argued 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.29
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 a 100% nonfederal
responsibility. Because some of the projects would be managed by federal agencies,
their O&M would be a federal responsibility. O&M costs (which would be incurred
over the 50-year planning horizon) for the 15-year increment were estimated at $61.5
million annually, with an expected split of $9.6 million federal and $51.9 million
Proposed Legislation and Corps Restoration Plan
The House and Senate versions of H.R. 2864 during the 109th Congress were
largely similar to the Corps’ recommendations: they would have authorized the same
projects and had the same cost-share arrangement. Although the Senate version
would have required that restoration be implemented in accordance with the general
framework outlined in the Final Feasibility Report and PEIS and the House version
would have required that restoration be implemented in accordance with Upper
Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway System: Report of the Chief of Engineers,
there were some differences between the Corps’ 15-year increment and the proposed
authorizing language (see Table 2). For example, the total authorization of $1.58
billion would have been $0.12 billion more than the amount in the Corps’ feasibility
29 Ibid., p. 522.
Table 2. Corps Restoration Plan and
H.R. 2864 Provisions
Corps’ Preferred PlanH.R. 2864(109th Congress)
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 on
na vi ga t i o n.
Reference toCombined plan approved as aAuthorized activities to be
Feasibility Report orframework.carried out in accordance with
Combined Planthe general framework outlined
in the Feasibility Report
(Senate)/ Chief’s Report
Initial 15-Year(a) Fish Passage and DamList of 15 project types to be
Authorized ActivitiesOperations, (b) Programmaticcarried out in accordance with
Restoration Authority forthe general framework outlined
multiple project types, (c) Landin the final feasibility report.
Acquisition limited to 35,000
Adaptive ManagementCorps recommended anEstablished an Advisory Panel
adaptive management strategyto provide guidance in the
that includes organizationsdevelopment of each
(River Management Council,quinquennial report. (See
Science Panel, and River“Continued Study and
Management Teams), systemicMonitoring” for complementary
studies, & evaluation ofprovisions.)
Continued Study andReport after 15 years.Implementation report by June
Monitoring30, 2007 (House)/ 2008
(Senate), and every 5 years after
that. Reports would have
included baselines, benchmarks,
and priorities, and measures in
progress to meet the objectives.
Cost ShareMixture of 100% federalSame as recommended by the
elements, & ones shared 65%Corps.
federal & 35% nonfederal.
Total Ecosystem$1.46 billion$1.58 billion
Restoration(Est. $1.33 billion federal & (federal/nonfederal split not
AuthorizationsEst. $0.13 billion nonfederal)available)
Appropriations — No comparable provision. — Land acquisition limited to
Limitation$35 million per year.
— Individual measures limited — Individual measures limited
to $25 million. Authorizationto $25 million. Authorization of
of $209 million for fish passage$226 million for fish passage
and $41 million for dam pointand $43 million for dam point
Source: Congressional Research Service.
The Corps recommended an adaptive management approach for the ecosystem
restoration plan. Although the legislative language in H.R. 2864 made no mention
of adaptive management, the language would have required some complementary
measures. The House version would have required an ecosystem restoration
implementation report by June 2007 (June 2008 in the Senate version), and every five
years thereafter; the report was to include baselines, benchmarks, goals, and priorities
for restoration projects and to measure the progress in meeting goals. The language
also would have authorized an advisory panel similar to the science panel, which was
one of 12 elements of the adaptive management strategy outlined in the final
feasibility report.30 Because the bill language did not specifically authorize the
adaptive management approach, it was uncertain if the Corps would have had the
authority to implement the $136 million adaptive management program and the
complementary $136 million monitoring and evaluation that the agency
Similarly, the Corps recommended adding ecosystem restoration as a project
purpose;31 the H.R. 2864 language would have required the Corps, “consistent with
requirements to avoid 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 language 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. 2864 would have authorized a lump sum of
$1.58 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 recommended a cap of 35,000
acres on land acquisition. The final report provided a breakdown of the $1.46 billion
among three categories of restoration activities — fish passage and dam operations,
programmatic restoration authority, and land acquisition.
Project Design. H.R. 2864 would have required that, before an individual
restoration project begins construction, the Secretary establish restoration
performance measures (including a baseline indicator) and target goals. The
language also would have required that the design of these projects include a
monitoring plan for the performance measures, including a timeline for project
completion. The provisions appeared to be aimed at addressing concerns over what
would be achieved under both the first increment of authorized activities and the
longer, 50-year plan, and when restoration would be complete. These provisions
complemented the Corps’ recommendation for an adaptive management approach,
which required establishing baselines and monitoring performance to incorporate
new information into ongoing investments.
Linked Progress. H.R. 2864 would have required the Corps to establish
milestones for the ecosystem restoration and navigation projects. The language also
would have required the Secretary of the Army to determine if the projects were
30 Ibid., p. 516.
31 Ibid., p. 491.
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
Similar provisions were included in legislation proposed in the 108th Congress.
At that time, 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 could receive minimal
appropriations. Navigation and agricultural interests expressed their dissatisfaction
with linking navigation and restoration progress; they consider navigation and
ecosystem restoration investments as separable. They did not want navigation
construction slowed due to constrained federal appropriations for ecosystem
restoration, in light of the multiple multibillion dollar, large-scale restoration projects
already underway or under development nationally. They also contended that linking
might 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.
Differences. While the House and Senate versions of H.R. 2864 were largely
similar, the two had subtle differences. For example, the advisory panel established
under the House language would have had one chairperson — the Secretary of the
Army; in the Senate version, the Secretary of the Army and Secretary of the Interior
were co-chairpersons. Further, the comparable progress provisions of the House and
Senate versions differed. The House version would have explicitly required the
Secretary of the Army to submit annual reports to Congress describing whether
projects were being carried out at comparable rates; the Senate language did not
include this provision.
Project Ranking. H.R. 2864 would have required the Secretary of the Army
— in collaboration with the advisory panel that the bill established — to develop a
ranking system for restoration projects emphasizing 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.”32 These provisions could 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 that these provisions would have had on the implementation of the
Corps’ final plan is uncertain. It could have given priority to a single aspect of a
project, rather than facilitating multiple objectives. Prioritizing projects that restore
natural river processes might not have been 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
32 Early 2004 NRC report, p. 19.
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 might have decreased water levels (by altering dam operations), thus
harming navigation; this option was not considered in the Corps plan because the
agency considered it outside the scope of the feasibility study and navigation project.
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.
H.R. 2864 would have authorized many of the elements of the Corps’
recommendation for the first increment of investments. The language would have
authorized seven new navigation locks, small-scale navigation measures, and related
environmental mitigation. The adaptive implementation process that the Corps
recommended in its feasibility report to integrate new information into the decision
on lock construction was not explicitly adopted in bill language. Instead, the Senate
version directed that the investments be implemented in “general conformance” with
Corps documents, while the House version directed that implementation be
“substantially in accordance” with Corps documents.
Drawing from the Corps’ recommendations, H.R. 2864 would have authorized
ecosystem restoration activities to be carried out in accordance with the framework
in the feasibility report, and these activities would have required operational changes
to the UMR-IWW consistent with requirements to avoid any adverse impact on
navigation. Additionally, H.R. 2864 contained three provisions related to
implementation of ecosystem restoration. One provision appeared to require
comparable funding requests to be made based on the rate of progress for navigation
and restoration projects. The other two provisions would have required outcome-
oriented project design for ecosystem restoration projects, and the development of
a ranking system for restoration projects that prioritizes natural river processes.