Major General Scott A. Spellmon
Northwestern Division Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
ATTN: CENWO-PM-AC-Management Plan Comments
1616 Capitol Avenue
Omaha, Nebraska 68102
Dear Major General Spellmon:
The Coalition to Protect the Missouri River (CPR) appreciates the opportunity to offer comments on the Draft Missouri River Recovery Program Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The CPR, established in 2001, represents a broad base of interests throughout the lower Missouri River, including flood control, navigation, agriculture, and public energy and water utilities. We support responsible management of the Missouri River resources and maintenance of congressionally authorized purposes of the river, including flood control, navigation, water quality and water supply. The CPR also supports responsibly managed and properly balanced, science-based habitat restoration for endangered or threatened species. Many of the CPR’s members have been involved in the DEIS process through active participation in the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC).
The CPR has divided its comment letter into three sections: Section One, containing general comments and position regarding the DEIS alternatives; Section Two, containing specific comments on various sections of the DEIS and Section Three, containing specific suggestions, recommendations and conclusions.
Section One – General Comments
The CPR has identified various concerns with each of the six alternatives contained in the DEIS. To begin, all except Alternative 1 (No Action) relax flood control constraints within the current Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System Water Control Master Manual (Master Manual). The CPR believes that any future flow changes must be implemented solely by Master Manual revision.
The CPR has long been opposed to Master Manual revisions to accommodate environmental flow experiments that could have adverse effects on lower Missouri River stakeholders. To highlight congressional interest in this topic, we wish to remind the Corps of the December 17, 2015 letter to former Assistant Secretary Darcy, signed by 20 members of the U.S. Congress from across the basin, in which they stated: “Due to our concerns regarding the current process, we strongly urge the Corps and FWS to only pursue a management plan that would not necessitate a revision of the Master Manual or incur damaging impacts to stakeholders and landowners.”
The CPR’s members who live and operate businesses along the lower Missouri River experience flooding each spring caused by inflows from various tributaries. In April 2017, the Missouri River has risen approximately twelve feet in a week’s time in the central Missouri reach. For this very reason, the CPR is wary of attempts to boost pallid sturgeon population by increasing flows from Gavins Point Dam. Further, no science has been developed to prove its value. The DEIS states: “The ISAP found no evidence that managed spring pulses are necessary to provide cues for pallid sturgeon spawning (Doyle, et, al. 2011).”2Therefore, we remain opposed to the bimodal spring rise provision within Alternatives 1, 2 and 6.
The CPR believes the flow magnitude and duration contained in Alternatives 4 and 5 will create an unacceptable level of flooding risk in the spring and fall, respectively. The 60,000 cubic feet per second release from Gavins Point Dam for 35 days as specified in these two alternatives will cause severe impacts to agriculture – the largest land use sector in the basin – making it extremely difficult to plant and harvest crops as interior drainage will be impeded. If either of these alternatives would be implemented, the Corps would be abandoning a primary congressionally authorized purpose of flood control.
In addition, the CPR remains steadfast in its opposition to low summer flow provisions contained in Alternative 2. If this alternative were to be implemented, the Corps would effectively abandon a primary congressionally authorized purpose of the Missouri River by causing severe harm to the navigation industry – one that’s been on the increase in recent years and serves as a vital mode of transportation as our nation grapples with continued deterioration of our roads and bridges. Further, the negative impact to the middle Mississippi River must be taken into account. As we saw in the drought of 2012, the Missouri River had a peak contribution of 72 percent of the flow to the middle Mississippi.3 We cannot overstate how essential the Missouri River is to our nation’s economy. The CPR calls on the Corps to not adopt any management action that has the potential to cause severe economic harm through the implementation of low summer flow releases.
The CPR is also very apprehensive of the impact that low summer flows would have on energy generation, water supply intakes and sewer treatment plants. We believe operational costs under a low summer flow regime are severely underestimated and should be reexamined. Further, we request the Corps to identify all potential regulatory burdens in advance of the implementation of any management plan action. In any instance in which the regulatory cost of compliance increases (i.e. modification of intakes), thorough input needs to be gathered from affected industry sectors to ensure that the impact to both utility companies and ratepayers alike remains minimal.
Regarding the Corps’ preferred Alternative 3, the CPR believes it strikes a better balance than the other DEIS alternatives in protecting human interests and promoting species recovery. The CPR appreciates the Corps’ cancellation of the current bimodal spring rise under this alternative and we applaud the Corps for their commitment to study the linkage between tributary flows and pallid sturgeon recovery.
Upon our review of the DEIS, a top-tier concern is the lack of hydrologic and economic modeling throughout the document that minimizes the potential for negative impacts that could be caused by implementation of any of the alternatives. For example, one of the most egregious errors in this document is the incomplete nature of the Corps analysis of impacts to interior drainage by only sampling four levee sites in the entire lower Missouri River basin. Through this limited approach, we cannot have any degree of confidence in the impacts of the DEIS alternatives. The CPR cannot fully comment on the impacts until such modeling is completed.
We are troubled by the lack of hydrologic modeling of the impacts to stakeholders if a one-time spawning cue release were to be implemented. The DEIS states: “The one-time spawning cue test (Level 2) release that may be implemented under Alternatives 3, 4, and 5 was not included in hydrologic modeling for these alternatives because of the uncertainty of the hydrologic conditions that would be present if implemented.”
The CPR wants to be abundantly clear in our position – hydrologic modeling and peer reviewed comprehensive economic impact studies must be completed before any flow management action is implemented.
Under Alternative 3’s possible implementation of a one-time spawning cue release 9-10 years in the future, we feel strongly that adequate time exists to complete a full analysis of the impacts to stakeholders. If complete hydrologic and economic modeling for the entire floodplain is not finished before implementation, the CPR will take action to prevent adverse impacts from being forced upon stakeholders.
Regarding the Adaptive Management (AM) plan included in the DEIS, the CPR is circumspect of decisions made outside of the Record of Decision (ROD) and we believe those must only be made after full NEPA analysis and independent peer review as well as separate EIS that contains complete hydrologic and economic modeling. Additionally, we have the same questions and concerns about AM plan actions that may go beyond the limitations of the current Master Manual. We also believe the AM plan fails to preserve the rights of states and their governors to sovereign and executive decisions relating to their interests in the Missouri River. Governors of each of the basin states should have much larger input that what is currently proposed under the AM plan governance and should not be relegated to a lower stance in the AM plan pyramid.
Nearly all of the DEIS alternatives call for a shift in habitat construction to the building of 12 interception rearing complexes (IRCs) over the course of six years. We do not object to the advancement of scientific theory, including IRCs, as long as they are coupled with proper evaluation and introduced gradually. If the Corps is to truly follow the AM plan process, we suggest it take a measured approach regarding IRC construction and initially develop only one in the lower river. The Corps should first prove this theory’s viability with one IRC site by constant evaluation before other IRCs are constructed. As part of the evaluation, the Corps has to ensure IRCs will not negatively impact activities within the channel such as navigation and commercial sand dredging.
Section Two – Specific DEIS Sectional Comments
3.7 Water Quality
1. The DEIS fails to evaluate water quality problems associated with low summer flow as contained in Alternative 2. Impacts and costs to water operators must be included.
3.7 Water Quality, Alternative 2
Low summer flows within Alternative 2 would be harmful to water quality, especially in regard to cyanobacterial or blue-green algal growth. Because Missouri River water suppliers historically operate within the current Master Manual constraints, there is little water quality data that exists for operations outside of those constraints. We know that periods of low flows equate to slower and warmer waters conducive to the potential for the formation of cyanotoxins, which can be difficult to treat. Although no firm maximum contaminant level has been established by EPA, they agency has issued health advisories on this matter. At a minimum, treatment costs would increase under low flow conditions because of additional chemicals needed to treat the water.
3.10 Land Use and Ownership
1. We appreciate the Corps’ effort to develop empirical economic modeling. Modeling to attempt to predict job losses, sales impacts and the property tax impacts to local government due to land use and ownership changes is appropriate. However, economic modeling, especially the truncated version employed to develop the DEIS, is anything but scientific.
2. It is well known the even small data or assumption errors can create fundamentally inaccurate predictions. Inaccurate assumptions, the omission or inclusion of certain data sets and the accuracy of the data sets are just a few of the limitations of modeling. Assumptions of relationships and cause and effect of various factors must be made for the baseline or starting point of modeling.
3. Synergistic effects of interrelated economic impacts are missing from the model, causing the overall economic impacts of changes to land use and ownership for all alternatives to be substantially understated. For example, the modeling does not account for the impacts of navigation on transportation costs and agricultural profitability. There are scores of examples like this in the DEIS. Additionally, the land use modeling limits baseline assumptions to those cropland acres that will be taken out of production by the result of productive land being purchased and repurposed by the federal government. Land purchases are the only metric considered. The wide range of management actions include impediments to interior drainage that can drastically alter land use and productivity. Impacts from power generation costs, local water supply, increased truck traffic on public roads as the result of potential impacts on navigation, etc., must be considered and analyzed. Those elements and others have massive impacts on NED, RED and OSE outcomes, but they’re not part of the DEIS modeling. Without inclusion of the broad impacts of critical economic interactions in the model, it’s outcomes are oversimplified and understated. In brief, the model is too simplistic and too limited in scope.
4. Overall economic impacts are substantially understated and modeling limitations are not delineated. We believe much of the understatement of economic impacts is due to the truncated nature of the modeling. Inadequate and incomplete resources were allocated for the modeling process and time constraints further truncated the process. The synergistic effects mentioned in point three above clearly show the effects analysis to be understated. The modeling limits itself to the loss of production on lands predicted to be acquired and does not include transportation, infrastructure, energy, water supply and the effects of economic multipliers from those impacts. These omissions and the limitations of modeling should be clearly delineated in the DEIS. The same level of resources, measurement and analysis should be applied to economic impacts that are applied to species impacts.
5. Empirical results imply scientific analysis and the ability to predict specific outcomes. This is misleading. All models, even those that attempt to encompass the maximum points of cause and effect, are subject to data and assumption errors and they require continual recalibration. For example, in the DEIS’ Land Use and Ownership Technical Report, inclusion of modeling data is presented as empirical fact. The report cites: the “change in employment relative to alternative 1 for all acquired lands in crop production is “18.3” additional jobs.”5 This infers economic modeling creates precise science. Not 17 jobs, not 19 jobs, but 18.3 jobs. The economic impacts of management actions in the basin are not nearly as predictable as the DEIS tries to convince us they are. It is concerning that the DEIS contains no mention of the confidence level the public should put in economic modeling, nor does it specify the hurried, truncated and resource limited efforts of modeling of the six alternatives. This omission of serious and detailed caveats indicates that the process is tainted by substantial ineptitude or is deliberately fashioned to obfuscate the magnitude of the economic impacts of the six alternatives.
The DEIS does not specify a robust process for ongoing analysis of economic impacts of adaptive management actions. Moreover, a culture that assumes scientific validity of economic predictions can lead those managing the adaptive process to take actions that cause substantial negative results because the economic ‘science’ indicates the economic hardships they create will be negligible. Or, they may fail to take actions crucial to the species recovery if the models incorrectly predict the economic consequences are too severe.
To provide accurate predictions from a relative standpoint, the modeling must be complete. In fact, we asked early on in the MRRIC process that the proper resources be deployed so that comprehensive econometric modeling could be utilized. Those resources were not allocated and the truncated version that was used is almost worse than not doing any modeling at all because of the inaccurate perceptions and conclusions it creates.
For example, when we pressed for modeling of navigation outcomes and impacts, the expert panel concluded they simply didn’t have the expertise to even begin to model how navigation affects transportation costs, rail loads, infrastructure impacts, public safety, etc. Yet the DEIS infers the economic study is adequate and very specific predictions about sales, jobs and tax revenues are presented. The modeling is woefully inadequate and the economic analysis is so limited in scope it’s not possible to say if it’s even directionally accurate.
In the process of creating a model with appropriate scope and expertise, we would have had the opportunity to investigate and better understand the degree to which certain management actions will impact the basin and land use in general. Additionally, there would be at least some level of accuracy to the relative impacts of the alternatives. But the modeling is so severely truncated we don’t know what the relative impacts will be, nor has the process identified all of the issues that need to be considered. That said, it is equally illogical to consider the current review and comment period as definitive in its ability to identify economic and social impacts of management actions.
6. It is unacceptable that interior drainage impacts are not even mentioned in Section 3.10. It is telling that interior drainage impacts are not even modeled in Section 3.12, Flood Risk Management and Interior Drainage. We are told the software to evaluate impacts is not compatible with current computer operating systems, so modeling was not done.
Apparently interior drainage has been given so little thought there was not even an attempt to update the software. Instead of modeling, four sites were selected as representative of the floodplain and a cursory impact study was performed. This methodology is entirely unacceptable and proves meaningful analysis of proposed management action on land use has not been performed.
Further, the DEIS states: “Extrapolation from the four sites to other levee areas was not feasible since the hydraulics, hydrology and drainage varies between sites, Translation of damage-duration relationships between sites was not attempted and would require additional evaluation to provide a reasonable methodology and verify results.”6 The most pervasive impact on land use—impeded interior drainage—was not thought to be enough of a priority to perform modeling and analyze impacts. This omission is entirely unacceptable and it makes the DEIS incomplete and renders any appearance of actual NED, RED and OSE impacts improper and inaccurate.
At best, the DEIS treats interior drainage as an afterthought. To agricultural stakeholders, it is the most concerning and most economically damaging impact of all the management actions.
The federal agencies’ disregard of interior drainage concerns is further evidenced by their failure to even conduct NED analysis in either the land use section of the DEIS or the abbreviated interior drainage portion of this section. The agencies’ failure to recognize the importance and the degree of debilitating impacts of artificially high river flows, is further evidence of the lack of depth and accuracy of the studies.
The critical nature of interior drainage was brought forward frequently during MRRIC discussions. The DEIS appears to ignore the interior drainage information and the extensive concerns expressed by stakeholders during numerous MRRIC discussions. The most widespread and enduring economic impact of management actions on agriculture comes from the impedance of interior drainage. At the least, the exclusion of comprehensive modeling and analysis raises questions of whether those who managed the DEIS compilation process are qualified or competent. The Missouri River would not even exist if not for the need to drain excess water, yet the DEIS treats interior drainage as an annoying afterthought, unworthy of analysis or critical thought. The lack of comprehensive modeling and analysis of management impacts to interior drainage is egregious.
Section 188.8.131.52 – Land Use Patterns
Agricultural land often surrounds developed lands and impacts from management actions often do not discriminate between the two. Impeded interior drainage problems, for example, can lead to structural issues with expensive grain handling facilities, storage structures and important community infrastructure. The river would not even exist if not for the drainage of water from the basin. We understand that land use classifications can help in the analysis of impacts, but caution that management actions can negatively impact all classifications.
Section 184.108.40.206 – Land Ownership
This section ignores significant acres of habitat for various wildlife species and creates a false impression that wildlife habitat is limited to “protected” acres. It fails to mention the large acreages of privately held lands on which conservation practices are implemented and habitat is provided under NRCS guidelines or the thousands of acres of cropland on which wildlife routinely lives and feeds. The use of the term “protected” reinforces the incorrect perception that unless it’s owned by a government entity or a strident environmentally centered NGO, the land is unprotected. This conjures up images of vast areas devoid of habitat and wildlife vulnerable to the pillaging of private owners. This is not a minor point of contention. It is indicative of a pervasive attitude that things constructed by man and beneficial to man are harmful to all things natural and good. The lands are unprotected! By promoting this mindset and inflaming attitudes, the DEIS actively damages the cooperation and collaboration between stakeholders.
Privately owned lands are anything but unprotected. In addition to substantial private and unreported efforts by private landowners for which national statistics are unavailable, the NRCS offers small incentives for a wide range of conservation activities on private lands that are tracked. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and the Watershed Rehabilitation Program (WRP) are just a few of the NRCS sponsored efforts to improve conservation, habitat, water quality and provide a host of other environmental benefits. The CSP program alone has enrolled over 70 million acres, much of it in the Missouri River Basin. Landowner stewardship interest has been so high, in fact, that Congress had to set a limit on the number of acres that could be enrolled in both CSP and CRP.
We object strenuously to the DEIS perpetuation of the myth that private lands are unprotected and the nomenclature in the DEIS needs to be changed to eliminate the unprotected stigma. More importantly, negative culture in some federal agencies toward private landowner stewardship requires immediate correction.
Section 220.127.116.11 – Impacts Assessment Methodology
Unfortunately, the methodology employed in the DEIS is strictly limited to impacts of land acquisition. We’ve already commented in detail on the truncated modeling used to assess these impacts and reiterate the impacts are substantially understated. The extraordinarily narrow focus of the DEIS on impacts to land use is unacceptable. Land acquisition is the only causal factor assessed in terms of Regional Economic Development (RED), National Economic Development (NED) and Other Social Effects (OSE). Even without one acre of land acquisition, management actions can severely impact land use.
Management actions that change flow regimens can block interior drainage and cause late planting of crops and substantial yield reductions. In some years, it can prevent planting or harvest.
Management actions that impede navigation increase transportation costs of critical and difficult to transport agricultural inputs. It can lead to increased traffic on public highways and wear and tear on that infrastructure, which in turn affects the suitability of various land uses. It can also increase loads on rail infrastructure and impact public safety.
Management actions can drastically reduce the predictability of land use. Flow actions that impede interior drainage or increase flood risk can drastically impact land values, which in turn has a negative effect on the tax base of local governments.
Management actions that impede dredging negatively impact both private and public construction costs.
Management actions that impact local water supply and quality and cost substantially impact land use everywhere from major metropolitan to rural communities.
Management actions that lead to lower levels of power generation or more expensive power generation significantly impact land use as well.
Yet, none of these factors appear in the land use assessment methodology section of the DEIS —only land acquisition. The failure of the DEIS to account for, or even consider, such obvious impacts as these raise serious questions. Do the agencies charged with developing management actions simply lack understanding of the impacts of proposed actions? Do the agencies have the expertise and resources to conduct thorough studies? The concerns called out above have been mentioned repeatedly in the MRRIC environment. Is the culture within certain agencies such that impacts to land uses are always subrogated in deference to the perceived needs of listed species under the Endangered Species Act?
Table 3-42 – Environmental Consequences Relative to Land Acquisition, 2016 Dollars
We’ve already commented on the accuracy of the economic impact predictions. However, we note again that the summary table impacts only lists land acquisition as the causal factor. A change in flows is common to all six alternatives. Yet in the portion of the table devoted to “Management Actions Common to All Alternatives,” Table 3-42 says there are no RED impacts, no OSE impacts and no “other” impacts.7 Increased flows increase the risk of and the severity of flooding and impact interior drainage. Explicitly claiming no impact of any kind in this table brings the credibility of the entire DEIS into question.
18.104.22.168 – Alternative 1 – No Action
The economic modeling does not account for the impacts of management actions on other critical factors like transportation, traffic congestion, energy costs, water supply costs, etc. Individual economic entities do not exist in a vacuum. It’s entirely possible that a seemingly inconsequential impact could be the difference between profit and loss and therefore survival or failure. It can mean the difference of whether a farmer can purchase new equipment, a fertilizer dealer can offer competitive input prices or whether a power company must raise rates. While difficult to model accurately, the failure to even consider those impacts brings the whole of the economic analysis into question. As stated earlier, management actions like changing flow regimens can substantially impact balance sheets and production.
Land acquisition by the federal government removes the property from the tax base for local government. The federal Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program is designed to offset some of the loss in revenues, but PILT payment levels can vary significantly from year to year, resulting in considerable difficulty in budgeting and planning for local governments. In any case PILT does not replace the tax revenues and is capped at $2.64 per acre (FY 2016).
The acquisition target for the no action Alternative 1 is 5,267 acres, Alternative 2, 33,462 acres and for Alternatives 3-6, 1,417 acres. Conservative estimates for average property taxes are $5.00-$8.00 per acres in Missouri and $20-$35 per acre in Nebraska. With the PILT capped at $2.64 per acre, property tax revenue impacts can be locally severe, especially under Alternative 2. We believe the tax impacts listed in the DEIS are understated. Additionally, the DEIS lists annual impacts, which creates a perception of smaller impacts than are really incurred. Multiply the property tax impacts for 10, 20 or 50 years, and those impacts run into tens of millions of dollars. This is especially true for Alternative 2, which could have devastating effects on local revenues.
Property taxes are not the only sources of revenues to local governments that are directly tied to productive cropland. The economic activity generated by farming impacts everything from individual and corporate federal income taxes down to local sales taxes, special use taxes, personal property taxes, etc. An analysis that limits itself to the impacts of property tax is incomplete and inaccurate and grossly underestimates the revenue impacts to local government. Further study of those impacts is necessary before management actions are taken.
The paragraph on Other Social Effects limits its analysis only to impacts of land acquisition and takes pains to point out the small percentage of land that would be acquired by the federal government. We believe the impacts are understated and reiterate that management actions can still be far more impactful than the act of acquisition.
22.214.171.124 – Alternative 2 – USFWS 2003 Biological Opinion Projected Actions
Land acquisition in Alternative 2 is six times that of Alternative 1. As stated earlier, we believe the economic impacts of land acquisition listed in the DEIS are understated because of the effects of truncated economic modeling. Our concerns over modeling in general apply here as well. In addition, the lack of any mention of the impacts of the management actions that occur after the land is acquired is of serious concern and needs to be incorporated. The DEIS is substantially incomplete in scope and analysis. The inclusion of specific outcomes in terms of “sales” jobs and labor income are so specific they are misleading and are so un-researched they are inaccurate and unreliable. Because Alternative 2 results in multiple flow management actions, the negative impacts to all land uses listed in our comments on section 126.96.36.199 apply here, but to a much greater degree. In simple terms, the more often flow rises are implemented, the more negative the results to land use.
188.8.131.52 – Alternatives 3-6
All comments for Alternatives 1 and 2 apply. The only differences are in the acres acquired and the degree and severity of management actions. Land use impacts rise and fall with river stages. Therefore, the more frequently flows are raised and lowered, the greater the economic impacts and risks will be.
184.108.40.206 – Cumulative Impacts
This section is troubling from several perspectives. For the first time in the entire land use section, there is recognition that many factors beyond land acquisition impact economic and social effects. But that mention is done only in the context of attempting to downplay the potential impacts of the alternatives.
The DEIS is attempting to imply that concerns around impacts from management actions are trivial because “Impacts to agricultural production can result from USACE activities and programs as well as many other policies, programs and economic influences.”8 That’s like saying the fish and the birds could become extinct due to natural causes just like the dinosaurs so don’t worry about them.
The obvious bias toward characterizing the impacts as barely worth mentioning is troubling. The only action that was studied is land acquisition, and at best, that was an abbreviated study. But after a cursory review of land acquisition, and without yet knowing what the eventual management actions will entail because of the Adaptive Management approach, the DEIS concludes impacts are negligible. Further, it adds the observation that bad things can happen as the result of causes other than management actions. The cavalier and arrogant disregard the DEIS displays toward valid concerns and objections has no place in decisions that will impact the livelihood and safety of many generations to come. It is wrong-minded and in profound conflict with what the Federal government purports to call a collaborative and fact based approach.
The DEIS representation of land use impacts is inaccurate, incomplete and unworthy of the hard work and sincere effort that stakeholders have put forth to recover the species.
3.11 – Commercial Sand and Gravel
1. Modifications in flow as presented in Alternatives 2, 4, 5 and 6 undermine the primary congressionally authorized purposes of navigation and flood control, making them problematic.
2. The states of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska own the bed of the lower river. The states have a sovereign right to their real estate and federal actions that compromise the real estate’s resources are a takeover in regard to states’ real estate and natural resources.
3. The use of the HEC-RAS model for decision making in the DEIS is flawed. Commercial sand dredgers have continually presented their objections to HEC-RAS being used for any permitting related decisions and the Corps has previously agreed during MRRIC sessions. In the DEIS however, this important point is missing from the document and needs to be included in the content for this section.
4. The DEIS fails to address the issue of sediment in the system and the lack of material movement. We call on the Corps to create a true sediment analysis that examines this important component for pallid sturgeon recovery. Changes in flow, without enhancing sediment load are not impactful and are a true waste of water in the system.
5. Regarding IRC construction and maintenance, the Corps must give commercial sand dredgers absolute assurance that these new habitat areas will not impact their operations by making its related regulatory strategy clear. Of utmost importance to dredgers are the issues of channel response, impacts to navigation, bed and hydraulic conditions.
3.12 Flood Risk Management and Interior Drainage
1. Protecting human life and safety is paramount. We are concerned about the relaxing of flood control constraints in each of the DEIS alternatives, some by nearly as 80 percent to implement environmental flow experiments, with the potential to increase river stage by over nine feet in Omaha and five to six feet in St. Joseph.9 These potential stage increases do not take into account additional rainfall. Equally troublesome is the large degree of inaccuracy of predicted hydrologic conditions for more than six days in advance.
2. The DEIS is incomplete without the hydrologic modeling for impacts to interior drainage. Interior drainage impacts are downplayed and not even mentioned through much of the economic analysis. It is such an afterthought, that the agencies have not updated the software to make it compatible with today’s computer operating system. Therefore, analysis of the floodplain was not performed. Instead of updating the software so that credible analysis could be performed for the entire floodplain, four representative sites were selected and a cursory impact study was performed. Again, we point to the following statement made in the DEIS: “Extrapolation from the four sites to other levee areas was not feasible since the hydraulics, hydrology, and drainage varies between sites. Translation of damage duration relationships between sites was not attempted and would require additional evaluation to provide a reasonable methodology and verify results.”10 This methodology is entirely unacceptable.
3. The lack of modeling for interior drainage impacts is a severe flaw in the DEIS and is, frankly, inexplicable. The most pervasive impact—impeded interior drainage—was not thought to be enough of a priority to create modeling and verify impacts. Interior drainage has a more frequent, and depending on the duration and severity of flooding, can have a greater economic impact than flooding. Therefore, the DEIS stated economic impacts are a fraction of total economic impacts because the flow management actions on interior drainage are missing from the analysis. This omission is entirely unacceptable and it makes the DEIS incomplete and renders any claim of accurately predicted impacts of all 6 alternatives invalid.
Flooding occurs sporadically. Interior drainage is an everyday requirement. While the risk of flooding increases with flow management actions, interior drainage is immediately impeded by each flow management action that affects river stage. High river stages cause high water groundwater levels and increase the time required for drainage to occur. The impacts range from ground water percolating upward through the soil profile to the closing of flap gates, holding back water from entering the river. Groundwater levels that do not percolate to the surface still reduce the ability of local rainfall to drain through the soil, keeping agricultural fields wet and delaying or even preventing crops from being planted. Landowners are damaged by the cumulative impacts of lower yields, total crop loss due to prevented planting and loss of land value because of the unpredictability of production. To the federal agencies, interior drainage is treated as an afterthought. To farmers in the floodplain, it is the most concerning and most economically damaging impact of all the management actions.
During the MRRIC process several potential “proxies” for agriculture were discussed. After lengthy consideration, MRRIC and the agencies agreed that river stage was the best indicator of impacts to agriculture. This was not because of flooding, but rather because of impacts to interior drainage. River stage determines groundwater levels and whether gravity operated flap gates will function. The agriculture stakeholders agreed to this proxy because of the pervasive and wholly negative impacts of higher river stages on interior drainage. Given the magnitude of the impacts, the duration of the discussions and the attention given to reaching the proxy decision, the failure to conduct thorough analysis of interior drainage is unfathomable.
The DEIS’ disregard of interior drainage concerns is further evidenced by the failure to conduct NED analysis in either the land use section of the DEIS or the abbreviated interior drainage portion of this section. The failure to acknowledge the importance and the degree of debilitating impacts of artificially high river flows is more evidence of the lack of depth and accuracy of the studies.
The critical nature of interior drainage was brought forward frequently during MRRIC discussions. The DEIS appears to ignore the interior drainage information and the extensive concerns expressed by stakeholders during numerous MRRIC discussions. The most widespread and enduring economic impact of management actions on agriculture comes from the impedance of interior drainage. At the least, the exclusion of comprehensive modeling and analysis raises questions of whether those who managed the DEIS compilation process are qualified or competent. The Missouri River would not even exist if not for the need to drain excess water, yet the DEIS treats interior drainage as an annoying afterthought, unworthy of analysis or critical thought. The lack of comprehensive modeling and analysis of management impacts to interior drainage is egregious.
4. The lack of comprehensive interior drainage modeling and impact analysis means the economic impacts of the 6 alternatives are both understated and unknown. It is unacceptable that interior drainage impacts modeling and analysis was only conducted on four small areas of the floodplain. Given the pervasive reach of drainage, it is inconceivable that the modeling software was not updated. This methodology is entirely unacceptable and proves meaningful analysis of proposed management action on land use has not been performed.
The title of this section is “Flood Risk Management and Interior Drainage” (emphasis added). Other elements are analyzed for the entire floodplain but interior drainage gets four small plots – one in Iowa and three in Missouri.
The DEIS disregards interior drainage concerns by its failure to even conduct NED analysis in either the land use section of the DEIS or the abbreviated interior drainage portion of this section. The agencies’ failure to recognize the importance of, and the degree of debilitating impacts of artificially high river flows, is further evidence of the lack of depth and accuracy of the studies.
Again, this omission is entirely unacceptable and it makes the DEIS incomplete and renders any appearance of actual NED, RED and OSE impacts improper and inaccurate. The failure to conduct thorough analysis of interior drainage is unfathomable and profoundly unacceptable.
Section 3.12.1 – Affected Environment
Here, the DEIS states: “High water can result in poor drainage, higher groundwater, blocked access, and associate damage an inconvenience.”11 The DEIS fails to mention the greatest impact—delayed or prevented agricultural activity. Does the agency culture cause the most damaging management actions to be downplayed or disregarded?
Section 220.127.116.11 – Population and Property at Risk
In evaluating regional economic impacts, agriculture losses only included the “change in market value of crop production”12 In keeping with the agencies’ misstating negative impacts to agriculture, they were very careful to make sure they deducted any harvest costs that were not incurred because lost crops aren’t harvested. However, there was no inclusion of costs for rehabilitation of land, pumping costs, drainage infrastructure, repair to private levees or future yield losses due to damages to the land (sand and driftwood deposits, additional weed pressure, extra tillage requirements, etc.). Sometimes flooding causes land damage so severe the costs of rehabilitation are greater than the value of the land. Somehow those impacts are left out of the DEIS. The ongoing pattern of misstating impacts to agriculture could be construed to indicate an inherent bias in the DEIS.
Section 18.104.22.168. – Summary of Environmental Consequences
Table 3-61 – Environmental Consequences Relative to Flood Risk Management
Changes to flow regimens are a part of each of the 6 alternatives and create the most significant impacts in 5 of the 6 alternatives, yet it is never mentioned in tables with “Management Actions Common to All Alternatives.”13 The table shows no NED, RED or OSE impacts. By never mentioning flow pulses we don’t tabulate the damaging impacts to production and land values. Impacts from flow changes are neatly swept away.
The table claims Alternative 2 has lower flood risk than the No Action alternative. We cannot find an Alternative 2 management action that reduces flood risk other than the low flow that occurs in summer months when significant rain events are not the norm. On the other hand, spring maximum flows during the proposed yearly spring rise in Kansas City are 16,000 CFS higher than the yearly artificial flow increases of the No Action alternative. How higher artificial flows during the rainy spring season create lower flood risk is counterintuitive and illogical.
The table claims Alternative 3 has less flood risk. We would agree that since there are no spring rises for the first nine years, the flood risk is reduced. But we refer again to the lower flood risk in Alternative 2, even though it has spring pulses. If the model is delivering opposite results for the same actions, it might be wise to recalibrate the model.
The table claims Alternative 4 modeling resulted in a -$21 million to a +$48 million impact to NED. That’s almost a $70 million-dollar swing in impacts to the NED. We suggest either the model needs to be calibrated or Alternative 4 needs to be broken into two alternatives to reflect impacts more accurately. It could be that the model interprets the swing in years with no spring rise to a year with a massive spring rise to create massive flooding. That could explain some of the monumental differences, especially since the peak flow of 126,000 CFS at Kansas City puts the river over flood stage downstream from Kansas City.
Any management action that deliberately floods any portion of the basin should be deemed unacceptable and be eliminated from the list of alternative actions.
Alternative 5 shows the same maximum flows at Kansas City as Alternative 4, and the same four-year timetable as Alternative 4, yet Table 3-61 shows it as having a “beneficial” flood risk compared to the no action alternative.14 Alternative 5 constrains flow at 126,000 cfs, at Kansas City, 77 percent higher than the 71,000 cfs constraint in the no action alternative. The DEIS doesn’t state how this is possible—one must infer it has something to do with a fall rise versus a spring rise. But, with flow constraints so much higher, the claim of flood risk reduction would seem to require further explanation, or a recalibration of the model. We would also note that the flow constraints are identical to Alternative 4 and Alternative 4 is characterized as having more flood risk than the No Action alternative. Timing and normal rainfall can impact flood risk, but a model that excludes out of the ordinary weather events from impacting the model seems risky in and of itself.
Alternative 6 shows maximum flows at Kansas City in the 101,000-104,500 cfs range, running downstream flows to the “action” level, which at a minimum greatly impedes interior drainage. It is shown to have adverse flood risk compared to the no action alternative, which seems logical since the no action alternative has a 71,000 cfs restraint at Kansas City.
Section 22.214.171.124 – Alternative 1 – No Action
Here, the DEIS states under NED: “In addition, these impacts result from runoff events that occur downstream of the reservoir system, large upstream runoff events that result in evacuation of flood water from the reservoirs, or the combination of the two and not from the management actions under No Action.”15 Once again, the impacts of the bimodal spring rise are not accounted for. Interior drainage impacts and flood risk impacts are not mentioned. This cannot be accurate.
Table 3-63 – Summary of Damages for No Action
The table shows average annual losses on the river below Gavins Point to be $15,226,753. Using 2016 dollars, the average value of the production of corn and soybeans was roughly $570/acre. The loss figure shown, divided by $570, means crop loss on roughly 27,000 acres of farmland which is an annual average of losses on only 1.9 percent of the farmland in the floodplain below Gavins Point. We believe the assumptions for the modeling that developed this number need further calibration.
Land Use Sensitivity Analysis
Again, the DEIS only mentions land acquired and taken out of production instead of addressing the far more damaging impacts of management actions. But this time the DEIS adds an interesting twist. First it points out that every acre that is acquired to create fish habitat will be taken off the rolls of productive land that could be flooded, thus eliminating it from flood risk. Somehow it has become logical to think that putting land underwater permanently eliminates the risk of flooding on that land. We hope this convoluted thinking is not expanded to the idea of taking all lands out of production so that no agricultural damage can be attributed to flooding. The analysis does not mention the negative impacts to interior drainage from Alternative 1 and again obfuscates the real damages to land use predictability, crop losses due to delayed or prevented planting or the negative impacts of spring and fall flow rises or summer low flows. The analysis is wholly incomplete and has little or no value because of the exclusion of interior drainage analysis.
Regional Economic Development
This section blames all flooding on “natural hydrologic cycles”16 and fails to even acknowledge that the law that created the reservoirs came about because of the incredible damages caused by natural hydrologic cycles. There’s a reason it’s called the Flood Control Act of 1944. This section totally avoids mention that correct management of the reservoirs under the law limits the negative impacts of high water years. In fact, there is current litigation that charges mismanagement of the flood control capabilities of the reservoir system causes the flood damage. We believe natural events can occur that can overwhelm the reservoirs and levee systems. But to explicitly claim that flood damages are unrelated to management of the reservoir system is intellectually dishonest.
This section then calls out 10 counties from South Dakota to Illinois that would have damage “in excess of $1 million.”17 This follows the pattern of styling the DEIS in such a way as to trivialize the impacts of flooding. By calling out only 10 counties with damages in excess of $1 million, the DEIS leaves the reader with the impression that these counties suffer the “largest impacts” from flooding but then only categorize the losses as “over $1 million.” That’s misleading. The damages could be in the tens or hundreds of millions but the DEIS does not call this out. Individual farms or businesses could easily have $1million in damages but the DEIS deftly, and we think deliberately, obfuscates that point.
All economic conclusions and modeling on this alternative are inaccurate and incomplete due to the failure to provide robust and accurate modeling and impact data on interior drainage. Alternative 1 is unacceptable because no one knows what the impacts to NED, RED and OSE will be since the DEIS stipulates that economic analysis of the floodplain could not be completed. Translation of the impacts to the four sample sites to the rest of the floodplain was not even attempted and “extrapolation from the four sites to other levee areas was not feasible since the hydraulics, hydrology and drainage varies between sites.”18
Section 126.96.36.199 – Alternative 2 – USFWS 2003 Biological Opinion Projected Actions
Land Use Sensitivity Analysis
Here, the DEIS states: “For Alternative 2, the estimated land acquisition was 45,717 acres in the lower river.”19 In Section 188.8.131.52, the DEIS states: “Total targeted acres for acquisition of lands are estimated to be 9,333 acres in the Ponca to Rulo reach and 24,130 in the Rulo to the mouth of the river reach under Alternative 2.”20 Which is it – 33,463 acres or 45,717 acres? There’s more than a 36 percent difference between these numbers. We recognize different groups probably wrote the different sections of the DEIS, but the lack of coordination and data which varies by over third of a magnitude raises even more questions about to overall accuracy and credibility of the DEIS.
Convoluted logic appears again. “If all the acquired lands were previously in agricultural production, this means the amount of agricultural land that could be affected by flooding and the estimated agricultural losses in the lower river could be up to 3.0 percent less than the agricultural losses shown in Table 3-68.”21 If it’s not ag land any longer, the river can’t flood ag land. That’s just more evidence the culture that created the DEIS is anti-agriculture. They’re not concerned about taking land out of production, damaging the economy, disrupting or dislocating families, eliminating jobs or threatening the food supply. The model apparently is believed to reduce some flood risk because of low summer flows. We agree that lower flows benefit flood risk, but caution that flood risk gains do not necessarily offset increased risks to navigation, public water supply, power generation or dredging. The DEIS should include caveats that direct readers and decision makers to consider the cumulative impact on all economic activity, as the activities are inherently interconnected. Unfortunately, the cumulative impacts portions of the DEIS fail to paint a cumulative picture. The DEIS should be amended to bring focus to all impacts through extensive economic modeling and analysis and the inclusion of valid studies of interior drainage impacts.
National Economic Development and Regional Economic Development
Here, the DEIS states: “On average, the change in regional economic conditions would be negligible across all regions.”22 We raised serious concerns about the truncated methodology used to predict outcomes in Section 3.10 – Land Use and Ownership, so we’ll not restate the concerns here, but they apply to Flood Risk and Interior Drainage in the same manner as they do land use. If anything, our concerns over flood risk and interior drainage are greater because the magnitude of impacts to the economy are greater in a major flood event and interior drainage impacts so much more land much more frequently. Our greatest concern is not accuracy at the outset (although it must be accurate both in terms of direction and relativity). Our most pressing comment is the lack of delineation of thorough review of economic impacts throughout the adaptive management process. Detailed methodology, check points, stakeholder engagement, how impacts will be agreed upon and how they will affect decision making must be spelled out.
We are concerned there is no set aside or clear opportunity for that review or for how the outcomes of such a review would influence further management actions. We don’t know what will change in the AM process and there are obviously myriads of questions swirling around the accuracy and predictability of impacts from management actions.
It’s OK that the predictions are not precise, or at this stage, accurate. We do not know how to cure cancer, or if the universe is finite, or what the weather will be five days from now or how to save the pallid sturgeon. Nor do we know that Alternative 2 will increase labor income “$57,000 in the Kansas City Reach” to a reduction of “$29,000 in the Gavins Point Dam to Rulo, Kansas City Reach, and Hermann Reach”23 relative to the no action alternative. We appreciate the effort to establish a baseline and make comparisons, but we’re wary of the impact the inference of precise economic measurement may have on decision making. Most of all we’re concerned over the lack of provisions for actual measurement, how it will be conducted and how it will inform the AM decision making process. It must be spelled out and be an integral part of the AM process. The AM process cannot be limited to adapting management actions for just one species. We should not be so cautious as to avoid experimentation and application of successful actions, nor so arrogant as to believe simple modeling accurately reflects economic impact. The DEIS must be amended to include detailed economic and social review of the AM process. Concluding that initial predictions from truncated modeling are sufficient is wholly inadequate and can lead us to employ management actions that can have severe and lasting negative impacts on all species, including humans.
24 DEIS. Volume 3. Page 3-311. December 16, 2016.
Our comments on NED, RED and OSE apply to all succeeding sections of the DEIS on Alternatives 1-6.
All economic conclusions and modeling on Alternative 2 are inaccurate and incomplete due to the failure to provide robust and accurate modeling and impact data on Interior Drainage. This alternative is unacceptable because no one knows what the impacts to NED, RED and OSE will be since the DEIS stipulates that economic analysis of the floodplain could not be completed. Translation of the impacts to the four sample sites to the rest of the floodplain was not even attempted and “extrapolation from the four sites to other levee areas was not feasible since the hydraulics, hydrology and drainage varies between sites.”24
Section 184.108.40.206 – Alternative 3 – Mechanical Construction Only
We agree that the basic impacts of Alternative 3 are reduced, relative to the No Action alternative at the outset of the management actions. In general, Alternative 3 results in the least negative impacts. However, because it still contains a provision for adjusting flow regimen, and because of the broad negative impacts of higher flows, and the possibility that annual pulses can still be adopted under the adaptive management process, Alternative 3 can still be very damaging to stakeholders. But it strikes a better balance between promising species recovery actions and negative consequences. If it eliminated the potential for spring pulses it would be the only acceptable alternative.
All economic conclusions and modeling on Alternative 3 are inaccurate and incomplete due to the failure to provide robust and accurate modeling and impact data on interior drainage. This alternative is unacceptable because no one knows what the impacts to NED, RED and OSE will be since the DEIS stipulates that economic analysis of the floodplain could not be completed. Translation of the impacts to the four sample sites to the rest of the floodplain was not even attempted and “extrapolation from the four sites to other levee areas was not feasible since the hydraulics, hydrology and drainage varies between sites.”25 However, given that no alternatives exist outside the six offered, we believe this alternative is the least unacceptable of the six alternatives.
Section 220.127.116.11 – Alternative 4 – Spring ESH Creating Release
Table 3-77 Impacts from Modeled Flow Releases under Alternative 4 Compared to No Action
We believe the flow model may need calibration. The flow constraints during the pulse are 126,000 CFS at Kansas City. This flow level results in flooding immediately downstream from Kansas City and substantially increases flood risks during the time frame required for the pulse to clear the mouth of the river.
Further, with pulse constraints at 126,000 cfs, interior drainage issues will be significant. It’s impossible to tell how many flap gates will be closed and how many fields will be inundated by percolating ground water or local rainfall that cannot escape due to the closed flap gates because modeling was not done for interior drainage. The economic impacts of such high flows for extended periods and the lack of information due to lack of modeling makes Alternative 4 intolerable.
Economic impact conclusions on interior drainage are incomplete and inaccurate. Flows are 77 percent higher at Kansas City (126,000 CFS for Alternative 4 versus 71,000 CFS for the no action alternative). Impacts to ground water, flap gates and pumping systems would be 77 percent more severe than with the no action alternative. The abbreviated analysis for interior drainage needs substantial recalibration.
All economic conclusions and modeling on Alternative 4 are inaccurate and incomplete due to the failure to provide robust and accurate modeling and impact data on interior drainage. This alternative is unacceptable because no one knows what the impacts to NED, RED and OSE will be since the DEIS stipulates that economic analysis of the floodplain could not be completed. Translation of the impacts to the four sample sites to the rest of the floodplain was not even attempted and “extrapolation from the four sites to other levee areas was not feasible since the hydraulics, hydrology and drainage varies between sites.”26
Section 18.104.22.168- Alternative 5 – Fall ESH Creating Release
All economic conclusions and modeling on Alternative 5 are inaccurate and incomplete due to the failure to provide robust and accurate modeling and impact data on interior drainage. This alternative is unacceptable because no one knows what the impacts to NED, RED and OSE will be since the DEIS stipulates that economic analysis of the floodplain could not be completed. In addition, translation of the impacts to the four sample sites to the rest of the floodplain was not even attempted and “extrapolation from the four sites to other levee areas was not feasible since the hydraulics, hydrology and drainage varies between sites.”27
The fall pulse has the same high flow rates that significantly increase flood risks and cause interior drainage impedance. The difference between Alternative 4 and Alternative 5 is that under Alternative 4, many crops won’t get planted or will be planted late. Under Alternative 5, they may get planted on time, but they run a higher risk of not being harvested. It provides some variety on how to go bankrupt. Delayed harvest brings on extra costs, heavier wear and tear on equipment and harvest losses due to lodging and shattering, wildlife and wind and water damage. Harvest may be delayed until the ground freezes since ground drying conditions are almost always worse (humidity, temperature, less sunshine) in the fall than in the summer.
Economic impact conclusions on interior drainage are incomplete and inaccurate. Flows are 77 percent higher at Kansas City (126,000 cfs for Alternative 5 versus 71,000 CFS for the no action alternative). Impacts to ground water, flap gates and pumping systems would be 77 percent more severe than with the no action alternative. The abbreviated analysis for interior drainage, such that it is, needs drastic recalibration.
Section 22.214.171.124 – Alternative 6 – Pallid Sturgeon Spawning Cue
All economic conclusions and modeling on Alternative 6 are inaccurate and incomplete due to the failure to provide robust and accurate modeling and impact data on interior drainage impacts. This alternative is unacceptable because no one knows what the impacts to NED, RED and OSE will be since the DEIS stipulates that economic analysis of the floodplain could not be completed. Translation of the impacts to the four sample sites to the rest of the floodplain was not even attempted and “extrapolation from the four sites to other levee areas was not feasible since the hydraulics, hydrology and drainage varies between sites.”28
Economic impact conclusions on interior drainage and flood risk are highly questionable. Flows are 47 percent higher at Kansas City (101,000 to 104,500 cfs for Alternative 6 at Kansas City versus 71,000 cfs for the no action alternative). Impacts to ground water, flap gates and pumping systems would be 47 percent more severe than with the no action alternative. The abbreviated analysis for interior drainage, such that it is, needs recalibration.
Section 126.96.36.199 – Summary of Interior Drainage Environmental Consequences
Table 3-95 – Environmental Consequences Relative to Interior Drainage
In the abbreviated interior drainage portion, the same occurs with Table 3-95.29 In the area of actions common to all alternatives “no impacts were identified”. Again, one must ask if the DEIS is oblivious to the effects of management actions, or if the DEIS deliberately obfuscates the substantial damages the actions precipitate.
Section 188.8.131.52 – Impacts from Management Actions Common to All Alternatives
Flow management actions are common to all alternatives, yet the DEIS fails to mention the flow management in this section. It lists all the other common actions, excludes flow management and then states none of the common actions will impact interior drainage “as these actions do not affect river stage.”30 Flow releases absolutely affect river stages.
Section 184.108.40.206 – Alternative 2 – USFWS 2003 Biological Opinion Projected Actions
Here, the DEIS contradicts itself by showing NED, totaling $1.17 million annually for only the four levee sites that were studied.31 When multiplied by the hundreds of levee sites in the floodplain, if these sites are representative then annual impacts would be in the hundreds of millions annually. The assessment methodology is anything but methodical and lacks all credibility.
The DEIS then strains credibility even further by stating impacts to RED in any year would be so negligible that a “full RED analysis was not undertaken on the interior drainage NED effects.”32 NED impacts on only four levee sites were deemed to be over a million dollars annually, but RED impacts are so small that no one bothered to study them? That reasoning is unfathomable. These impacts occur with the current management actions in place, with flow constraints at Kansas City of 71,000 cfs.
The DEIS actually claims Alternative 2 has “relatively small beneficial impacts relative to No Action.”33 The flow constraint for the No Action alternative at Kansas City is 71,000 cfs. The flow constraint for Alternative 2 is 87,000 cfs at Kansas City. That’s a 22 percent increase in flow, which raises the river stage above the releases of the No Action alternative. Yet, the modeling shows the NED impact to be smaller. “The site with the largest impact is MRLS 488L, which would experience a decrease of $10,214 in average annual flood impacts.”34 According to the DEIS, higher water levels mean less flooding. That leads us to believe its manual calculations (the hydrology model doesn’t run on today’s computer) need to be checked for errors and the process employed to review the logic, accuracy and credibility of the DEIS needs a major overhaul. It is not logical, accurate or credible.
Section 220.127.116.11 – Alternative 4 – Spring ESH Creating Release
The DEIS says Alternative 4 has “a relatively negligible adverse impact on interior drainage relative to No Action with a total increase in average annual NED impacts of $389 or less that 0.1 percent”35 Flow constraint in the No Action alternative at Kansas City are 71,000 cfs. Flow constraints under Alternative 4 are 126,000 cfs 77 percent higher than the No Action alternative. Yet, the impact is only $389 a year. And, even though the flow constraints are 77 percent higher, no RED analysis was performed because the DEIS claims the impacts are so small it’s not worth the effort. Again, this claim is very hard to believe.
Section 3.15 Navigation
1. We do not support any alternative involving flow changes that would adversely affect navigation on the Missouri River. Because of reliable flows, barge traffic has consistently increased on the Missouri River in the last five years and most operators expect this trend to continue.
2. Flow changes in Alternatives 2, 4, 5, and 6 would negatively impact navigation on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. These alternatives would also negatively impact agriculture which is a primary customer of the navigation industry.
3. Low summer flow provisions in Alternative 2 will cause irreparable harm to the navigation industry by creating a split navigation season on the Missouri River. Negative impacts would also be felt in the “bottleneck reach” of the Mississippi River between St. Louis, MO and Cairo, IL.
4. The DEIS’ independent peer review must include individuals that have a firm and comprehensive understanding of the navigation economic model.
5. The DEIS analysis on Other Social Effects (OSE) of the impacts of various alternatives on navigation is incomplete and inadequate.
6. A major flaw of the DEIS is its failure to take into full consideration the principle of water-compelled rates for the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
Section 18.104.22.168 Alternative 2 – USFWS 2003 Biological Opinion Projected Actions
Under Alternative 2, it is highly likely that the decreasing releases from the Gavins Point Dam in Alternative 2 during the summer months would drop flows below the Construction Reference Plane (CRP) levels and halt navigation. Navigation would once again become unreliable and the navigation community and the users of the commercial navigation system would suffer severe negative economic consequences.
In this section, the DEIS states: “Although split navigation seasons would adversely affect navigation NED, RED, and OSE under Alternative 2, the impacts would not be significant because the NED decreases in magnitude and percentage change is small; RED impacts would be negligible in the regional context; and air quality impacts for nitrogen oxide would not occur in non-attainment areas.”36 This contradictory and flawed conclusion demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of Missouri River navigation by the study team. The navigation industry needs regulatory certainty in the form of consistent reliable flows.
Section 22.214.171.124 Alternative 5 – Fall ESH Creating Release
This table shows that under Alternative 5, years in the 82-year period of record that have full or partial releases do not have an impact on navigation benefits. The DEIS justifies this assertion because in this case the releases would be in the fall when the navigation season is almost complete. Here, the DEIS fails to take into account the fall harvest season on both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
Also, Table 3-173 makes the incorrect assumption that Missouri River navigation automatically stops when the navigation season officially ends. In actuality Missouri River shippers do not follow arbitrary season length dates but instead operate as long as adequate flows and weather conditions permit.
Section 126.96.36.199—Cumulative Impacts
This section concludes that navigation could experience adverse impacts from low-summer flows and states the following:
“Adverse impacts could result in the reduction of the navigation season length for years with the low summer flow, and the potential reduction in service level provided that could occur in the years with the spawning cue pulse. When combined with other past, present and reasonably foreseeable future actions, the cumulative impacts on navigation associated with Alternative 2 would result in a large reduction in navigation benefits. The majority of the relatively large, long-term adverse impacts would be caused by the low summer flow which would shorten the navigation season and prohibit navigation during the important months of the year. While shippers may be able to plan around the low summer flow period, the reliability of the of the Missouri River would be reduced and shippers would begin to transition to other modes of transportation. Over time as more shippers switch to other modes, the overall navigation benefits on the Missouri River would be largely reduced.”37
Further, Alternative 2 would also implement a bi-modal spring release from Gavins Point. In Alternative 2, the first pulse would begin on March 15 and would be as high as 31,000 cfs and the second pulse would start on May 1 and would be as high as 60,000 cfs. Both pulses would negatively impact navigation for roughly four weeks.
If the river is already at high levels, which is often the case in the spring months, any increase in flows could cause negative impacts to navigation, farms, industries, and communities along the river. Releases in the 60,000 cfs range would most likely halt navigation due to high velocities. Towing companies operating on the Missouri River are concerned about releases from Gavins Point in May that exceed 50,000 cfs because they believe this amount of extra water has the potential to stop navigation on the Missouri River and cause elevated navigational risks on the middle Mississippi River. The month of May is typically a time of high water on both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers without the addition of a spring pulse.
At the November 2016 MRRIC meeting, the Independent Socio-Economic Technical Review (ISETR) panel admitted their lack of understanding of navigation. In response to a question as to whether the ISETR was comfortable with the analysis of water-compelled rates in the navigation model, the leader of the ISETR stated they panel wasn’t familiar with water-compelled rates and transportation savings and quite simply, that the ISETR is not made up of transportation economists.38
At the same meeting, the ISETR panel leader stated they would have to punt on the navigation model, after being asked if the panel was confident of the model’s impacts of the alternatives on Mississippi River navigation. Despite professional concerns, the ISETR recommended that the Corps proceed with these models for use in the DEIS, including the navigation model.39
Water Compelled Rates
There is no mention of water-compelled rates in either Sections 3.15 Navigation—Affected Environments et al., nor is there any analysis of water-compelled rates in Section 3.24 Mississippi River Impacts. Instead, the Corps devotes roughly one-half of one page to this critical concept in the Navigation Environmental Consequences Analysis Technical Report to the DEIS.
The navigation analysis for OSE in the DEIS only considers changes in air quality if commodities moving on the waterway could potentially shift to land because of any of the alternatives. In fact, air quality is the only OSE considered in the DEIS for any of the alternatives. The DEIS makes no mention of increased fatalities or congestion if goods move to truck and/or rail. It also fails to account for revenue diversions from other federal and state budgets to repair roads and bridges along with increased expenditures for concrete and asphalt. The OSE does not account for lost time and productivity due to the increased amount of time
spent in traffic due to modal shifts caused by these alternatives. By failing to include these other social effects and costs, the DEIS grossly understates impacts.
Section 3.17 Thermal Power
1. Significant reductions in energy as a result of shutdowns of baseload thermal power plants caused by lower summer flow in Alternative 2 could lead to problems with system reliability.
2. The DEIS analyzes impacts from only a cost perspective, assuming offset energy is available. The Corps has not conducted the analysis needed to determine if this energy would be available from the market or if the transmission facilities could deliver the needed replacement energy.
3. The NED and RED analysis indicate significant financial impacts to thermal power generating facilities below Gavins Point from an energy and capacity perspective and are likely underestimated.
4. The DEIS analysis of impacts to thermal power does not seem to be representative of actions within the various management plan alternatives. This could be because of a small number of years analyzed from a temperature and operational perspective, inappropriate modeling assumptions or both.
Section 3.18 Water Supply
1. Interruption of water supply for even one day would be disastrous for people who live and work in the Missouri River Basin. The Corps should quantify the impact of communities being without a water supply for a day and include such risk assessment in each of the DEIS alternatives and it must continue to place the congressionally authorized purpose of water supply among its highest priorities.
2. Public water suppliers rely on fixed intake structures to divert water from the Missouri River and its major tributaries. These intakes rely on the channel created and maintained by the Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project (BSNP). Most public water suppliers have limited or no access to alternative water sources.
3. Water supply intakes were designed and constructed with the Corps’ advice, consent and approval. It is either extremely expensive or impossible to adjust these intakes to accommodate major changes in river levels. As management plan alternatives are considered, the Corps must make sure these intakes are capable of continuous operation.
4. The DEIS fails to recognize and address Missouri River bed degradation, which is impacting water supply intakes. The Corps has the key responsibility to correct this problem, which has taken place over the last 25 years. Regulatory cost of compliance must be detailed in the DEIS.
5. The DEIS is inadequate in identifying the current, actual operating and shut-down elevations for Missouri River water supply intakes. Some of the data used in the models appears to be inaccurate or incomplete. The Corps should undertake a systematic process to collect and verify data.
6. The DEIS wrongly assumes that water access problems can be solved by rental of supplemental pumps on a temporary, reactive basis.
Section 188.8.131.52 – Alternative 1- No Action
Here, the DEIS states: “The modeling results show that 33 of the 55 intakes would experience on average 57.1 days when water surface elevations would fall below operating thresholds. In addition, 21 of the 55 intakes would experience on average 14.7 days when water surface elevations are below shut-down elevations under Alternative 1.”40 The DEIS constitutes the first public report documenting that Missouri River basin communities could be in danger of losing their water supply. The Corps must address this catastrophic scenario for those that rely on the Missouri River as their water source.
Further, the DEIS states: “…the impacts modeled do not account for the ability of water management to adapt to changing conditions on the system to serve authorized purposes, such as water supply. It also does not account for what activities may be implemented in the future relative to bed degradation which may be influencing model results.” 41 Another very alarming statement found on the same page is: “The project team did not attempt to evaluate the cost of intake modification that may occur due to bed degradation or prolonged drought conditions.” 42
The NED analysis states: “…focused on actions that water supply operators can adapt by…using different-sized portable submersible pumps.”43 Water supply operations are a mission-critical, non-stop business and it would be unacceptable and irresponsible to wait until water levels are at critical levels and then hurriedly go out and rent pumps. The DEIS wrongly assumes there would be an adequate supply of pumps in the size and quantity needed to operate the 55 intakes on the river. Further, the DEIS makes the incorrect assumption that temporary pumps can easily be connected to Missouri River intakes, which they cannot. This is a head in the sand approach which must be corrected.
The NED analysis details another incorrect assumption in the DEIS, stating that 55 water suppliers could acquire portable pumps for a cost of $376,000 per year,44 which is very low and based upon inaccurate facts.
Bed degradation already requires winter flows much higher than Master Manual flows. For example, about 10,000 cfs in additional releases are now required from Gavins Point to maintain the stage elevation at Kansas City than when the Master Manual was drafted. The DEIS fails to recognize this reality which skews the modeling results, making them inaccurate.
Section 184.108.40.206 – Alternative 2 – USFWS 2003 Biological Opinion Projected Action
This is the worst possible alternative for water supply because of its inclusion of a summer low flow provision. Because Alternative 2 relies on the USFWS’ 2003 Biological Opinion (BiOp), which lacks scientific basis and is deeply flawed. Since then, most of the hypotheses relied upon in the BiOp have been disproven.
Section 220.127.116.11 – Alternative 3
This alternative appears to have the least impact on water supply operators as it applies the latest science toward species recovery. Even though this is the best alternative available, it would result in 22 intakes experiencing and average of 14 days below shut down elevations. There is not a single water utility that has enough storage or access to alternative sources to be able to operate for 14 days without a water supply.
Section 3.19 Wastewater Facilities
1. We are concerned with the DEIS findings that five wastewater treatment plants (two in Iowa, three in Missouri) could be affected by low flow conditions specified in Alternative 2. Section 18.104.22.168 states: “Impacts of the habitat construction management actions on wastewater facility outfalls could range from negligible to large, long-term and adverse on wastewater facilities compared to Alternative 1, depending on the proximity of the constructed habitat site to wastewater facilities”45
2. The DEIS wrongly assumes that wastewater authorities will be able to make improvements as needed to account for management changes such as low flow. This assumption cannot be reliably made because it depends on too many variables, such as funding, changing requirements, local logistics and permitting.
3.24 Mississippi River Impacts
1. Due to the critical impacts that Missouri River flows have on the Mississippi River, any future flow change could negatively impact commerce and the nation’s economy.
2. Pallid sturgeon are using the middle Mississippi and DEIS alternatives should consider the middle Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers as one and be evaluated as such.
3. We are concerned that the geographic scope of the DEIS does not include the middle Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO to Cairo, IL. The failure to include the middle Mississippi River in DEIS’ geographic scope raises questions about the Corps ability to accurately analyze the impacts of the alternatives on the Mississippi River.
4. The economic modeling and analysis of the DEIS alternatives on Mississippi River flood risk management and navigation is flawed and missing key data.
5. We believe the hydrological impacts of the proposed alternatives on Mississippi River navigation and stage levels are significantly understated.
In this section, the DEIS indicates that the impacts to flood risk management were evaluated using two of the four economic account models: NED and OSE. By only using these two accounts to evaluate the impacts to flood risk management, the DEIS has omitted key data points resulting in a major understatement of the costs and impacts to Mississippi River flood control interests. The failure to perform a comprehensive RED analysis to measure the impacts to flood risk management on the Mississippi River is very concerning. In addition to this, the DEIS does not indicate the reason an RED impact analysis was not performed. A comprehensive RED analysis for the Mississippi River, if done properly, would illustrate the negative impacts of these alternatives on local and regional economic conditions, such as employment, labor income, sales, sales tax revenue, flood damages, and other potential costs.
In terms of the impacts of the alternatives on Mississippi River navigation, the DEIS evaluation does not use any of the four accounts: Environmental Quality Methodology (EC), NED, RED, or OSE. Instead, the Corps measures the impacts of the alternatives on Mississippi River navigation by analyzing commodity movement data from the Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center daily stage level data for the St. Louis gauge from the HEC-RAS Model for the entire period-of-record for each alternative. Therefore, the Corps has been using the four accounts (EC, NED, RED, OSE) throughout the DEIS, and then utilizes a completely different methodology to measure the alternatives’ impacts on Mississippi River navigation. Once again, the DEIS fails to explain the reason for this abrupt change in methods. The failure to perform a comprehensive RED analysis to measure the alternatives’ impacts on Mississippi River navigation is inexcusable and unacceptable. A comprehensive RED analysis for navigation would illustrate the negative impacts of the alternatives on the local and regional economic conditions (jobs, income, revenues). Finally, the failure to perform a comprehensive NED analysis on the impacts to the Mississippi River is also inexcusable and unacceptable given the Mississippi River’s major contribution to the nation’s economy. By failing to conduct and NED, RED, OSE, and EQ analysis in its modeling, the DEIS is significantly understating the economic, environmental, and social impacts of the alternatives on Mississippi River navigation.
The methodology used for the analysis of the impacts on the hydrology in the middle Mississippi River from the alternatives is similar to the methodology used for analyzing the impacts for the Missouri River. Regarding the methodology used for the analysis of Mississippi River impacts, the DEIS states the following: “Specifically, the analysis of the flow alterations under the six alternatives was largely based on the HEC-ResSim and the HEC-RAS Modeling for the 82-year period of record.”
The DEIS concludes that, despite the massive spring and fall releases from the Gavins Point Dam in Alternatives 2, 4, 5, and 6, there would be no significant impacts to middle Mississippi river navigation from any of these alternatives. The DEIS also concludes that there would be no significant impact to middle Mississippi river navigation from the significantly lower summer flows contained in Alternative 2. These conclusions are hard to justify given the fact that the DEIS also states that the Missouri River contributes almost half the flow in the middle Mississippi River. The DEIS also claims that the spring and fall flow releases in Alternatives 2, 4, 5, and 6 would be “partially to largely attenuated by the time they reach Hermann, Missouri,”47 but does not provide any detailed analysis as to why this would be the case. Does the Corps just expect the large amount of extra water released from Gavins Point to stay in the Missouri River and not flow downstream into the Mississippi River?
The DEIS subsection Impact from Management Actions Common to All Alternatives states: “It is anticipated that there will be no impacts to biological resources in the middle Mississippi River from the management actions common to all alternatives. The listed activities would occur on the Missouri river and would not impact the stage or flow on the middle Mississippi River.”48
We cannot understand how the DEIS can draw this conclusion when it states in two different subsections of Section 3.24 – Mississippi River Impacts that the Missouri River contributes almost half of the flow to the middle Mississippi river. These conclusions in the DEIS are illogical.
Section 3.24 further states that the impacts of Alternatives 2, 4, 5 and 6 on stage and flow in the middle Mississippi River would be “small or negligible.”49 This section also concludes that the “impacts to flood risk management in the middle Mississippi River are not anticipated to be significant under Alternatives 3 through 6.”50 Finally, this section claims that the impacts to navigation in the middle Mississippi River “would not be significant”51 under Alternatives 2 through 6. We strongly disagree with these conclusions in Section 3.24. We believe that the impacts to stage, flood control and navigation on the middle Mississippi River are significantly understated due to the flaws in the hydrological and economic models.
While the DEIS claims that these impacts on the middle Mississippi River will be small to negligible, the Corps own data concludes that the lower summer flows in Alternative 2 would result in a lower stage of approximately two feet in July and August52. Such reduction in stage on the middle Mississippi in the busy summer months is not a “small to negligible” impact, especially during times of drought. A two-foot reduction would have severe consequences for shippers and consumers. The DEIS further concludes that the massive spring and fall releases in Alternatives 2, 4, 5, and 6 would increase the stage and flow on the middle Mississippi by one to three feet.53 Once again, these increases are not small or negligible, especially when they occur during peak flood season.
Even the minimum low flow of 25,000 cfs for several weeks would have significant effects on navigation on the Mississippi River below St. Louis. These impacts would come in the form of reduced draft and tow sizes. Should the navigation industry have to reduce draft out of St. Louis to the Gulf because of insufficient flows, the cost to the nation would be, at a minimum, in the millions.
In periods of high water on the Mississippi River, increasing the amount of water flowing in from the Missouri River and raising the stage by two to three feet would have serious impacts to the shippers, farmers, consumers, and communities along the river.
Section 4.0 Adaptive Management Plan
1. By definition and design, adaptive management (AM) means the management actions are not yet identified. We can only speculate on the direction of impacts because we only know the direction of management actions. It is impossible to provide the appropriate quality and scope of comments on management actions when not even the Corps or the FWS knows what actions they will take. AM plan decisions made outside of the ROD and Master Manual must go through full NEPA review and a separate EIS and must include independent peer review of the science and be coupled with full public review and comment before finalized.
2. The Corps should communicate what actions they believe to be implementable under AM. If stakeholders are to participate in a meaningful way, no decisions should be made in a vacuum or come as a surprise.
3. The Corps should commit to the use of two independent panels in AM plan independent review. We believe socio-economic impact review and analysis to be a key part of AM and it should continue to be utilized. As we’ve pointed out, the DEIS modeling and assessment of human impacts is woefully inadequate, highlighting the important need for review by both panels.
4. Governors of each of the basin states should have much larger input into AM than what is currently proposed and the AM governance structure should be reexamined to accommodate this.
5. Just as adaptive management employs hindsight to compensate for the inability of existing science to predict outcomes for the species, it must also provide detailed and adaptive processes for reviewing, commenting and changing the impacts and outcomes for social and economic consideration. If the process for analyzing social and economic impacts has been developed it must be included in the DEIS so it can be evaluated. If it has not been developed, the process is incomplete and the DEIS is incomplete. Impacts and outcomes on an incomplete process cannot be determined or and comments and considerations cannot be adequately informed. The complete process must be developed and the plans for its deployment and execution must be clearly delineated in the DEIS.
6. We’re sincere in our engagement to recover the species. If we were not, the lack of complete and serious planning and analysis would be sufficient to call a halt to our involvement. But even though these voids are substantial, we believe they can be corrected. We have concluded that we should not be so cautious as to avoid experimentation and application of successful actions, nor so arrogant as to believe simple modeling accurately reflects economic impacts and provides a reasonable basis on which to proceed. The human species, and the impacts to its condition, must be given the same consideration, thought, data based reviews and adaptation of the process as are the species to be recovered.
7. The DEIS does not specify a robust process for ongoing analysis of economic impacts of adaptive management actions. Just as adaptive management hypothesizes, tests actions and then assesses outcomes on the species, it must allow for the inclusion of economic outcomes to inform the process and inform decisions regarding changes to management actions. Adaptive management recognizes that we do not yet know what management actions are required or how those actions will impact the species. We will not argue against the logic of
8. taking an adaptive management approach to recovery. The MRRIC process of independent scientific review has revealed that what was once represented as science was, at best, informed hypotheses. Proceeding forward with unproven theories on spawning cues, recruitment and habitat is foolish and greatly increases the potential for doing more harm than good.
The lack of oversight for administrative decisions in the AM Plan permits the Corps to take actions not presently authorized by the Record of Decision (ROD) without first satisfying additional EPA requirements.
The DEIS gives the Corps unchecked authority by permitting a broad application of adaptive management that goes beyond the authority established by other previous AM Plans. Though the DEIS states there is a governance structure for the AM Plan, it simultaneously permits actions that are not part of the preferred alternative, if those options are warranted and feasible. Yet, the DEIS fails to clarify what constitutes warranted and feasible, beyond that which yet-unknown science deems necessary. As a result, the DEIS and the AM Plan open the door to actions that go beyond the established ROD without automatically triggering a full NEPA process to produce a supplemental EIS, as is required by law.
The DEIS admits “a supplemental NEPA process may be necessary prior to the end of the 15-year period.”54 Yet, it then fails to clarify the kind of action which would trigger this requirement, such as going beyond the dictates of the Master Manual. Instead, the DEIS permits the Corps to take actions that have not been fully vetted or even proposed, without a supplemental EIS and input from stakeholders. Though scientific monitoring requires a flexible approach, the present AM plan goes well beyond reasonable flexibility and that it fails to adhere to legislative requirements clearly established under NEPA and reaffirmed by the courts. Under the guise of scientifically necessary, the DEIS is suggesting the Corps have unfettered ability to go beyond reasonable limitations of the ROD or Master Manual without the accountability of a supplemental EIS.
Section Three – Suggestions, Recommendations and Conclusions
1. The CPR objects to any alternative that fails to recognize Master Manual constraints. We also object to any alternative that contains a low summer flow provision that would severely harm river navigation and public utility operations.
2. Hydrologic and economic modeling must be completed before any flow management plan is implemented. The Preferred Alternative allows adequate time to complete a full analysis of the impacts to stakeholders.
3. Flood risk management and interior drainage models must be completed for the entire floodplain, as opposed to the miniscule effort in studying only four levee sites along the entire lower river. Given that agriculture is the largest land use sector in the basin, these two items deserve much larger attention that what they’ve been given in the DEIS.
4. The RED section blames all flooding on natural hydrological cycles. There should be some mention of management of the reservoirs that has the potential to cause flooding events.
5. The DEIS calls out 10 counties from South Dakota to Illinois that would have damages in excess of $1 million. This leads the reader to believe that only 10 counties would suffer any sort of notable damages and flooding impacts are miniscule. One individual farmer could have a loss that exceeds $1 million. This deserves a much harder look.
6. The Land Use section of the DEIS is completely inadequate and fundamentally flawed. This section only examined impacts of future government land purchases and did not research at all private landowners’ inability to utilize their land because of impacts to interior drainage. This must be taken into account.
7. Operational costs under a low summer flow regime are severely underestimated and should be reexamined. The Corps must identify all potential regulatory burdens in advance of the implementation of any management plan action.
8. Regulatory costs to water supply operators is wholly inadequate. The Corps needs to conduct a much more serious examination on the economic impacts to the basin of even one day of interruption to residential and industrial water users.
9. Regarding navigation, the Corps needs to better study the linkage between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in terms of flow support and flooding impacts. The Missouri River can greatly affect the middle Mississippi and its contributions, positive or negative, should be clearly delineated in the DEIS.
10. DEIS modeling needs to incorporate the principle of water-compelled rates for the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and the independent peer review must include economists that have a firm understanding of the navigation economic model.
11. The Corps should truly follow the AM plan process by slowing down IRC construction plans and commit to studying the species and human effects of one IRC site before building all 12 as planned in the DEIS. Further, the Corps needs to fully explain what impacts IRCs will have on the navigation channel, bed and hydrologic conditions.
12. The DEIS should specify a robust process for ongoing analysis of economic impacts of adaptive management plan actions to be able to inform the process and decisions regarding changes to management plan actions, while ensuring compliance with the Master Manual.
13. We are concerned about the massive cost to the nation incurred to date by the MRRMP. Since 1992, this program has consumed over $825 million in taxpayer funds. The DEIS does not include the budgetary impact of implementation of the alternatives. The impacts to the human environment in this effort must be addressed.
Once again, the CPR is appreciative of the opportunity to comment on the DEIS. We thank you and your staff for the hard work that has gone into this massive effort that will guide Missouri River operations for the next 15 years.
Our members have a vested interest in the continue economic viability of the Missouri River basin and we respect the federal mandate of the Endangered Species Act to recover the species.
We believe recovery can be achieved in a manner that’s science-based and balanced with stakeholder interests. It is our sincere hope that our comments can be of assistance to you in that effort. We look forward to continued engagement in reasoned dialogue with you and your staff in the future as we work toward common interests in protecting and promoting the Missouri River for a variety of uses.
Coalition to Protect the Missouri River
519 West 9th Street
Hermann, Missouri 65041
Find the full document here: CPR DEIS Comments Final 4-24-17