Need to Know, Nice to Know – Focusing Science for Restoration and Management of the Missouri River

Nels Nelson Award Ceremony

Distinguished Lecture: Robert Jacobson, Senior Research Hydrologist, USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center

Award Recipient: Tyler Olsen, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering

In the 1980’s, after nearly 150 years of development for hydropower, navigation, flood control, and other socio-economic objectives, ecological restoration began to compete for prominence as a management objective on the Missouri River. Unlike socio-economic objectives that are amenable to rigorous analysis and optimization, ecological restoration objectives are hard to pin down and harder to quantify. Nevertheless, social and legal pressures, especially the Endangered Species Act, have combined to push the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other stakeholder agencies into decisions that explicitly trade off ecological and socio-economic objectives. The latest planning effort began in 2012 and a draft environmental impact statement and adaptive management plan are currently under review. The planning process included a synthesis of what is known, what is not known, and what needs to be known to manage the river to avoid jeopardy to three listed species without compromising conventional objectives. This presentation will explore critical uncertainties about one of the species – the pallid sturgeon – and how science efforts are being focused to provide need-to-know information for reservoir management decisions and channel engineering designs.


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