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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Habitat Needs Assessment

Project Management Plan


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U. S. Army
Corps of Engineers
St. Louis District


Project Title: Environmental Management Program - Habitat Needs Assessment
Location: Upper Mississippi River Basin (MN, WI, IA, ILL, MO)
February 1999
Project Management Plan
V: 1.4/ 6 February 1999



This Project Management Plan (PMP) provides the general framework and establishes specific strategies and milestones for execution of the Habitat Needs Assessment project of the Upper Mississippi River System - Environmental Management Program (UMRS-EMP). The PMP will define the project's requirements and expectations. This is a living document and will be updated as required on a biannual basis (February & August).

St. Louis District PMP


The PMP will act as a "Charter" between the customers, participating Corps of Engineers Districts and the St. Louis District Project Manager (PM).

Project Description



The Upper Mississippi River Environmental Management Program (EMP) was authorized by Section 1103 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986. The two main components of EMP are the Long Term Resources Monitoring and Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Projects (HREPs).


The present EMP will end in the year 2002. The authorizing language in WRDA 1986 required an evaluation to determine the program's "effectiveness, strength and weaknesses and contain recommendations for the modification and continuance or termination" of the EMP. The Corps of Engineers, Mississippi Valley Division submitted its Report to Congress on the EMP to Corps Headquarters in December 1997. The report contained the following recommendations to Congress: continuing reauthorization of the EMP, increased annual funding for both the LTRMP and HREPs ($10M and $22.7M respectively), revised cost-sharing provisions for HREPs, and updated reports to congress at six-year intervals.


Several recommendations for modifying implementation of the EMP were also contained in the report to Congress. One recommendation was to develop a Habitat Needs Assessment (HNA) as part of a continued UMRS-EMP. The Environmental Management Program Coordinating Committee (EMPCC), comprised of representatives from the Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the five UMRS States, supports the development of an HNA.

Statement of Purpose-The Habitat Needs Assessment (HNA) was officially noted in the Report to Congress, An Evaluation of the Upper Mississippi River System Environmental Management Program, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, December 1997. The following quote establishes the baseline for the assessment: "A habitat needs assessment (HNA) should be completed to establish a technically sound consensus-based management framework or "blue print" for the restoration, protection, and enhancement of the UMR ecosystem. This assessment would begin to identify, at system, pool, and reach levels, long term habitat requirements. It would also serve to refine the focus of future system monitoring and research activities".

Work Scope

General Approach to Conducting a HNA for the UMRS


Development of a HNA for the UMRS will be based on a process of assessing past, existing conditions, forecasting future conditions, and identifying desired future conditions. The habitat needs will be identified through comparison between forecast future conditions and desired future conditions. Gap Analysis Program (GAP) techniques (Scott et al. 1993) will be employed. Gap Analysis is being widely applied to planning for habitat restoration, protection, and management. Scott et al. (1993) describe the Gap Analysis approach:


Predicted species distributions are based on existing range maps and other distributional data, combined with information on the habitat affinities of each species. Distribution maps for individual species are overlaid in the GIS to produce maps of species richness, which can be created for any group of species [species guild] of biological or political interest. An additional GIS layer of land ownership and management status allows identification of gaps in the representation of vegetation types and centers of species richness in biodiversity management areas through a comparison of the vegetation and species richness maps with ownership and management status maps. Under represented plant communities [habitat types]....can be identified in this manner.... Gap Analysis is a powerful and efficient first step toward setting land management priorities. It provides focus, direction, and accountability for conservation efforts. Areas Identified as important through Gap Analysis can then be examined more closss sely for their biological qualities and management needs. As a coarse-filter approach to conservation evaluation, Gap Analysis is not a panacea. Limitations related to minimum mapping unit size (where small habitat patches are missed), failure to distinguish among most seral stages, failure to indicate gradual ecotones, and other factors must be recognized so that Gap Analysis can be supplemented by more intensive inventories.


Definition of disturbance mechanisms and estimation of disturbance recurrence intervals for habitat types will add information on habitat-modifying processes to adapt GAP analysis to the dynamic character of the UMRS river environment. Cumulative effects of operation and maintenance of the navigation system on the UMRS river environment from impoundment to date is being assessed and future conditions are being forecast as part of the Navigation Study. This Navigation Study information will be used (and developed further if necessary) to evaluate existing and to forecast future habitat conditions for the HNA. The matrix of species guild/habitat affinities being used for the Navigation Study cumulative effects assessment and forecast of future conditions will adapted for use in the HNA.


Existing spatial data from the Long Term Resource Monitoring Program for the Upper Mississippi River System (LTRMP), and Corps of Engineers GIS databases will be extensively used in the HNA. Habitat patch types will be primarily defined using the land use/land cover and aquatic areas LTRMP databases. Existing software for habitat spatial characterization (e.g. FRAGSTATS) will be employed to quantify spatial structure and temporal dynamics of the riverine habitat patch mosaic. GIS databases for the HNA will be developed collaboratively by the Corps, U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources (USGS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the UMRS states, with files served through an interactive Internet site. An attempt will be made to ensure that the HNA for the UMRS is compatible with the habitat classification (Cobb 1998) developed for the Lower Mississippi River.


Public expectations for desired future condition of UMRS habitats will be determined through several methods. Compilation of mission statements, UMRS management plan objectives, and interviews with agency and organizational leaders will be used to identify institutional expectations for future condition of UMRS habitats. Focus groups, public meetings, or other techniques will be used to elicit public understanding, values, and expectations for future river habitat conditions. Public meetings and other information transfer techniques (EMP newsletter, interactive Internet site, etc.) will be employed to inform the public about the EMP and the HNA.

Application of a HNA to EMP


The HNA will provide an improved scientific basis for selecting future habitat projects. A HNA for the UMRS can become a major element in an adaptive management process, where habitat project implementation can be modified based on monitoring habitat projects and river conditions, and evaluations of the effectiveness of habitat projects.

Geographic Scope and Scales


The HNA will address system-wide habitat needs in the two mainstem river corridors and four tributaries, totaling 1,158 river miles. All aquatic and floodplain terrestrial habitats including, channels, impounded areas, backwaters, floodplains (bluff to bluff) will be addressed were data is available in a readily assessable format. The HNA will provide a system-wide, river reach, and pool scale framework for selection of future habitat restoration and protection projects.

Temporal Scope


The HNA will be based in part on a forecast of future condition of the UMRS being developed for the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Navigation Study. That forecast will extend through the year 2050. The HNA will identify UMRS habitat needs for the years 2000 - 2050 time period. The existing condition will be based primarily on the LTRMP land use/land cover database, which was developed from aerial photography obtained in 1989.

Resolution of Habitat Types


Organism/habitat information will be organized by species guilds, or groups of species with similar life requisites. Information on habitat types will be organized using an expanded LTRMP habitat classification, making use of existing GIS data. Habitat patch types will be defined and matched with UMRS guilds of plants and animals. The spatial resolution of the defined habitat patch types will be determined by the spatial resolution of the available GIS data. The temporal resolution of the habitat patch types (seasonal occurrence, persistence, successional pathways, disturbance intervals) will be determined during the HNA development process.

Collaborative Approach to Developing a HNA for the UMRS


Given the importance of a HNA for the EMP and for management of the UMRS, a collaborative process is being used, involving federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the general public.


The HNA Technical, Mapping and Public Involvement Committee will assist the Corps in preparing detailed scopes of work for individual tasks. The detailed scopes of work will be used as contractual documents for HNA work to be performed.

Products of this Study


The initial HNA will generate a set of products that will be updated periodically as new information about the condition of the river, effectiveness of habitat restoration and projection projects, and new understandings of river ecology become available. The HNA products will be primarily digital, with a GIS atlas of existing habitat conditions, and databases of forecast future conditions, desired future conditions, and habitat restoration and protection needs organized by species guild, habitat type, navigation pool, and river reach, with totals for the entire EMP-UMRS boundaries. These digital products will be served via the Internet through the EMP home page, with established links to other EMP partner agency Internet home pages.



The HNA products will include a narrative report that describes:
  • Methods of conducting the HNA
  • Present, future, and desired future habitat conditions
  • Habitat needs specified by habitat type, aerial extent, spatial structure, temporal occurrence, at the pool, river reach, and system scales


  • Interim products for use in developing the HNA will include various maps and visualization tools.

    Technology and Information Transfer


    A variety of information transfer techniques will be employed in providing information to the public and interested agencies and organizations. An Internet HNA home page will be established, which will provide study description, updates, visualization products, and will serve GIS files. Progress on the HNA will be reported through the EMP newsletter. A completion report will be published, and will be served on the Internet HNA home page. Papers will be submitted to professional journals for publication in refereed literature.

    Project Goals and Objectives


    The primary objective of the initial habitat needs assessment will be an evaluation of past conditions in order to understand habitat forming processes likely to determine future habitat conditions, existing habitat conditions throughout the UMRS, a forecast of future habitat conditions, and quantification of ecologically sustaining and socially desired future habitat conditions. The HNA will address habitat needs at the system-wide, river reach, and pool levels of spatial scale. The primary purpose of a HNA will be to guide selection, design, and evaluation of habitat restoration and protection projects under a reauthorized EMP. The HNA will begin to identify, at the system, pool and reach levels, the long term habitat requirements and will serve to refine the focus of future system monitoring and research activities under the reauthorized EMP.


    The UMRS does not yet have an overall set of objectives for desired future habitat conditions. Therefore, the need exists to conduct an assessment of habitat needs, and to set objectives for the desired future condition of UMRS habitats. These goals and objectives will aide in the selection process for future habitat projects and will allow tracking of progress toward program objectives which define desired future habitat conditions.


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