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Video: Upper Mississippi River Habitat Restoration – Pool 8

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The Corps of Engineers' Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) program (formerly known as the Environmental Management Program or EMP) has studies and projects in the Upper Mississippi River system north of Cairo, Illinois. The system includes the Illinois River. The program authorized by Congress in 1986 emphasizes habitat rehabilitation and enhancement projects and long-term resource monitoring. The habitat project component includes dredging backwater areas and channels, constructing dikes, creating and stabilizing islands, and controlling side channel flows and water levels. In the St. Paul District, the projects are located along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers from Guttenberg, Iowa (Lock and Dam 10), to Minneapolis, Minnesota, a distance of about 250 river miles. The long-term resource monitoring component includes monitoring trends and impacts with respect to selected resources, developing products for resource management decisions, and maintaining river information databases. Also available in high definition

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This work, Upper Mississippi River Habitat Restoration – Pool 8, by Stefania Padalino, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.

Date Taken:06.15.2010

Date Posted:09.4.2012 5:21PM


Video ID:153821





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  • Nation’s Environmental Engineer
As the nation’s environmental engineer, the U.S. Army Corps manages one of the largest federal environmental missions in the United States:
Restoring degraded ecosystems
Constructing sustainable facilities
Regulating waterways and managing natural resources
Cleaning up contaminated sites from past military activities
The responsibility to deliver environmentally sound projects and services to our customers touches every program within the Corps: Military Programs, Civil Works and Research and Development.

The scope and magnitude of environmental issues that the Corps addresses make it stand out among other federal agencies. But it is more than one agency can do on its own, it requires working in partnership with others to ensure our environmental efforts meet the needs of the American public.

The Army Corps of Engineers continually partners with other federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions to find innovative solutions to challenges that affect everyone: sustainability, climate change, endangered species, environmental cleanup, ecosystem restoration and more.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental professionals are key resources for anyone inside or outside the Army family, wherever and whenever environmental solutions are sought. The breadth and depth of skills found within the workforce gives it the ability to seek the best solution to environmental challenges.

The seven Environmental Operating Principles, or the Corps’ green ethics, are being incorporated into all Corps business lines to achieve a sustainable environment.

Restoring Ecosystems
The Corps works to restore degraded ecosystem structure, function and dynamic processes to a more natural condition:
Through large-scale ecosystem restoration projects,  such as the Everglades, the Louisiana Coastal Area, the Missouri River, and the Great Lakes
By employing system-wide watershed approaches to problem solving and management for smaller ecosystem restoration projects
Constructing Sustainable Facilities
The Corps designs and builds sustainable communities and facilities for the Department of Defense by:
Incorporating sustainable design criteria into military construction and training lands projects
Developing techniques to divert military construction waste from landfills through recycling and finding reuse opportunities
Minimizing the use of hazardous materials
Establishing the Center for the Advancement of Sustainability Innovations, a one-stop shop for sustainable planning and design expertise.
Regulating Waterways and Managing Natural Resources
The Corps regulates work in the nation’s wetlands and waters, with a goal of protecting the aquatic environment while allowing responsible development. The regulatory program works to ensure no net loss of wetlands while issuing about 90,000 permits a year.

With nearly 12 million acres of land and water to manage, the Corps is:
Responsible for the well-being of 53 special status species
Using Environmental Management Systems to integrate the Environmental Operating Principles into Corps operations to achieve waste reduction, recycling and energy efficiency goals
Restoring environmental health to aquatic resources
Cleanup and Protection Activities
Corps environmental cleanup programs focus on reducing risk and protecting human health and the environment in a timely and cost-effective manner. The Corps manages, designs and executes a full range of cleanup and protection activities, such as:
Cleaning up sites contaminated with hazardous, toxic or radioactive waste or ordnance through the Formerly Used Defense Sites program
Cleaning up low-level radioactive waste from the nation’s early atomic weapons program through the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program
Supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by cleaning up Superfund sites and working with its Brownfields and Urban Waters programs
Supporting the Army through the Base Realignment and Closure Act program
Ensuring that facilities comply with federal, state and local environmental laws
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The Corps’ goal for its environmental mission is to restore ecosystem structure and processes, manage our land, resources and construction activities in a sustainable manner, and support cleanup and protection activities efficiently and effectively, all while leaving the smallest footprint behind. Produced by Mary Cochran. Also available in high definition.
  • This video is an introduction to Clean Water Act, Section 404(b)(1). For detailed information on this topic please visit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' website. Also available in high definition 

From its earliest days as the nation’s public engineering agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ responsibilities included ensuring safe and accessible waterways for military and commercial navigation.
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1972 regulates the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. According to guidelines issued under Section 404(b)(1) the Corps is responsible for evaluating applications for these activities and permits the least environmentally damaging practical alternative.

By “practical alternatives,” we mean those that are:

Available – considering the availability for obtaining, expanding, possessing, utilizing and managing; and those that are:

Feasible – This considers cost, technology and logistics in light of the overall project purpose. 

The Corps determines the overall project purpose from the perspectives of both the applicant and the public. Only then does the Corps determines the range of practical alternatives. One consideration is whether or not the project is water dependent.  
During the evaluation process the Corps considers several aspects such as quality of waters, the physical and chemical aspects and the biological aspect. 

The Corps may not permit any discharge if it will cause or contribute to the significant loss of quality of waters of the United States. Loss of quality is evaluated from several perspectives, including human health and welfare, water supply, recreation, aesthetics and economic value.
Other important quality factors include special aquatic sites such as wetlands, coral reefs, refuges, mudflats, sanctuaries, preserves and vegetated shallows.

Aquatic and ecosystem diversity, productivity and life stages are also considered as important quality factors.

Discharges will also not be permitted if they violate state water quality or toxic effluent standards. This also means that any discharge that jeopardizes endangered or threatened species, or violate a protected marine sanctuary, will not be permitted.

The Corps evaluates the potential short-term and long-term effects – both individual and cumulative – of proposed discharge of dredged or fill material on the physical, chemical and biological components of the aquatic ecosystem.

In terms of physical and chemical aspects, the Corps considers the substrate, or surface of the wetlands, turbidity, or particles of fine-grained minerals suspended in the water column, and water clarity, nutrients, pH and temperature, since all of this can contribute to the water body’s ability to sustain life.

Biological aspects include the potential adverse impact to threatened or endangered species or their habitat; fish, crustaceans, mollusks and other organisms in the food chain; resident and transient mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. If the sustainability of any of these is compromised, due to the proposed project, a permit will not be granted by the Corps.

In addition to considering the least environmentally damaging practical alternative, permit applicants are also required to minimize potential adverse impacts to aquatic ecosystems through a sequential process to avoid – then minimize – then compensate for – impacts. The ultimate goal is no net loss of wetland functions and services.
Some of the actions that may be considered to minimize adverse effects on the aquatic environment include:

Confining or limiting the amount of material to be discharged per unit of time;

Selecting a disposal site with a substrate similar to that being discharged, such as discharging sand on sand or mud on mud; 

Discharging at sites where containment levees, sediment basins and cover crops help to reduce erosion;

Using lined containment areas to reduce leaching; and

Using silt curtains to control runoff.

Significant damage could be done to sensitive and valuable ecosystems such as wetlands without the protective guidelines of Section 404(b)(1) of the Clean Water Act being applied within the Corps’ regulatory program.  Unauthorized discharge of dredged or fill material could alter water circulation and light penetration. It can also create extremes in water inundation or change salinity patterns. These things, along with other undesirable and damaging effects, would have devastating consequences for fish, wildlife and people.  

The Corps strives to make fair, balanced and flexible decisions that meet both economic and environmental needs. In doing so, under this guidance, practical alternatives and cumulative impacts must be considered and potential adverse impacts to aquatic resources must be minimized and compensated for when those impacts are unavoidable.
  • The goal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit evaluation process is to ensure that permit decisions balance the need for proposed development with the protection of the nation’s aquatic environment.  

In reviewing project proposals, the Corps considers them in the context of the watershed. A watershed is an entire region that drains into a particular water body such as a lake, river or ocean. When a project is proposed, the Corps looks not only at what is being done, and how it’s affecting the project location, but how that project will affect the bigger picture.  

Cumulative impact assessment includes the review of direct and indirect impacts. A direct impact may be the construction of a single family home subdivision. Examples of an indirect impact may be any future construction such as road infrastructure or water quality degradation downstream.

The Corps also considers the implementation of past, present and reasonably foreseeable projects in the vicinity of a project area. For example, with a residential community now present, there would be a need for future development such as fire stations, hospitals and schools.

Taking all these factors into consideration, the Corps is able to address potential impacts to aquatic resources on a more comprehensive, system-wide level.

In its Environmental Operating Principles, the Corps pledged to strive to achieve environmental sustainability. Whether the Corps builds a project, or approves permits for projects to be built by others, it advocates that an environment maintained in a healthy, diverse and sustainable condition is necessary to support life. 

The consideration of cumulative impacts is vital to achieving a sustainable environment. Let’s take a closer look at cumulative impacts and how they are considered in the regulatory process.

Cumulative impacts can result from individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time or distance. 

In other words, a single family subdivision impacting two acres of wetlands may be individually minor. However, over time, the need for the road infrastructure, hospitals, schools and fire station; resulting in additional wetland impacts, may be unacceptable.

In order to weigh the cumulative impact of a proposed project, here are some of the things that the Corps considers:

Is the aquatic resource currently in a sustainable state, given past, present and reasonably foreseeable future actions?
Is the health of the aquatic resource declining because of human activity?

Have conservation actions or recovery plans reversed a declining trend for the resource, and helped it return to a healthy state?

Cumulative impact assessments consider past, present and anticipated future impacts within a watershed, helping to achieve the Corps’ goal of no net loss of wetland functions and services. In order to achieve this goal, the Corps looks into various aspects like:

The loss of locally important wetland functions and services;

The potential for successful compensatory mitigation;

The temporary loss of wetland functions and services during the time required for the compensatory wetlands to become fully functional;

The potential for habitat to be fragmented or broken up;

The potential to reverse a trend for systematic wetlands or related ecosystem restoration;

The potential for cumulative impacts to wetlands to affect other resources, such as animal or plant species that depend upon healthy wetland habitat.

Together, these considerations help to achieve the Corps’ goal of a sustainable environment with “no net loss of wetland functions or services.”

The Corps recognizes the interdependence of life and the physical environment.  Striving for balance and synergy between development activities and natural systems that support and reinforce one another is the cornerstone of the Corps’ regulatory program.


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