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Posted 3/18/2016

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ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA.   February 2016. The Institute for Water Resources (IWR) published the document “Trends and Outlook: The Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers,” authored by Dr. Dick Cole, environmental scientist, USACE.

In 1996, Congress authorized the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to improve environmental quality (EQ), as first defined by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), using aquatic ecosystem restoration and protection measures. The program grew rapidly before recently leveling off.  Despite demonstrable restoration needs, many forces may limit future success.  This study assessed the trends and trend-shaping forces potentially affecting the success of the Corps aquatic ecosystem restoration program over the next three decades, as indicated by program objective achievement. The trends and forces document profound degradation and restoration needs as well as impediments to restoration success. 

The report was developed primarily for use in Civil Works strategic planning. The achievement of program-area objectives is the basis for evaluating program success and ranking projects for investment priority.  Consistent with that focus, this report gauges past and future trends and forces influencing success based on achievement of the program-area objectives interpreted from Corps authority and policy guidance.  The main consideration is the form and amount of national benefit intended from program investment. Future program achievement depends on being aware of and managing to possible extent those trends and forces that impede objective achievement.

The report organization reflects trends and forces influencing the Corps at global, continental, and regional scales; in federal government; and the Corps itself.  Except for megatrends, the analysis of trends and possibilities of future trend-shifting events relies largely on qualitative historical assessments because of data limitations. Outlook uncertainty is unavoidable. The more probable trends and forces are emphasized in the discussion, which focuses largely on aspects that the Corps may be able to change or influence, as well as those aspects it cannot influence but should consider for their effects and adaptation needs.  Major points are summarized at the end.