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  • Guidelines for How to Approach Thin-Layer Placement Projects

    Abstract: Historically, dredged material (DM) has been placed at the nearest available placement site. There has been an increasing trend of beneficial use projects recently, often using innovative methods. Thin-layer placement (TLP) involves one- to two-foot-thick DM placement, compared to traditional, thicker sediment placement applications, to restore coastal wetlands. The main idea of TLP is to promote the natural recolonization or reestablishment of habitat and benthic species. These guidelines present a roadmap of TLP’s evolution and offer easily digestible examples and considerations for TLP applications in wetlands and open-water environments. Offered as a tool to the practitioner, the eight chapters of these guidelines cover the history of TLP, characterization of the project area, setting goals and objectives, project design, construction considerations, monitoring and adaptive management, knowledge gaps, and future research needs. Several case studies are presented as examples of how such applications have been implemented and highlight lessons learned, particularly best-management practices. These guidelines offer consideration of TLP as a critical component in the project development phase, a tool for the sustainable management of DM, and a method that may create, maintain, enhance, or restore ecological function while supporting navigation channel infrastructure and providing flood risk management benefits.
  • Proceedings from the Soft Substrate Island Design Workshop

    Abstract: This report summarizes the activities of the Soft Substrate Design Workshop held virtually on 08 September 2021. The 28 participants from federal, state, local, and academic organizations discussed designing and constructing islands with soft sediments in inland waterways. They were introduced to the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Engineering With Nature® (EWN®) initiative and the vision for Tri-County Planning Commission (Peoria, Illinois). An overview of collaborative projects using landscape architecture and EWN principles was provided. The focus of discussion was on two primary waterways, the Upper Mississippi River System, and Illinois River. Participants discussed their experience associated with designing and constructing islands with and on soft sediments prior to breakout sessions to discuss specific design and contracting elements. The groups were brought together to discuss design techniques that could be implemented in the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois River systems.
  • Spatial Screening for Environmental Pool Management Opportunities

    Abstract: US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) reservoir projects significantly alter river ecosystem structure and function. Each project adheres to a defined set of operating rules to achieve primary objectives, which typically include flood risk management, hydropower, or navigation along with ancillary objectives for drinking water/irrigation, recreation, and natural resources management. Environmental flows (E-Flows) planning under the Sustainable Rivers Program has demonstrated new opportunities for environmental pool management (EPM; Theiling et al. 2021a, 2021b) that have no negative impact on other reservoir functions. In some locations, water level drivers can be managed to improve ecological outcomes, like wetlands, waterbirds, reptiles, and water quality, by altering the magnitude, timing, frequency, and duration of pool level changes that affect riparian and shoreline plant communities. Reservoirs with large delta areas may provide particularly important wetland or riparian habitat management along avian migratory pathways or in wildlife conservation regions (Johnson 2002). These large deltas can be identified and characterized using available satellite imagery, which along with water level habitat drivers available in hydrology databases, can be used to identify USACE reservoirs with good potential for EPM. A spatial analysis of USACE reservoirs capable to support EPM can be developed utilizing estimates of water occurrence, transition, and seasonality as well as surface elevation data derived from satellite imagery to assess geomorphology drivers. USACE water management records can be used to assess wetland drivers. Nationwide screening will be broken down into ecoregions to establish the anticipated geographic range of variation for wetland and riparian habitat drivers. Southwestern US reservoirs, for example, will have much different hydrology and fauna than Midwest and Eastern US reservoirs.
  • Sensitivity of Sediment Transport Analyses in Dam Removal Applications

    Abstract: Dam removal has become a widespread river management practice in the US for a variety of goals including ecosystem restoration, removing aging infrastructure, flood risk management, and recreation. The ability to forecast the sediment impacts of dam removal is critical to evaluating different management alternatives that can minimize adverse consequences for ecosystems and human communities. Tullos et al. (2016) identified seven Common Management Concerns (CMCs) associated with dam removal. Four of these CMCs; degree and rate of reservoir sediment erosion, excessive channel incision upstream of reservoirs, downstream sediment aggradation, and elevated downstream turbidity are associated with stored sediment release and changing fluvial hydraulics. There are a range of existing qualitative and quantitative tools developed to infer or quantify geomorphic implications of disturbances like these in river environments (McKay et al. 2019). This study investigated how a one-dimensional (1D) sediment transport model can inform these four CMCs, develop an approach for assessing sediment transport model sensitivity in the context of the Simkins Dam removal, and use sensitivity analyses to identify key uncertainties, which can inform data collection and model building for other dam removal projects. For the selected case study, model outputs including the mean effective invert change (MEIC) and eroded sediment volume from reservoir were highly sensitive to the variation of the reservoir sediment gradation and sorting method selection. These model outputs also showed some sensitivity to the selected transport functions. Erosion method sensitivity using the channel evolution method will vary depending on side slope and channel parameter selection.
  • Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration in the Texas Western Gulf Coast Plain / Lower Rio Grande Alluvial Floodplain Ecoregion: Resaca Boulevard Resaca Section 206—Vegetation Community Adaptive Management

    Abstract: As part of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Continuing Authorities Program (CAP), Section 206 projects focus on restoring aquatic habitats for the benefit of fish and other wildlife. From 2017–2021, USACE Engineer Research and Development Center–Environmental Laboratory researchers in the Aquatic Ecology and Invasive Species Branch (ERDC-EL EEA) at the Lewisville Aquatic Ecosystem Research Facility (LAERF) collaborated with USACE Galveston District, The Nature Conservancy, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and local nonfederal sponsors—Brownsville (Texas) Public Utility Board and the City of Brownsville—to study restoration methods on former, naturally cut-off, channels of the Lower Rio Grande River. These aquatic ecosystems, locally termed “resacas,” are home to endemic plants and animals and are thus an important natural resource of national interest. This technical report documents the planning, design, construction, monitoring, and adaptive management activities throughout the Resaca Boulevard Resaca Section 206 Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration project. Methods and results for invasive species management—primarily Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthfolia)—and aquatic and riparian vegetation establishment in endemic Texas ebony resaca forest, subtropical Texas palmetto woodland, and Texas ebony/snake-eyes shrubland habitats are discussed.
  • Swan Island Resilience Model Development; Phase I: Conceptual Model

    Abstract: This report documents the development of an integrated hydrodynamic and ecological model to test assumptions about island resilience. Swan Island, a 25-acre island in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, was used as a case study. An interagency, interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers came together in a series of workshops to develop a simplified resilience model to examine the ability of islands to reduce waves and erosion and the impacts to nearby habitats and shorelines. This report describes the model development process and the results from this first key step: model conceptualization. The final conceptual model identifies four main components: vegetative biomass, island elevation, waves/currents, and sediment supply. These components interact to form and support specific habitat types occurring on the island: coastal dunes, high marsh, low marsh, and submerged aquatic vegetation. The pre-and post-construction field data, coupled with hydrodynamic ecological models, will provide predictive capabilities of island resilience and evaluations of accrued benefits for future island creation and restoration projects. The process and methods described can be applied to island projects in a variety of regions and geographic scales.
  • Ecological Model Development: Evaluation of System Quality

    PURPOSE: Ecological models are used throughout the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to inform decisions related to ecosystem restoration, water operations, environmental impact assessment, environmental mitigation, and other topics. Ecological models are typically developed in phases of conceptualization, quantification, evaluation, application, and communication. Evaluation is a process for assessing the technical quality, reliability, and ecological basis of a model and includes techniques such as calibration, verification, validation, and review. In this technical note (TN), we describe an approach for evaluating system quality, which generally includes the computational integrity, numerical accuracy, and programming of a model or modeling system. Methods are presented for avoiding computational errors during development, detecting errors through model testing, and updating models based on review and use. A formal structure is proposed for model test plans and subsequently demonstrated for a hypothetical habitat suitability model. Overall, this TN provides ecological modeling practitioners with a rapid guide for evaluating system quality.
  • Remote Sensing Capabilities to Support EWN® Projects: An R&D Approach to Improve Project Efficiencies and Quantify Performance

    PURPOSE: Engineering With Nature (EWN®) is a US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Initiative and Program that promotes more sustainable practices for delivering economic, environmental, and social benefits through collaborative processes. As the number and variety of EWN® projects continue to grow and evolve, there is an increasing opportunity to improve how to quantify their benefits and communicate them to the public. Recent advancements in remote sensing technologies are significant for EWN® because they can provide project-relevant detail across a large areal extent, in which traditional survey methods may be complex due to site access limitations. These technologies encompass a suite of spatial and temporal data collection and processing techniques used to characterize Earth's surface properties and conditions that would otherwise be difficult to assess. This document aims to describe the general underpinnings and utility of remote sensing technologies and applications for use: (1) in specific phases of the EWN® project life cycle; (2) with specific EWN® project types; and (3) in the quantification and assessment of project implementation, performance, and benefits.
  • Ecological Model Development: Toolkit for interActive Modeling (TAM)

    Overview: Ecological models provide crucial tools for informing many aspects of ecosystem restoration and management, ranging from increasing understanding of complex ecological functions to prioritizing restoration sites and quantifying benefits for project reporting. The diversity of ecosystem types and restoration objectives often precludes the use of existing models; as such, model development is commonly required to inform restoration decision-making. Index-based habitat models are a common approach for assessing ecosystem condition. These models relate habitat quality to species’ distributions. Habitat suitability (quality) typically ranges on a scale from 0 to 1. Habitat models have been developed to assess habitat suitability for specific taxa, communities, or ecosystem functions. Restoration-project timelines often require that these models be developed rapidly and in conjunction with many external stakeholders or partners. Here, the Toolkit for interActive Modeling (TAM) is proposed as a platform for rapidly developing index-based models, particularly for US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) ecosystem-restoration or mitigation planning processes. The TAM is a consistent quantitative framework that allows for development of a generic platform for index-based model development
  • Evaluation of Methods for Monitoring Herbaceous Vegetation

    Abstract: This special report seeks to advance the field of ecological restoration by reviewing selected reports on the processes, procedures, and protocols associated with monitoring of ecological restoration projects. Specifically, this report identifies selected published herbaceous vegetation monitoring protocols at the national, regional, and local levels and then evaluates the recommended sampling design and methods from these identified protocols. Finally, the report analyzes the sampling designs and methods in the context of monitoring restored herbaceous vegetation at US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) ecosystem restoration sites. By providing this information and the accompanying analyses in one document, this special report aids the current effort to standardize data-collection methods in monitoring ecosystem restoration projects.