US Army Corps of Engineers
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Sustainable Rivers

Water Resources Planning

Planning plays a vital role in supporting the Corps of Engineers Civil Works water resources development mission. Through planning activities, including feasibility studies, Continuing Authorities Program studies, watershed studies, comprehensive/large scale studies, general reevaluation studies, validation studies and other post-authorization change studies - and more, Corps planners help decision-makers identify water resources problems, conceive solutions to them, and compare the importance of the inevitable conflicting values inherent in any solution.

Those skills are critical to SRP, which uses an “advance, implement, and incorporate” process for developing environmental flow objectives and other related operational measures and actions at Corps projects to provide ecological restoration. That process relies heavily on the participation of Corps water management, natural resource management and environmental specialist staff, as well as regional ecologists, biologists, and other scientists and representatives of various water resources stakeholder groups. Water resource planners have been instrumental at several SRP sites in helping bring those various disciplines together to formulate and evaluate environmental flow alternatives.

In most cases, environmental actions advanced by SRP can be implemented within existing project authorities. However, in some cases, SRP efforts identify potential actions and measures that would require additional evaluation and possibly authorization and appropriation of funds to enable implementation. In those situations, water resource planners are well-positioned to take the lead in conducting further study.

Thoughts about Sustainable Rivers

“Sustainable Rivers is showing that one of our most expedient and cost-effective ways to improve ecosystems is simply to modernize the ways that already-built infrastructure are operated for the environment.

Moving forward, it is vital that lessons-learned by Sustainable Rivers be broadly integrated into operational practices for all pertinent Corps water resources infrastructure. This is a collective challenge, involving many partners and Corps professionals, especially our water managers, operators, and environmental planners."

Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2024)

“…our [Corps’] largest and most expensive environmental efforts are driven by litigation and endangered species.

It is precisely at these times that we need to aggressively and proactively pursue ideas like implementation of environmental flows, which have high environmental potential for relatively low costs.

…SRP is an example of the type of proactive effort that has also achieved traction and visibility within the water management community that could be leveraged to accelerate future [e-flows] implementation efforts.”

Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, as Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2015)

“The Nature Conservancy is one of our most important partners and Sustainable Rivers, with its nation-wide focus, is at the forefront of our collaborations.

The Sustainable Rivers Program is not only demonstrating how sustainability can be incorporated into project planning and operations, it is also bringing to light new opportunities for collaboration in areas such as training and software development. Sustainable Rivers is a shining example of how our Environmental Operating Principles are being put into practice.”

Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, as Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2004)

“The Nature Conservancy and the Army Corps of Engineers have a long-standing partnership that has transformed the health of more than 12,000 river miles, benefiting both nature and people.

The Sustainable Rivers Program is a tangible example of a collaborative effort that modernizes river infrastructure while maximizing results. It’s absolutely critical we continue to scale our efforts and increase resiliency as we tackle biodiversity loss and the climate crisis.”

Jennifer Morris, Chief Executive Officer of The Nature Conservancy (2024)

“Sustainable Rivers is fundamentally about conservationists and water managers working together to find ways to meet human needs while restoring and protecting some of our nations most imperiled and important natural habitats.

The Nature Conservancy is extremely enthusiastic about our collaboration with the Corps, and we look forward to extending the SRP to its full potential.”

Steve McCormick, as President of The Nature Conservancy (2004)

The Corps’ Environmental Operating Principles (EOPs) were developed to ensure that Corps missions include totally integrated sustainable environmental practices. The EOPs provide corporate direction to ensure the workforce recognized the Corps' role in, and responsibility for, sustainable use, stewardship, and restoration of natural resources across the Nation and, through the international reach of its support missions.