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US Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources. Step 6: Plan Selection. Leigh Skaggs, CECW-PC, and Erin Wilson, CEIWR Planning for Ecosystem Restoration PROSPECT 2010. Specify Problems & Opportunities. Corps Planning Process: Six Steps. Inventory & Forecast Conditions.

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Step 6 plan selection

US Army Corps of Engineers

Institute for Water Resources

Step 6: Plan Selection

Leigh Skaggs, CECW-PC, and Erin Wilson, CEIWR

Planning for Ecosystem Restoration


Specify Problems

& Opportunities




Six Steps

Inventory & Forecast



Alternative Plans

Evaluate Effects of

Alternative Plans


Alternative Plans


Recommended Plan

Learning objectives
Learning Objectives

  • To describe possible plans that may be recommended

  • To explain what is meant by the National Ecosystem Restoration (NER) Plan

  • To explain the criteria and considerations used to designate the NER Plan and Recommended Plan


  • Planning Guidance Notebook

    (ER 1105-2-100) - April 2000

    • Chapter 2, Planning Principles

    • Appendix E, Civil Works Missions & Evaluation Procedures

  • Planning Manual

    (IWR Report 96-R-21)

    • Chapter 11

  • Collaborative Planning (EC 1105-2-409)


  • Screening is an iterative activity based on criteria

  • Selection of a recommended plan is the final screening activity

  • Different selection criteria will give you different recommendations

  • Plans don’t go away; they’re just not selected


  • Single alternative selected & recommended from all those considered

  • “No Action” is the default recommendation

  • Why is recommended plan preferable to No Action or any other alternative?

    • “Telling your story”

  • P&G: display sufficient number of alternatives; include mitigation; identify R&U

Possible plans to recommend
Possible Plans to Recommend

  • No Action

  • National Economic Development (NED)

  • National Ecosystem Restoration (NER)

  • Multipurpose Plan formerly “Combined NED/NER Plan”

  • National Interest Plan – reflect full range of Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

  • Locally Preferred Plan

Ned plan
NED Plan

  • For all project purposes other than ecosystem restoration

  • Reasonably maximizes net national economic benefits (consistent w/ protecting environment)

  • Recommend NED, unless ASA(CW) grants exception

    • locally preferred plan smaller than NED

    • LPP larger but sponsor pays difference

Ner plan
NER Plan

  • For ecosystem restoration projects

  • Reasonably maximizes net ecosystem benefits compared to costs

  • Must be cost effective

  • Desired level of incremental output must be justified

    • Is it “worth” it?

Plan Selection – NER Benefits OnlyRULE: Reasonably maximize ecosystem restoration benefits compared to costs

Ner plan incremental cost display
NER Plan – Incremental Cost Display

NER Plan = Is it Worth it?




CEA/ ICA Results

Decision Making


Is it worth it?

Is it worth it?

Decision making guidelines:

  • output target

  • output thresholds

  • cost limit

  • breakpoints

  • unintended effects

  • does it make sense?

Ner plan decision making guidelines targets
NER Plan – Decision-Making Guidelines - Targets

Output target ?




Ner plan decision making guidelines thresholds
NER Plan – Decision-Making Guidelines - Thresholds






Ner plan decision making guidelines cost limits
NER Plan – Decision-Making Guidelines – Cost Limits


Cost limit



Ner plan decision making guidelines breakpoints
NER Plan – Decision-Making Guidelines - Breakpoints





Does it make sense
Does it make sense?

Red facetest


“Idiot” test


Ner plan additional considerations
NER Plan - Additional Considerations

  • Meets planning objectives & constraints

  • Passes criteria:

    • significance, acceptability, completeness, effectiveness, efficiency

  • Ecosystem context

    • Restores structure, function, dynamic processes

  • Reasonableness of costs

  • In most cases, should be “best buy” plan

    • ER 1105-2-100 (E-41 c.): Rarely will the NER plan not be among the “best buys”

Ner plan additional considerations risk and uncertainty
NER Plan - Additional Considerations: Risk and Uncertainty

  • Required analysis

  • Often poorly done or missing

  • Report should address differences in:

    • Risk and uncertainty of the alternatives (strive to minimize R&U)

    • Potential for failure

    • Certainty of outcome

    • Potential for Adaptive Management

Ner plan additional considerations1
NER Plan - Additional Considerations

  • Partnership context

    • Cooperative projects have higher priority

    • Regional or national interagency programs

  • Policy Issues

    • Terrestrial vs Aquatic

    • Real Estate proportion (< 25% costs)

    • Should not require mitigation

    • Recreation may not diminish ecosystem output (cannot increase costs >10%)

Budget ec considerations
Budget ECConsiderations

  • While not direct role in selection, affects eventual ability to advance project; these criteria change over time

    • Scarcity

    • Connectivity

    • Special Status Species (provides significant contribution to key life requisite of special status species)

    • Hydrologic character (restoration of natural hydrology)

    • Geomorphic condition (restoration of natural geomorphic processes: erosion, sediment transport, deposition)

    • Plan Recognition (contributes to watershed or basin plans as emphasized in “CW Strategic Plan”)

    • Self-Sustaining / Sustainability

    • Cost per Acre


  • What is the sustainability of the plan?

  • Does it work with natural river / aquatic processes?

  • Can it be sustained in current setting?

  • Is the project working to address key issues associated with sustainability (dredging & sediment reduction)?

  • What are O&M requirements?

Multipurpose plan combined ned ner plan
Multipurpose Plan“Combined NED/NER Plan”

  • For projects with NED & ecosystem restoration benefits

  • No alternative has higher excess NED benefits plus NER benefits over total project costs

  • Maximize sum of net NED & NER benefits

    • “Best” balance between objectives

    • Based on B/C analysis, CE/ICA, & trade-off analysis

National interest balanced plan reflect full range of federal interest ned red eq and ose
National Interest (Balanced) Plan – reflect full range of Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

  • NED – National Economic Development

    • (FDR, Water Supply, Recreation, etc.)

  • RED - Regional Economic Development

    • (construction, employment, etc.)

  • OSE – Other Social Effects

    • (effects on tax base, etc.)

  • EQ – Environmental Quality

    • (ecosystem, water quality, cultural resources, etc.)

Locally preferred plan
Locally Preferred Plan Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

  • May deviate from NED & NER if requested by non-Federal sponsor & approved by ASA(CW)

  • When LPP smaller, usually approved

    • Assist sponsor in identifying others willing & able to participate

    • Must have > net benefits than smaller plans

    • Sufficient number of alternatives analyzed

    • ID tradeoffs & opportunities foregone

    • Complies w/ laws & policies

  • When LPP larger, may be approved

    • Sponsor pays difference

    • NED/NER does not meet local objectives

    • Outputs similar in kind & = or > than Fed plan

    • Complies w/ laws & policies

Systematic formulation and plan selection options
Systematic Formulation and Plan Selection Options Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

  • Formulate small plan that makes sense

  • Add justified increments

  • If Sponsor constraint: Stop.

    • Select LPP  NED / NER / Balanced Plan

  • If no Sponsor constraint: Maximize net benefits.

    • Select NED / NER / Balanced Plan

  • If NED / NER / Balanced Plan does not meet objectives: Add Unjustified Increments.

    • Select LPP > NED / NER / Balanced Plan

NER Example #1: Elizabeth River Ecosystem Restoration Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

Elizabeth river ecosystem restoration
Elizabeth River Ecosystem Restoration Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

  • Planning objectives:

    • Overall, restoration of the Elizabeth River’s aquatic & wetlands ecosystems

    • Specifically:

      • Wetlands restoration

      • Sediment quality restoration

Wetlands & Sediment Sites Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

Somme Avenue

Sugar Hill

Crawford Bay

Wetlands Loss: > 50% since 1944 Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

Sediments clean up outputs
Sediments Clean-Up Outputs Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

  • Reduced Sediment Toxicity

  • Improved Bottom Community

    Health and Diversity

  • Reduced Fish Cancers

  • Improved Sediment Quality

CE/ICA Results for Elizabeth River Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

A = Sugar Hill G = Woodstock Pk

B = Carolanne Farms H = Lancelot Dr

C = Somme Ave I = Grandy Village

D = Scuffletown J = ODU Drainage

E = NW Jordan Br K = Prtsmth City Pk

F = Crawford Bay













Ce ica results for elizabeth river

Second Best Buy Plan: 0.4 Mean ERM Quotient Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

Total Cost: $890,000 Total Score: 10.29

Incr. Cost: $476,200 Incr. Score: 2.45

Incr. Cost/ Unit: $194,367

First Best Buy Plan: 0.6 Mean ERM Quotient

Total Cost: $413,800 Total Score: 7.84

Incr. Cost: $413,800 Incr. Score: 7.84

Incr. Cost/ Unit: $52,781

CE/ICA Results for Elizabeth River


National ecosystem restoration plan
National Ecosystem Restoration Plan Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

  • Wetlands:

    • 9 of 11 candidate restoration sites (ranked sites up to & including Portsmouth City Park) - 19.5 acres

    • Cost effective, 9th best buy plan

    • On functional score, sharp breakpoint after P. City Park

    • On HEP score, breakpoint before P. City Park

    • Include P. City Park: only site on Western Branch (completeness), complements city’s plan for site, public access & educational value (acceptability)

  • Sediment Restoration:

    • Medium level clean-up (0.6 SQV)

    • Cost effective, 1st best buy plan - lowest cost per unit of clean-up benefit of any alternative

    • Sharp breakpoint after medium (0.6 SQV) level

    • Substantial benefits include reduced toxicity & contamination, improved benthos & aquatic resources

Ner plan additional decision criteria
NER Plan - Additional Decision Criteria Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

  • Significance - Ches. Bay Agreement - Region of Concern, priority urban area; LOC’s Local Legacies program; Eliz. River Project - Watershed Action Plan to restore river

  • Scarcity - historic wetlands loss, few “available” sites; toxic sediments - scarcity of aquatic life: low diversity, biomass, high cancer rates

  • Acceptability - ERP, Watershed Action Team: clean-up & wetlands #1 & #2 critical areas

  • Non-Federal sponsors - all 4 juris., VA, ERP

  • Effectiveness - addresses 2 greatest problems, large geographic area, interconnected to natural system

  • Efficiency - passes tests of CE/ICA

Ner example 2 indian river lagoon south comprehensive everglades restoration plan project
NER Example #2: Indian River Lagoon – South Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSEComprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan Project

Problems water quality
Problems: Water Quality Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

Problems water quantity
Problems: Water Quantity Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

…too little

…too much

Problems timing hydroperiod
Problems: Timing & Hydroperiod Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

Wrong timing & distribution of flows

Ditched and drained wetland systems

Irl s objectives constraints
IRL-S Objectives & Constraints Federal Interest – NED, RED, EQ, and OSE

  • Restore Ecological Values:

  • Re-establish a natural pattern of freshwater flows to the St Lucie Estuary (SLE) & Indian River Lagoon (IRL)

  • Improve water quality in the SLE and IRL

  • Improve habitat for estuarine biota

  • Increase spatial extent & functional quality of watershed wetlands & native upland/wetland mosaic

  • Increase diversity & abundance of native plant & animal species, including threatened & endangered species

  • Improve Economic Values & Social Well-Being:

  • Increase water supply

  • Maintain existing flood protection

  • Improve opportunities for tourism, recreation, & environmental education

  • Improve commercial & recreational fisheries

Incremental cost analysis results combined watershed estuary index
Incremental Cost Analysis Results: Combined Watershed & Estuary Index


Alt 4 w/ artificial SAV habitat

Alt 6 w/ artificial SAV habitat

Telling the story rationale for irl s alt 6
Telling the Story: Rationale for Estuary IndexIRL-S Alt 6

  • Best meets planning objectives:

    • Restoration of estuarine aquatic ecosystem (> all other alts)

    • Increased spatial extent of watershed wetlands & uplands (secondary objective)

  • Reasonably maximizes ecosystem output while passing tests of:

    • Cost effectiveness

    • (Best Buy) Incremental Cost Analysis (Alt 6 w/ artificial SAV)

  • Provides 95% outputs of largest alternative (Alt 4), yet costs $53.4 million less than Alt 4

  • Lowest per unit costs of all alts in production of all outputs (Alt 6 w/ artificial SAV)

  • Why include artificial habitat?

    • Low total cost of artificial habitat increment ($630k aaec)

    • “Jump-start” in benefits provides immediate results

    • Builds public support by demonstrating “restoration” quickly

    • Strong inter-agency/ stakeholder support

Who selects the plan
Who Selects the Plan? Estuary Index

  • “Bottom-up” process – project delivery team selects with input from partners

  • Chain-of-command decision-makers (vertical PDT) review & agree or disagree

  • For continuing authorities, review & approval by Division

  • For congressionally authorized projects, ultimate decision makers are ASA(CW), OMB, Congress

  • Bottom line: planners advise; decision-makers decide; good internal and external communication key

Why plans don t succeed
Why Plans Don’t Succeed Estuary Index

  • Plan is flawed

    • wrong objectives; incomplete; bad assumptions

  • Circumstances change

    • priorities; policies; people; values

  • Never funded

    • lack of $; priorities

  • Implementation is blocked

    • decision-makers; interest groups; legal action

      Watch for the signs & take time to reevaluate!

Summary Estuary Index

  • No “NED-like” rule to select single NER plan

  • Rather, NER plan is designated as the plan that:

    • Best meets planning objectives & constraints

    • Reasonably maximizes ecosystem restoration benefits while passing tests of CE/ICA (“worth it?”)

    • Meets significance, acceptability, completeness, effectiveness, & efficiency criteria + R&U