Adaptive Environmental Management for the Lower Columbia River

Cargo ship traveling down Columbia River

Cardno provides technical support in the development and implementation of adaptive environmental management programs.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was charged by federal agencies with implementing an adaptive environmental management (AEM) program to evaluate potential ecological impacts of the Columbia River Channel Improvement Project (CRCIP) on endangered species and other key ecological resources that inhabit or use the Lower Columbia River and Estuary.

Cardno worked with the USACE’s Portland District to develop and implement the AEM program as required to meet terms and conditions specified in the Biological Opinion that permitted the channel improvement project. The AEM Program actively involved several federal and state agencies and organizations as well as tribes representing the Columbia River Basin and the Sponsor Ports. Cardno provided professional facilitation skills to foster communication, collaboration, and mutual trust among the diverse technical and management participants.

Cardno provided technical and organizational support during the design and subsequent ten-year implementation of the CRCIP AEM Program, including:

  • Coordination with the participating federal, tribal, state, and private organizations to produce draft and final plans describing the AEM program
  • Collaboration with stakeholders in identifying quantitative decision criteria for the AEM program
  • Development of a monitoring program to usefully inform the AEM program decision-making process
  • Collating and analyzing monitoring data for quarterly evaluation of the potential impacts of the CRCIP on monitored ecological resources
  • Facilitation of quarterly AEM program meetings with participating organizations
  • Production of annual reports summarizing each year of AEM program analyses and management decisions

In addition, Cardno provided technical and facilitation support to address and resolve specific issues, for example, the desire for a comprehensive sediment management plan that emerged during the conduct of the AEM program.

The decade-long activity was the first formal AEM program implemented in the United States by the USACE. Cardno played a key role in the program’s initial design and its execution throughout the project and was formally recognized for outstanding performance in all phases of the CRCIP AEM Program. Subsequently, Cardno was the only private contractor invited to assist multiple USACE districts and headquarters in drafting guidelines for Corps-wide application of adaptive environmental management.

Cardno continues to provide technical and organization support for adaptive environmental management to the USACE, in locations ranging from the Upper Mississippi River to coastal Louisiana and southern Florida.