Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Staying supple

I spent the morning in the company of a great crew that works on implementing AM for the Central Platte River in Nebraska - the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. One of the things that is great about the program is the well worked out and detailed governance procedures - although the governing committee gives lots of folks a hard time, it also provides a clear "chain of command", and a place for stakeholders to have their voices heard.

One of the things that's not so good is the lack of flexibility created by those same detailed procedures. Two things in particular that changed after the agreements were signed 1) Phragmites australis spread throughout the central Platte, and 2) Ironoquia plattensis, a new caddisfly species was discovered. Surprise! The future is not like the past. This is exactly the situation that AM should be able to deal with - new information that changes how management actions will play out. Phragmites is problematic because it dramatically changes how the vegetation community will respond to short duration high flow events - it is very resistant to scouring and drowning. It seems as though the reality of Phragmites is settling in, but it took a tremendously long time, and caused much angst. So the key problem is how to design a program that is sufficiently well tied down that people will sign on, but remains flexible enough to deal with new circumstances far outside the scope of the original concept.

Maybe too much to ask, especially when the stakes are high.

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