Institutional Issues Affecting Marine Habitat Management
The wealth of information and practical capabilities that are available for applying engineering technologies to protect, enhance, restore, and create marine habitats are discussed in Chapter 3. Yet much of this potential remains unused or underused in day-to-day marine habitat protection and management activities. This situation reflects the staying power of the status quo at all levels of government and industry; it also reflects society's institutional framework for approaching stewardship of marine habitat resources. Although protection or restoration of marine habitat is implied in no net loss of wetlands (a goal espoused by the 1988 National Wetlands Policy Forum), a sustained, universal commitment has not been demonstrated. Other than wetlands, marine habitat is not well-addressed in national policy. General, albeit poorly defined, goals have been developed to achieve no net loss (National Wetlands Policy Forum, 1988). But there are no universal guidelines or standards for even the most basic restoration work, and those guidelines that are available are not enforced consistently. Nor are there national or state licensing requirements for practitioners, although local license requirements are beginning to appear (Eisenberg, 1992). The information exchange network is evolving, but many practitioners are still groping for information on restoration techniques, experience, and guidelines. Important information about the biological and physical structure of specific habitats and life history patterns of aquatic plants and animals is often not available. What is disseminated often focuses exclusively, or nearly so, on projects involving emergent wetlands. In addition, there are major disincentives and few incentives for either public or private initiative. Coastal engineering as a discipline faces a great challenge and opportunity to advance the state of practice as it relates to
these institutional weaknesses. Engineers, scientists, and policymakers could improve professional development, establish universally accepted performance standards, improve technology transfer, and remedy institutional constraints in many ways, as discussed in this report.
The Absence of National Direction
There is no national commitment to protect, enhance, restore, and create marine habitats. Current programs and policies lack a clear focus on managing whole ecosystems and area marked by fragmented and uncoordinated action (NRC, 1992a).
The commitment most like a national policy is found in the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA)[16 U.S.C. 14–51 et. seq.]: to ''preserve, protect, develop with proper environmental safeguards, and where possible, restore and enhance the resources of the nation's coastal zone." Its inherent ambiguity is reflected in the history of conflict over development permits under state programs that implement the act and in rounds of litigation wherein the federal government opposes state safeguards for marine resources (for example, Secretary of Interior v. California, 52 LW 4064 [Sup. Ct. 1984]; Norfolk Southern Corp. v. Oberly, 24 ERC 1586 [D.C. Del. 1985]). The most powerful legal authority for the protection and restoration of marine resources is found not in the CZMA but in Sections 404 and 1313 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The regulatory program that implements the acts' provisions is jointly administered by the EPA and the USACE. Section 404 regulates dredge and fill activities and wetlands including coastal waters and estuaries. Section 1313 establishes requirements for development and approval of coastal water quality standards. Additional legal authority has been conferred on EPA and the NOAA under the 1990 amendments to the CZMA to set both coastal water quality criteria and technical standards for agriculture.
Except for protection and despite the aforementioned legal authorities, no single federal agency has primary responsibility to protect, enhance, restore, or create marine habitat. This has resulted in a lack of coordination among the programs of the various agencies, although present agency responsibilities do provide some checks and balances. Recognizing that marine habitat is only one of the many important environmental responsibilities of federal agencies, reorganizing agency structure and responsibilities for marine habitat management purposes alone is not supportable. Nevertheless, it would be desirable to improve coordination requirements and processes while also retaining the beneficial aspects of the existing checks and balances.
More than a dozen federal construction, regulatory, management, and construction agencies, including EPA, USACE, the NMFS, USFWS, the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), and the Bureau of Reclamation have responsibilities for marine habitat management. The location of the field offices are based on considerations other than marine habitat and one agency's field office locations bear no relation to those of another. This complicates coordination of marine habitat management responsibilities and projects. Responsibility is also distributed to regional bodies, such as regional fishery management councils. At the federal level alone, a project in Louisiana, for example, may concern the Army Corps of Engineers offices in New Orleans and offices and laboratories in Vicksburg, Mississippi; the EPA in Dallas; the NMFS in Baton Rouge; the USFWS in Lafayette, Louisiana; the SCS in Alexandria, Virginia; and the Gulf Coast Fishery Management Council in St. Petersburg, Florida. The situation is similar on every seaboard. Coordinating a single marine project among these federal agencies, to say nothing of coordinating a plan, can be a demanding challenge.
Agencies with significant responsibilities for protecting and restoring marine habitat, such as NMFS and USFWS, regularly find their environmental interests in conflict with those of other federal and state development agencies; their environmental interests may also be subordinated to or competing with interests of other programs within their agencies. Competition for stewardship versus exploitation of resources can result (NRC, 1992a).
The authority of some agencies with responsibilities for marine habitat management is limited mainly to commenting on development proposals. A consequence of this limited authority is the agencies' inability to insist on the full use of avoidance and restoration technology to maintain marine habitats. Both the NMFS and USFWS have equal authority under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act of 1958 to request that a permit be denied for a development project subject to the Section 404 process. The internal policies of these agencies on when to elevate decision making to a higher level are different and are also affected by the number of permits, which vary by the numbers of species and geographic areas for which each agency is responsible and staff resources that are available. For these reasons, the NMFS, which manages fisheries but not fish habitats (national marine sanctuaries are managed by NOAA's National Ocean Service), elevates its concerns about marine habitat restoration projects and requests denial of permits less frequently and more selectively than the USFS. Further, both agencies are inconsistent in submitting comments on proposed development activities; often they fail to evaluate fully the adverse effects on wildlife (Bean, 1983).
The Army Corps of Engineers and the USFWS entered into a funding agreement (Fish and Wildlife Funding Agreement) whereby the Corps transfers funds to the USFWS to support USFWS obligations under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. The NMFS has no such agreement. With the additional funds, the USFWS can devote more effort evaluating and commenting on activities that impact marine habitat than it otherwise could. Because both the USFWS and
NMFS are vested with similar responsibilities under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, it is reasonable to expect that both would benefit from such agreements. Then both would have more opportunities to produce balanced reviews of impacts on marine habitats.
Marine resource protection and enhancement projects are further limited by the vast difference in federal funding provided to ports, highways, canals, and coastal development projects, as opposed to restoration and regulatory functions. In 1990, Congress partially addressed this imbalance in the Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (P.L. 101-646), known as the Breaux-Johnson Bill, which authorized appropriations generated from a gas tax on small engines for the restoration of coastal resources; these monies are presently directed almost exclusively to Louisiana. In sum, the federal establishment is operating in the marine environment through a various separate agencies, under conflicting and limited authorities, and under severe funding restraints.
Without a strong national priority within each agency to improve the status and acreage of marine habitats, these resources will continue to deteriorate or be lost, notwithstanding the availability of coastal engineering technology that could be used. Goals could be developed for the many pieces that comprise the coastal picture. The Army Corps of Engineers, for example, could adopt a national goal concerning wider use of dredged material as a resource for marine habitat management and establish milestones for each of its districts. Similar goals could be developed for mitigating coastal habitat losses and, for that matter, their avoidance. EPA goals to relieve waters of excess nutrient loads and other marine pollutants could be specifically targeted to marine habitats. Another approach is acquisition of marine habitat from the private or commercial sectors to protect it from development. The purchase of acreage for use as habitat preserve could be a USFWS goal. Such acquisitions would be visible and measurable signs of progress. Another option is to designate marine habitat under federal jurisdiction for special protection, such as is done in NOAA's Marine Sanctuaries Program.
Federal, state, and local agencies operate coastal projects that have been in place for decades. In most cases, these projects were initially designed for a single purpose. A systematic review of such projects to determine the feasibility of modifications to benefit marine habitat is desirable; in fact, the Army Corps of Engineers has specific authority (Section 306, Water Resources Development Act of 1990) to review its projects. Other agencies that need similar authority could request it, but have not done so.
Although coastal habitat restoration projects are more common in recent years under the impetus of Section 404 and CZMA regulatory programs, state, federal, and regional agencies have not agreed on guidelines for addressing the basic issues involved in marine habitat restoration and other resource improvements.
Policies and objectives compete not only among the agencies with marine habitat responsibilities but also among habitat-related programs within the agencies. The differences in agency responsibilities greatly affect agency support for projects and often result in conflicting guidance. The conflicting guidance plus the absence of a process that at least maximizes cooperation, threatens project success. Each agency's authority and program objectives could be reviewed to identify the conflicts that are relevant to marine habitat management as well as those that are beneficial.
Government agencies, coastal developers, biologists, and engineers do not necessarily agree on what a successful restoration project entails. The lack of agreement on criteria to evaluate results becomes especially acute when a project is proposed as an offset to or in "mitigation for" known losses from a proposed activity that converts natural habitat. Evaluation of the project's purposes, its location, the natural functions to be restored, their quantity, quality and value, and their similarity or dissimilarity to the resources lost is the subject of ad hoc negotiations producing widely different requirements. They vary not only from region to region but also among permittees for developing identical resources at nearly identical times within the same geographic area.
These disparities erode the credibility of marine restoration for developers and environmentalists alike. For developers, the process is an exercise in developing the least-cost option, an additional price to be negotiated. For environmental groups, it is a form of roulette, with the likely incremental loss of some if not all the marine resources at stake.
One existing mechanism that could be used to remedy the fragmented organizational authority is regional fishery management councils. The United States has eight regional councils with responsibility mandated under the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1801 et. seq.) to maintain fishery stocks at levels that can be harvested and not depleted. They do so by developing a fishery management plan for each fishery they are managing. As specified in the Magnuson Act and in the policies and procedures of each council, habitat must be considered as part of plan development and of regulations for management under the plan. Each council has a habitat committee responsible for examining plans. The committee may develop rules and regulations for the habitat of fishes that are managed, even when the habitat is landward of the council's usual area of responsibility. The council also reviews permit requests submitted to other agencies, and the agencies must address their questions and reservations. Council authority for habitat conservation is rarely used except in the permitting of artificial reefs and the creation of special management zones for habitat enhancement of fishery resources (Robert Mahood, personal communication, March 8, 1994). Most activities that directly impact marine habitat are regulated in some manner, although the operation of recreational boats is with few exceptions not regulated to protect marine habitat (such regulation would be very difficult due to political considerations, the vast areas in which recreational
boating activity occurs, and limited enforcement resources). Although there has been considerable variability in the performance of the FMCs, the infrastructure is in place. Potentially, the FMCs could be used to promote improvements in the stewardship of the nation's valuable marine habitat resources and an ecosystem approach to fisheries management, although measures to ensure stewardship at appropriate levels would need to accompany increases in responsibility.
FMC actions involving marine habitats could benefit greatly from some type of general criteria and integration of specific goals. These could involve national, regional, and local habitat management plans that are coordinated among the agencies and interested parties. Although hard economic values of particular species and their population levels would probably remain difficult to quantify, the relative importance of the general elements and the desired scale of habitat needs could be discerned to assist decisionmakers in resource allocations. Where measurable project goals have not been established (and in some cases where they have), the project site is compared with an adjacent control or natural area, particularly for determining faunal similarities such as fish populations (Lewis, 1992). For example, Landin et al. (1989c) compared 11 sites to 29 similar reference sites over 19 years in the fortieth of a series of studies. These comparative studies can be used to set performance standards for individual projects. It is hoped that relative economic values can be translated into specific projects and costs. This information, in turn, would be useful in identifying project objectives and priorities. The potential for opportunistic habitat creation as an alternative to current responsive mitigation techniques could then be realized. Habitat project coordination, although challenging (NRC, 1985d), is highly desirable for directing and encouraging future development of technological systems and innovative methods in support of marine habitat work.
Limited Compliance, Monitoring, and Enforcement
The unavailability of accepted standards and criteria for marine habitat restoration is exacerbated by the frequent absence of requirements for follow-up monitoring to determine the effectiveness of the effort and even by the absence of enforcement necessary to ensure basic compliance. Although the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies do require monitoring, it needs to be carefully structured to provide effective measures of performance. Determinations are frequently performed in a cursory manner; because the habitat looks as it should, it is considered a success. But restoration work may overlook fundamental ecosystem functions. Tidal creeks and channels associated with marshes, for example, offer a haven for juvenile fishes and exhibit high biological productivity. When these areas are not incorporated in restoration, the site's ecological value is diminished. Restoration as a mitigation effort often pays too little attention to ecosystem functioning to be effective, then monitoring must be both technically and scientifically sound to be effective.
A recent survey by the Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Florida determined that, of all coastal mitigation projects analyzed over a recent 3-year period, more than one half were not completed and nearly one third had not even begun (Roberts, 1991). One consequence, among others, of this failure to ensure compliance is to make it less costly for a developer simply to go through the motions to construct something that looks right than to provide an ecologically viable product, albeit at a potentially higher cost. Practitioners employing sound marine habitat restoration practices and technology are then at a competitive disadvantage when the efficacy of project construction techniques and habitat performance is not validated.
The lack of monitoring perpetuates the lack of knowledge about what works and what does not. Monitoring of coastal restoration projects varies widely with the nature of the habitat in question, the restoration technology, the capabilities of the project sponsor and contractors, and the funds available. Success rates among ecosystems vary from 10 to 80 percent. Expenditures for the design, engineering, construction, and monitoring of a successful restoration project may well exceed $1 million, depending on its scope. Whether it would be far more cost effective not to alter or destroy marine habitat than to restore or replace it would depend on site-specific circumstances. It is important to recognize that the time frame that is required for the return of all natural functions is not known; it may be on the order of decades. Therefore, a project is not necessarily a failure if all functions have not returned within a couple of years. This is a particularly important consideration with respect to restoration or creation projects offered in mitigation of habitat conversions and to the mitigation banking concept, particularly in those instances where an existing habitat is converted before the replacement habitat has been fully established and is performing to whatever criteria are accepted for the replacement project.
Despite the risk of failure in restoration projects and the potentially high costs of true success, government agencies and private developers are turning to the promise of restoration and creation as a means of complying with regulatory requirements and the announced federal goal of no net loss. One problem is that developers want to move ahead without waiting for a determination of whether a restoration or creation effort is successful, a process that may take more than 10 years. The alternatives of advanced mitigation and mitigation banking are experimental. The real issues in mitigation are that it lacks standards and certainty in performance, although improvements in each area can increase costs due to monitoring and corrective action that may be indicated (thus affecting the project cost-benefit ratio). Applied indiscriminately and without strict guidance, monitoring, and analysis, restoration used as mitigation trades resource losses for promises. This can jeopardize both the technology and the philosophy behind mitigation and restoration. To the extent that restoration and creation technology succeeds, it will be believed and supported. To the extent that it is viewed as a
pretext to destroy marine resources, it will fail (Kusler and Kentula, 1990; Landin, 1992a; National Wetlands Policy Forum, 1988; Thayer, 1992).
Regulatory Programs and Constraints
Although regulatory programs for the protection of marine resources are a major impetus for restoration, they are also major impediments to effective habitat protection and management. Section 404 of the CWA and coastal management program requirements (stating that harm to marine resources should be avoided where possible or minimized and mitigated where impacts cannot be avoided) has stimulated development of new technology to restore and create marine habitats. Without these requirements, developers were seldom motivated to invest in marine habitat projects. To a considerable extent, therefore, advances in enhancement, restoration, and creation technology will be made in close proportion to the rigor with which the regulatory programs are implemented. Experience with the CWA and other pollution control laws shows that new technologies appear for all kinds of processes, from bleaching paper to treating sewage, once regulations require them.
The benefits of strong regulatory programs notwithstanding, a real danger is their being too rigid for innovative applications of restoration and creation technology. Practitioners report that the conflicts arising from state and federal agency regulations and regulatory programs constrain successful restoration (Yozzo, 1991). Regulators need to look beyond simple opposition to any proposed change. Specifically, large-scale restoration and creation projects are needed for important resource areas. They could be funded in part by the parties responsible for loss of the areas planned for human development. In addition, partnerships may need to be developed to mobilize resources and to spread funding responsibilities. Such arrangements are appropriate for mitigation banking, an approach for which the federal government could provide leadership and guidance.
Federal and state agencies continue to operate under policies that have not kept pace with environmental protection generally or the restoration and creation of marine habitat specifically. Despite recent federal legislation incorporating an ecosystem approach to management, powerful constraints remain.
The most obvious disincentive is the lack of funding for both restoration and the regulatory programs whose authorities facilitate some but not all private restoration. Practitioners cite funding as the most important constraint (Yozzo, 1991); funds are simply not available. Given this situation, hard choices need to be made. The general lack of funding is exacerbated by funding imbalances that reflect the continuing bias for projects for which economic benefits can be quantified. The imbalances also reflect the common property nature of marine resources
that, because they belong to no one, fail to garner the strength of the constituency generated by shippers, real estate developers, and other private concerns. The WRDAs of 1986, 1990 and 1992, attempted to redress this imbalance, at least within the Army Corps of Engineers, by directing that further development projects incorporate the benefits from environmental enhancement of marine systems. To ensure adequate consideration of enhancement of marine systems during project evaluation, ways to make habitat protection, enhancement, restoration, and creation economically competitive and desirable as project components need to be further developed (Landin, 1991). Ways to provide innovative private funding and sharing of environmental costs are now encouraged under Section 103 of WRDA 1992.
Cost is also a factor in precluding or at least slowing the development and application of technology to micromanage habitats. For example, control of water levels in small habitats may require maintenance of an infrastructure that responsible agencies often cannot afford. In turn, they are not motivated to develop innovative techniques that could lower the costs. A case in point is the possible development of comparatively small mechanical systems to modify the transport patterns of sand near tidal inlets, both to improve navigation and to prevent erosion in localized areas. Such systems (Clausner et al., 1990; Jenkins and Bailard, 1989) and analogous ones for transporting sediment out of reservoirs into downstream water courses, debated more than two decades ago, have not yet been implemented. Field testing is generally inadequate for determining their applicability in the coastal zone.
Funding constraints are felt throughout federal agencies, to the level of personnel responsible for providing specific results (for example, so many miles of channel maintained) on a fixed budget. The system lacks the flexibility to add environmental costs, even for greater environmental benefits.
Strict cost standards are still imposed internally on projects critical to coastal restoration, such as the use of dredged material for marine habitat creation. The total volume of dredged material in coastal Louisiana, for example, estimated at 90 million tons per year, is about the amount needed to balance the current rate of natural subsidence and subsidence of human origin such as that resulting from hydrocarbon and groundwater extraction. Levee systems prevent about 10 million tons of material from naturally entering and replenishing the marsh (Davis, 1992; Kesel, 1988), except where water control structures have been built and levees breached. However, the material is not always dredged near where it is most needed to support environmental work. Even with the massive amounts of material available and despite its importance for feeding existing marshes, the Army Corps of Engineers continues to apply a self-imposed least-cost environmentally acceptable disposal standard. In practice, this equals least cost, requiring local project sponsors to assume the additional cost of using dredged materials to achieve environmental objectives. Sediments that could
benefit marine habitat management are often dumped offshore, or more often, into confined disposal facilities where the sediments are lost to the ecosystem.
In addition to funding disincentives, the most fundamental institutional constraints on adopting new and beneficial technology are the power of the status quo and the added cost of conducting business. Port authorities, construction firms, federal agencies, landowners, and others prefer the predictability of the status quo unless it is clearly in their interest to change processes and practices. They resist changes that increase costs unless they perceive a tangible benefit. Resistance to change is apparent in the slow adoption of existing technology that would prevent harm to marine systems altogether, such as the increased use of directional drilling and the use of overmarsh vehicles to access oil and gas locations, as well as in simple restoration technology, such as backfilling dredged canals on their abandonment. None of these technologies is a panacea to avoid harm to marine habitat, but each can potentially reduce significant adverse effects. Resistance (in the form of maintaining the status quo) lies at the heart of the problem and reinforces all the difficulties noted in institutional change. A further complicating factor is that conflicts often arise when reconversions are attempted; for example, fishermen often object to backfilling access canals.
The Lack of Incentives
Because threats to the coastal zone are varied, a broad understanding of the range of problems is needed so that incentives to protect coastal resources can be developed. An explosive coastal population, degraded water quality, and large-scale sea level rise and erosion are just some of the threats. The totality of existing programs offers some incentives and some disincentives to remedy the trend of habitat degradation and loss, but many programs fall short of desired objectives. The Coastal Barrier Resources Act, for example, restricts the use of federal funds for development in designated coastal areas in an attempt to discourage development of vital areas. Although the program has deterred some development, more areas need to be designated under the act for it to have any large-scale impact. The National Flood Insurance Program was similarly designed to minimize losses from development in flood prone areas, including the coastal zone. There is anecdotal evidence that success in minimizing losses also has the effect of attracting coastal development, creating further pressure on marine habitat. Other programs, such as those under Section 404 of the CWA and the Swampbuster program of the Food Security Act of 1990 (which authorizes the SCS Wetland Reserve Program with a goal of 1 million acres by the year 2000), do not specifically address marine habitat management, although these authorities can be applied in conjunction with management programs. Only those activities involving the deposition of dredge or fill material are regulated under Section 404; much litigation is associated with determining what constitutes a deposition. Further, the Section 404 permit process does not deter coastal
development projects. Nevertheless, CWA provisions constitute powerful legal authority if used creatively and effectively by federal authorities with marine habitat management responsibilities.
On the private side, few economic incentives appear to be available to land-owners, developers, engineers firms, and others interested in solving marine resource problems. Creative use of large-scale and carefully controlled mitigation banking is one possibility. Several states are experimenting with relief from taxation, and reduced tax assessments as financial rewards for individual environmental initiatives.
Many new types of incentives are feasible. One possible incentive to prevent wetlands loss is a property tax break for landowners who preserve their wetlands. The establishment of nonprofit wetland preservation trusts, providing donors with tax benefits and financial assistance, is another. Fishery habitat protection could be funded by Fishing Stamps in the same way that Duck Stamps are used to protect waterfowl habitat. These are just a few ways to develop incentives under or modeled after the current system. There is a long way to go, however; using market incentives to preserve coastal areas is means to improve the incentive base. With the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 as a model, government at all levels could use economic principles to motivate polluters and developers to preserve habitat. Transfers of development rights may be possible through a bank established to buy, sell, and guarantee loans for the private transfer of development rights from preservation and agricultural areas to designated growth areas or through land exchanges. For example, the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission used transfers of development rights to preserve vital marine areas within the bay area.
One incentive that has met with considerable success in minimizing the adverse environmental impacts of industrial development is identification of the best available technology for industrial categories under the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. This concept has not been applied to the dredging or restoration industries, whose activities both heavily impact the coastal zone and hold the promise for considerable restoration benefits. Whether advanced by incentives or rigid technology standards, advancement in the technologies of damage avoidance and restoration at reasonable costs is overdue. Although some incentives can be established within the current institutional boundaries, it is unlikely that the full potential of incentives will be realized broadly until national priorities for marine habitat protection and restoration are set and implemented.
Most activities that directly impact marine habitat are regulated in some manner, although the operation of recreational boats is with few exceptions not regulated to protect marine habitat (such regulation would be very difficult due to political considerations, the vast areas in which recreational boating activity
occurs, and limited enforcement resources). The decision making process associated with regulation involves numerous agencies, is generally time consuming, and suffers to some extent from a lack of mutual understanding and communication among the parties involved. Technical aspects of engineering activities are generally not understood by some of those involved, in some instances the regulators. On the other hand, engineers need to recognize that those with whom they must communicate are mostly nonengineers such as regulators, scientists, elected and appointed officials, and members of the interested public. Although the process is cumbersome because of the multiple interests involved, it nevertheless works. A single agency cannot be expected to develop the necessary expertise to evaluate activities without information and advice from outside sources. Establishment of a ''superagency" for centralized management is unrealistic and contrary to the need for a balance of interests in the decision making process (NRC, 1985d). Absent establishment of time constraints associated with decision making, it is difficult to expect significant improvements in the time required to evaluate regulated activities.
Historically, the engineering profession has responded well to emergent societal demands and concerns (NRC, 1985a,c). With heightened public environmental consciousness, the profession faces a great challenge and opportunity to contribute to conservation endeavors. Unfortunately, the pace of technological changes and societal pressures may exceed the engineering profession's ability to respond effectively (NRC, 1985c), but engineers and scientists concerned with marine habitat protection and management need not wait for institutional or technological advances to improve the state of practice. As practitioners become more involved in innovative projects, they will place greater demands on the system for better educational, regulatory, and technological advances, and more opportunities to effect change in the system will emerge (Blackburn, 1993).
The technical competence of regulatory personnel as an institutional factor is of particular concern, and the turnover rate is high in many regulatory offices at both national and regional levels. This situation can result in a loss of institutional memory within an office and, for the regulators, little experience in regulatory matters, a limited understanding of the technology that is applied, and poor understanding of scientific and engineering criteria for assessing project performance. As is true of engineering and environmental professionals engaged in marine habitat management, most regulators are not specifically licensed or certified to work in environmental disciplines. If, as is frequently the case, neither builders nor permitting personnel have formal training or lengthy experience in marine habitat protection and restoration, then regulators with uncertain qualifications (but considerable position-related influence) are overseeing practitioners with equally uncertain qualifications and performance records. It is then
difficult to differentiate between the successful, experienced regulator and the one who lacks the knowledge, skills, and experience to perform effectively. Although professional training courses are available, especially for federal regulators, the opportunity to participate in such training is often limited by workloads, training opportunities, and travel costs, among other factors. The ultimate result is that the ineffective or incorrect application of technology that might result from defective regulation can inadvertently discredit habitat protection and restoration.
Ecology Training for Engineers
Coastal engineering is the composite of relevant engineering disciplines applied in the coastal zone. It is usually taught at the graduate level. Even so, engineering programs that incorporate ecological principles in their perspectives, attitudes, and philosophy are rare at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. An awareness of the need to incorporate interdisciplinary studies is growing (NRC, 1985a). Nevertheless, additional interdisciplinary training and practical experience under the supervision of qualified professionals is usually needed for engineers wishing to enter the coastal engineering field.
Academic institutions could require engineering courses relating to ecological studies. Students whose career goals are in the coastal engineering profession, for example, could be exposed to courses on marine habitat types, functions, environmental monitoring, and evaluation criteria. Although it is difficult to stretch the demands of an ever expanding engineering curriculum, the demand for multidisciplinary planning in all aspects of engineering practice require that academic institutions instill in the students an appreciation of how other disciplines affect the success of the engineering profession. On the job training and continuing education are important to maintaining, building, and refreshing skills in any profession, but they cannot substitute for the essential base knowledge provided through engineering curricula. A challenge for academic institutions in this regard is acceptance by the faculty that multidisciplinary programs are essential to the success of the practicing engineer (Blackburn, 1993).
Engineering Training for Scientists
Unlike engineering training, ecology training often includes courses on science and society or environmental science and public policy. These courses are generally offered at the graduate level and are not required. It is usually in these courses that engineering issues are raised. Awareness of the value of the relationship between the ecological sciences and engineering in determining the success of projects with environmental components is growing; courses dedicated
to this relationship could be developed to provide a more substantial and practical basis for scientists entering related fields.
Engineering curricula are fixed and limited by tradition, accreditation criteria, and faculty interests. Examination of course descriptions indicates the absence of a strong movement to include ecological principles in the engineering curriculum, even in institutions with coastal environmental and public policy programs. The majority of engineering curricula are professional-task oriented. Curricula requirements provide little opportunity for courses beyond the primary disciplines, and in most programs, such courses as science and society are electives. With only a few exceptions, truly interdisciplinary curricular efforts are found in graduate programs, and they are modest. Even when an undergraduate curriculum is truly interdisciplinary, students usually complete a double major to achieve this objective. Concurrently, if departments do acknowledge the need for an aquatic ecology course and it is available in another academic unit, under current academic philosophy it is offered only as an elective. Educational institutions could recognize the importance of meeting important multidisciplinary needs including the introduction of engineering principles to environmental science and ecology students. A corresponding goal for engineering students, particularly those planning to work on environmental projects, is exposure to ecological principles that are now essential to successful engineering practices.
Continuing Professional Education
Significant changes in the traditional engineering curriculum are not expected. The demands on student time to pursue pure engineering requirements continue to grow. Institutions cannot expand the engineering curriculum to equip the graduating engineer fully to address ecological components of engineering projects. But academic institutions can instill in the students a recognition that successful professional development includes more than continued engineering education. To some extent of more immediate importance, it also includes educational and professional development relating to environmental considerations that are inherent in engineering practice. Engineers who practice in specific branches of engineering for many years become specialists, but often at the expense of losing touch with engineering fundamentals and the new issues and problems that engage the profession. The need for training across disciplines is acute. All groups involved must become aware of these needs before significant positive changes in the system can occur.
In-house training programs and workshops are one mechanism to keep practitioners up to date on the principles and tools of the profession. The content of training programs and criteria for standards of performance could be determined
by the professionals in the academic community, government, and private sector. Special sessions that address these issues could be developed and presented at regional and national meetings. Sessions on wetland ecology could be presented at the annual meetings of professional and trade organizations. The latter does occur, but the emphasis could be placed on the practicing coastal ecologists' use of information from these workshops.
Ecologists also need continuing education programs to understand the limitations, questions, and opportunities in engineering practices in the marine environment. There have been fewer training programs directed at the ecological than at the engineering audience. Generally, ecologists tend to be more broadly trained, a fact that may account for their adaptability to problem solving when they work with engineers on specific projects. Practitioners report that planning and implementation by individuals with ecological training and an understanding of the constraints of coastal engineering practices resulted in more successful marine habitat restoration projects, depending on what criteria were used to determine success.
Few agencies and institutions involved in marine habitat protection and management require third party accreditation for their employees, although some engineering firms require professional engineer licenses for attaining senior status (Yozzo, 1991) (see Box 5-1 for regulation and certification terms). However, professional licenses are rarely required for work in marine habitat management, nor are market forces or custom sufficiently developed to motivate voluntary
BOX 5-1 Professional Regulation and Certification Terms
Licensing An authorization in the form of a license granted by a government or an entity to perform or provide a function or service. Licensing is rooted in a government's police powers and is applied for the purpose of protecting public health, safety, and welfare.
Registration A listing of an individual or entity with and by a government or non-government body. A listing does not grant authority or address qualifications.
Certification A voluntary act by an individual and a certifying entity that, in some organized fashion, measures an individual's qualifications to perform a specialized function. No authority or privilege is conveyed, although custom or market forces may require or necessitate an individual's obtaining certification.
Accreditation A voluntary act similar to certification, except that it is applied to institutions and programs, not individuals.
SOURCE: Anderson (1992)
certification of individuals or accreditation of organizations engaged in marine habitat management beyond that noted above.
Existing Licensing Requirements Professional licensing statutes for engineers exist in all states. Because of exemptions in the laws, however, only about one third of all practicing engineers hold professional engineer (PE) licenses (Anderson, 1992). Professional engineer licenses by themselves do not ensure that an individual is trained or current in environmental or coastal engineering practices or in the application of protection and restoration technology. But licensing provides at least one way to define competency.
Voluntary Registration and Certification Programs Another approach to professional regulation is voluntary registration or certification (Box 5-1). The latter is sometimes an intermediate step toward formal regulation through professional licensing. The first voluntary certification for environmental engineers was introduced in 1955 by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers (AAEE) (Anderson, 1992). Currently more than 60 professional organizations that operate voluntary registration or certification programs for individuals in various environmental disciplines. Some certification programs have substantial expertise, experience, and peer review requirements and are considered credible by environmental and engineering professionals. However, a number of registration and certification programs are nothing more than a listing or issuance of a certificate upon payment of a fee. Some registration and certification organizations publish directories that are simply listings or that include brief professional profiles of certified experts (Anderson, 1992). The sheer number of registration and certification programs works against the credibility of all of them (Eisenberg, 1992).
None of the organizations operating credible programs has the constituency or interdisciplinary breadth necessary to encompass all environmental and engineering professionals working in habitat protection and restoration (Eisenberg, 1992). Although several professional organizations with credible voluntary certification programs are working on a national standard and organization for professional certification, the effort has just begun (Anderson, 1992).
Project proponents as well as individuals offering coastal engineering services for marine habitat management may be unaware of certification programs for ecologists, environmental professionals, and environmental engineers. They may also not be aware that marine habitat project managers do not use certification as a criterion for selection of individuals for work on a project.
Some Pros and Cons of Certification and Accreditation Voluntary certification and accreditation are not panaceas; they do not guarantee professional qualifications or competency. However, the fact that an individual or organization has invested time, effort, and resources in obtaining a specialty certification or accreditation
from a credible organization and is willing to ascribe to a professional code of ethics is another filter or test of professional qualifications. Certification does not eliminate the project sponsor's implied responsibility to verify an individual's credentials, background, project history, and references. The same screening applies to noncertified individuals as well.
Certification can be used to build personal confidence and professional credibility within peer groups. It can also help build the professional standing of individuals who serve as expert witnesses. If credible accreditation were developed within the marine habitat management field, it too could serve as one screening measure in determining an organization's capabilities and reliability. Yet not all individuals in the engineering disciplines support specialty certification and accreditation. Some see little return on the investment of time and resources. Others do not perceive personal improvement in individual credentials, professional recognition, or an organization's professional reputation.
Professional Regulation as an Institutional Constraint Under the present circumstances, it is difficult to determine which practitioners can effectively apply habitat protection and restoration technology. In the absence of accepted professional credentials, some local jurisdictions are establishing their own licensing requirements for environmental work. If this trend continues, many licensing requirements with widely varying criteria will likely result (Eisenberg, 1992). Multijurisdictional licensing could easily result in a jumble of time-consuming and costly overhead requirements. Such a development would be a substantial institutional constraint for an emerging discipline, particularly because many respected practitioners in both small and large companies work nationwide.
Educating the public and the policy officials is very important for the preservation of marine habitats because history shows that a well-informed public provides the impetus for policy and sociological change (Water Quality 2000, 1992). Public support requires public understanding of what is involved in marine habitat destruction and how it can affect the structure of the coastline, protection of the mainland from storms, habitats of migratory birds, nursery grounds for fish and shellfish, and the public at large. Public education on marine habitats is a primary mission and objective of the National Sea Grant College Program of NOAA. Extensive information on curricular development and implementation and public education is available from Sea Grant Colleges and their associated extension programs. It is also important that the public in districts directly or indirectly affected by marine habitat losses understands the implications for themselves and the ecological system. Public expectations must be guided by accurate information about reconstructed habitats and what they can be expected to accomplish. To achieve these information objectives, the public education
process would need to cross all affected and interested public sectors. It could then help the public focus on the issues and would further needed change in public policy and administration.
Limited Information Transfer
Considerable national attention is focused within the scientific community on emergent wetlands and by the Army Corps of Engineers on use of dredged material as a resource. Each year, the Society of Wetlands Scientists holds national forums at which information on progress is shared and published. A wetlands restoration workshop (with published proceedings) has been held annually since 1974. Similarly, the USACE hosts an annual forum in which developments in beneficial uses of dredged material are discussed and published. Other conferences and meetings also occur on related topics such as wetlands, fisheries, water quality, and wildlife. Environmental journals and magazines periodically feature articles and papers on habitat restoration. Restoration & Management Notes, a quarterly, serves as an information exchange forum that features restoration activity in coastal communities. A growing number of publications that provide technical insight and case histories. The National Sea Grant Program and the six USACE national dredging and wetlands research programs are particularly rich sources of restoration materials. Considerable regional restoration information is also available, for example, for the San Francisco Bay area, coastal Louisiana, Chesapeake Bay, and Florida. There is also a substantial body of literature that includes project-specific documents, but no information is available on the degree to which this literature is reaching a broad cross section of practitioners. Available information tends to be compartmented within subdisciplines and is not always readily useful or adaptable. Many of the documents acquired for this report are project-specific reports with limited circulation. Substantially more could be done to track marine habitat projects to develop a broader understanding of planning and approval, application of technology, performance, and monitoring regimes.
National policy in marine habitat management lacks specific, well-developed goals and a sustained, universal commitment to action. A clear focus on managing entire ecosystems is also absent. There is no well-defined national commitment to protect or restore natural resources in the coastal zone. Although powerful legal authority for the protection and restoration of marine resources exists, it is found in the CWA rather than in enabling legislation directed specifically at the coastal zone. No federal agency has primary responsibility for balancing marine habitat protection and restoration needs with other natural resource interests. There are few common boundaries in agency jurisdiction,
location of field offices, and interests in marine resources. Marine habitat management is a responsibility of each Fisheries Management Council but, except for artificial reefs, is not well developed. There is an imbalance in federal funding provided for infrastructure development in the coastal zone relative to stewardship of coastal resources, including limited funding of some agency staffs with regulatory responsibilities in marine habitat management. Few guidelines or standards are available, and where available, they are neither consistently applied nor enforced. No formal agreements exist on criteria for measuring among parties interested in restoration work. Follow-up performance monitoring of restoration projects and enforcement of related permitted activities is often incomplete, cursory, or not done at all, leaving performance to chance and denying acquisition of data for development of valuable experience. There are few incentives and many disincentives to invest in marine habitat restoration projects; their net effect is to discourage public and private initiative. Valuation of marine habitat in benefit-cost analyses is difficult and highly subjective. National policy concerning placement of dredged material biases decision making toward least-cost disposal regardless of possible environmental benefits from (more costly) placement at alternate sites. Incentives to motivate more private protection and restoration investment individually or through partnerships would require substantial policy and procedural changes at federal and state levels.
Undergraduate engineering curricula generally do not provide the multidisciplinary exposure needed for coastal engineering work. Graduate studies and training and experience beyond academic courses are required. Similarly, graduates with science backgrounds generally have limited exposure to engineering disciplines. Multidisciplinary collaboration could be advanced at the field level through continuing professional education designed to enhance cross-discipline exposure. Because there are no state licensing requirements for restoration practitioners and no universally recognized voluntary professional certification programs for individuals or accreditation programs for companies, the professional qualifications of engineers, ecologists, and environmental professionals are difficult to assess. A substantial body of relevant literature exists, albeit with a heavy focus on emergent wetlands. An information exchange network has not evolved, and widespread dissemination cannot be assumed.
Institutional weaknesses could potentially be overcome by improving professional development, establishing universally accepted performance standards, improving technology transfer, establishing universally accepted certification programs and, perhaps in the future, professional licensing requirements comparable to PE licenses, and remedying institutional constraints.