Ecological Risks, Stakeholder Values and River Basins: Testing Management Alternatives for the Illinois River

EPA Grant Number: R825791
Title: Ecological Risks, Stakeholder Values and River Basins: Testing Management Alternatives for the Illinois River
Investigators: Meo, Mark , Caneday, Lowell , Focht, Will , Lynch, Robert A. , Sankowski, Edward T. , Sipes, James , Vieux, Baxter , Willett, Keith D.
Current Investigators: Meo, Mark , Caneday, Lowell , Focht, Will , Sankowski, Edward T. , Vieux, Baxter , Willett, Keith D.
Institution: University of Oklahoma , Oklahoma State University - Main Campus
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: June 1, 1998 through May 31, 2001 (Extended to May 15, 2004)
Project Amount: $849,996
RFA: Water and Watersheds Research (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Water and Watersheds


The Illinois River, one of the most scenic and pristine rivers in Oklahoma, has been the center of political controversy about private property rights and environmental protection for over twenty-five years. The Illinois has provided multiple social benefits to the citizens of Oklahoma through its use for recreation, water and power supply, flood control, and nutrient removal. Yet, the inability of different interests in both states to reach agreement about how to protect the future of the illinois watershed has placed its hydrologic resources at increased risk of long-term degradation. With the absence of a unique environmental issue or feature to catalyze political support for policy change, the illinois Basin, which is characterized by continuing land use conflicts within a decentralized institutional setting, exemplifies long-term river basin management challenges in general.

This three-year interdisciplinary research project addresses the theoretical issue of how different environmental and social values held by river basin stakeholders can be identified and compared so that more effective environmental protection strategies can be determined and adopted by local land use interests and state agencies. The investigators propose to develop and test alternative management strategies for the illinois River watershed by linking together the ecological, economic, hydrological, social, and political aspects of the watershed in an interdisciplinary approach that provides a more realistic framework for calculating, communicating, and negotiating environmental risks and competing social values.


In the first two years of the project the research team will: (1) Determine the effects of alternative land and water uses for three study sites in the river basin; (2) Calculate the ecological risks associated with different intensities of resource use; (3) Develop distributed hydrologic models using GIS that incorporate water quality and quantity aspects of alternative land use practices; and (4) Develop a computer simulation of each of the three sites that will enable stakeholders to visualize more easily the implications of different management options for the river basin's resources. At the same time, members of the research team will be investigating stakeholders' perspectives of natural, economic, and sociopolitical impacts through interviews and focus group sessions. These groups will include technical experts, lay stakeholders, and policy makers. Background data will be drawn from the investigators' prior studies of the illinois watershed, its carrying capacity, and comprehensive land use plans.

In the third year of the project, stakeholder groups will be engaged in a policy dialogue and a test of the effectiveness of integrated computer models to facilitate the risk communication of complex environmental management issues. Visual simulations developed from GIS-based distributed hydrological models will be shown to stakeholders in conjunction with focus group sessions to ascertain management preferences and the overall legitimacy of negotiated agreements. Negotiation workshops will be held to develop a consensus about land use practices that afford an adequate level of protection to the basin.

Expected Results:

The entire process will be tested to ascertain the degree to which the process is viewed by experts and lay stakeholders as efficient, effective, and legitimate, and therefore acceptable. For broader application of the approach, the research will be formatted on a CD for dissemination. The results of the research also will be published in the refereed literature and used to advance integrated watershed planning and management.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 41 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 6 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Illinois River, watersheds, social values, hydrology, water quality., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Geographic Area, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, Hydrology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, State, Ecology and Ecosystems, decision-making, Ecological Risk Assessment, Watersheds, Economics & Decision Making, social science research, ecosystem valuation, risk assessment, social performance measurement, decision making, management alternatives, recreational water , aquatic ecosystems, GIS, water quality, Oklahoma (OK), ecology assessment models, community values, flood hazard initiatives, land use, river ecosystems, stakeholder feedback

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998
  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001
  • 2002
  • Final Report