Final Report: 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 , 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 overall objectives of this research project were to: (1) identify and compare different environmental and social values held by stakeholders in the Illinois River Watershed; and (2) test a management protocol that is effective technically, efficient economically, and acceptable socially and politically. In the first phase of the project, baseline technical, economic, and socio-political assessments (SPA) were conducted that served as the basis for subsequent interactive computer visualization presentations with policymakers to define alternative management policies that meet these three criteria. In the second phase, policy alternative-specific assessments were conducted and visualizations prepared for presentation to stakeholders as a vehicle for designing and developing consensus about alternative land and water uses through facilitator-assisted interactive policy dialogues. The results of two rounds of asynchronous negotiation sessions that alternated between policymakers and stakeholders were presented to policymakers for a third time to help finalize their policy proposals. In the final phase of the project, the acceptability of the proposals was tested through a telephone survey of basin stakeholders. The overall effectiveness of the protocol was judged successful with the results of the telephone survey and the views of project participants.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

This project originally was scheduled to end in September 2000, but because of several midcourse problems was granted extensions through May 2004, and supplemental support to conduct the final project telephone survey of Illinois River Basin (IRB) stakeholders.

Socio-Political Assessment

In the first phase of the project, the SPA team completed the baseline SPA. Interviews (n = 330) of stakeholders, interested parties, and policymakers were completed in spring 1999. Three rounds of interviews were conducted involving 270 participants. In the first round, 150 face-to-face interviews were held with participants residing, recreating, doing business, or having regulatory jurisdiction over activities in the IRB. In the second round, 120 additional face-to-face interviews were conducted using Q methodology. ;In the third round, 60 more face-to-face interviews were conducted using mental modeling. Based on an expert model (influence diagram) of physical, biological, economic, social, and legal-political impacts developed during Year 1 of this project, the participants were interviewed to ascertain their knowledge of the impacts, their causes, their effects, and their interrelationships. The questionnaire data, Likert scale data, and card ranking data were analyzed using descriptive statistics calculated by a mainframe version of SPSS version 8.0. The responses obtained from the Likert scales (trust, uncertainty, and controversy) were combined with the card ranking data (policymaking strategies) to test empirically a prescriptive model of policymaking legitimacy developed earlier by W. Focht. Data on concerns also were compared with the data analysis of concerns identified in the cognitive mapping exercises. Descriptive statistics were computed for impact concerns among participants. ;Group membership of individual concerns included within clusters of concerns within maps also were analyzed using hierarchical aggregative cluster analysis. ;Seven distinct clusters of concerns were identified. From these clusters, an aggregate cognitive map was defined that identifies how participants conceptualize impacts in the IRB. Q sort data was correlated and factor analyzed using PCQanal software. Five factors emerged from the analysis of concern sorts and four factors emerged from the analysis of management preference sorts. Each factor was explained in light of their factor score arrays and factor structures. Mental modeling data were analyzed by coding responses as accurate, wrong, peripheral, particularistic, indeterminate, or missing. ;These data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Finally, the ranking of concerns conducted in round three were analyzed again with descriptive statistics and compared to the concern statistics obtained in round one.

Major SPA Baseline Findings.

  • Disagreements exist over the magnitudes and causes of problems in the Illinois River as well as over who is to blame and what should be done.
  • Stakeholders trust government—particularly the federal government—much less than they trust independent experts and each other. As a result, stakeholders express an overwhelming preference to participate directly in the policymaking process as opposed to deferring to government discretion.
  • Though stakeholders believe that controversy and factual uncertainty is high and continuing, most are not so ideologically committed to a position that consensus is impossible. The conflicts that exist are not bipolar.
  • Stakeholders are most concerned and knowledgeable about problems and associated impacts that are visible, local, and have media attention, including problems with alcohol consumption, inappropriate behavior by tourists, and littering. Policymakers, however, are concerned most about less visible, widespread, water quality-based problems and impacts such as nutrient loading (phosphorus) from fertilizer overapplication and municipal effluents and riparian area protection.
  • Stakeholders prefer coercive policies regarding enforcement of existing laws and regulations, such as apply to point source discharges and violations of civil law regarding behavior, drinking, and drugs. They prefer educational and voluntary strategies, with compensation for economic losses, however, for impact management from less regulated activities such as farming and other rural and suburban land uses.

Negotiation Workshops. The asynchronous policy dialogue was conducted in three rounds, beginning with a 2-day policymakers’ workshop in October 2000. Two professional negotiation facilitators assisted with the workshops. The policymakers initially focused on phosphorus management and riparian area protection. After an educational session, stakeholders agreed to these two priorities but also wanted alcohol and behavior control. Subsequent sessions produced a consensus on these three policies by both groups. Participant judgments of policy legitimacy demonstrated the three legitimacy criteria: technical and economic effectiveness, administrative and legal implementability, and sociopolitical acceptability. Policymaker participants judged the policy dialogue as worthwhile, trust building, and valuable to them in other policy contexts.

Test of Legitimacy. A random sample telephone survey of 458 stakeholders in the basin was conducted in April 2002. It confirmed that all provisions of the three policy proposals were highly satisfactory (phosphorus management policy: 95 percent satisfaction; riparian area protection policy: 91.1 percent satisfaction; alcohol and behavior control policy: 85.3 percent satisfaction), with the exception of two tourist fee increases that were added at the last workshop as revenue generating mechanisms, despite opposition by stakeholder participants. This robust test supports our claim that the policy legitimation protocol was successful. The researchers believe that asynchronous policy dialogues that are informed by intensive assessments of stakeholders’ concerns, preferences, and knowledge, can be successful in contexts dominated by distrust, controversy, and factual uncertainty. In other contexts, however, synchronous dialogues (with policymakers and stakeholders) may be better, in conformance with democratic norms of political participation.

Recreation Assessment

This component of the project surveyed Illinois River floaters regarding their knowledge of the environment, management strategies employed, and satisfaction with their respective recreation experiences. Visitors were contacted prior to their float experience and were asked to complete an “ecological and management knowledge” test. Approximately 400 visitors completed the pretest. These visitors were then asked to participate in a mail-out posttest on satisfaction with the management strategies and the float experience. Approximately 300 visitors agreed to participate in the posttest. Data has been coded and has been analyzed.

Economic Assessment

Economic impact analysis in each of the relevant IRB regions was conducted in three stages: regional baseline impact assessments, regional option-specific assessments, and refined basinwide assessments. The tourism/recreational linkages in the local economy were estimated with the input-output model IMPLAN®. The impact of tourism/recreational activity is driven by expenditures that constitute a component of final demand for the region. The changes in these final demand expenditures are the key for motivating the economic impacts of concern. The economic indicators analyzed include total gross output, employment, employee compensation, property income, value added, and indirect business taxes. Gross output is a measure of the overall economic activity of a region and is analogous to gross national product for a nation. Total income is the sum of employee compensation and property income, whereas value added is the sum of employee compensation, indirect business taxes, and property income. Value added basically accounts for all new income accruing to a local impact region when a product is produced and sold. Indirect business taxes indirectly benefit local residents through government. This analysis indicates that tourism generates roughly $7.7 million in total output for Cherokee County, as well as 249 jobs and $2.4 million in income. Direct, indirect, induced, and total economic impacts were estimated for the three Oklahoma counties for visitor declines of 5,000, 10,000, and 25,000. Of the three counties, the majority of impacts are felt in Cherokee County.

A common feature of the existing model structures is that poultry litter is treated as a factor of production. Thus, the model structures are concerned with the derived demand for poultry litter and the nutrients embedded in the litter. In contrast, the supply sources of poultry litter are treated in an exogenous fashion. An overriding concern is that the opportunity cost of adjustments to environmental policies may be overstated. The shortcomings noted above have been addressed by developing a modeling framework that uses an integrated approach to incorporate broiler feeding and production decisions with decisions on disposing of poultry waste. A key element of waste disposal is cropping activity. The presence of cropping decisions serves the role of establishing a derived demand for poultry litter within the region. The cropping decisions also include specifications for commercial fertilizer use. The database for this model was developed and a feasible solution was obtained. The optimization model was used to examine a set of policy scenarios based on defining a set of limits placed on the maximum level of phosphorus allowed in the IRB. Once each of the above situations was established, the model was implemented to reflect a number of situations called “futures.”; The futures are based on assumed changes for broiler production. These different futures were applied to the three counties in Oklahoma while assuming that the number of broiler production units in Arkansas counties remained constant. The various futures were defined as follows: high growth is equal to 75 percent; medium growth is equal to 50 percent; low growth is equal to 25 percent; status quo (same as the base case); low decline is equal to -25 percent; medium decline is equal to -50 percent; and high decline is equal to -75 percent. The limits set on phosphorus ranged from a high of 153 tons to a series of lower tonnages that corresponded to concentrations of 0.05 mg/L (56 tons), 0.037 mg/L (30 tons), and 0.02mg/L (22.4 tons). The 0.037 mg/L constraint is the focus of current negotiations between Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Technical Assessment: Modeling and Visualization

The objective of the modeling task is to develop and apply a distributed parameter hydrological model that relates ecological and water quality impacts to current management practices and can be used to assess potential land use alternatives. From the modeling results, scientific visualization techniques will be applied to aid communication to stakeholders concerning the implications of development and management practices in the basin. The researchers developed a Distributed Runoff nonpoInt Pollution model (DRIP) that integrates GIS and nonpoint pollution modeling techniques using deterministic water quantity and quality components. The model was applied to the IRB upstream of Tahlequah for a storm event that occurred for a duration of 4 days. As a result of surface runoff during this event, the model predicted the total mass of phosphorus at the outlet of the watershed to within -8 percent. Sensitivity of land use changes on the mass loading of phosphorus was tested. A 50 percent reduction in the influent phosphorus concentration resulted in 50 percent reduction in terms of riverine concentrations and loadings. The DRIP model has been calibrated with storm events and used to develop several scenarios in which changes in watershed land use determine subsequent changes in phosphorus flow into receiving waters. The economic effects of several alternative land use scenarios were modeled with the IMPLAN® model.

Initial efforts to visualize the simulation of water quality and other issues in the Illinois basin involved the transformation of the DEM into a data structure required by Macromedia Director software. The work on this program has advanced, and now four layers of information are integrated: a flight layer, a photo layer, a water quality layer, and an aquatic life layer. The flight layer enables a user to experience a virtual flight over the watershed with a three-dimensional effect. The photo layer enables the user to select a certain region and have a close look at different environmental concerns. Currently, about 72 photographs with the description of each concern are available. The water quality layer depicts the map of the gauging stations with historical data displayed for each station on water quality parameters, including phosphorus, nitrates, turbidity, and so forth. The graphs are supplemented by a description of the critical issues concerning the status of each water quality parameter. The aquatic life layer shows the number and diversity of selected species within the river system and Lake Tenkiller. To facilitate understanding by stakeholders of the complex biological, physical, and socio-political relationships in the watershed, interactive influence diagrams of these systems used by the SPA team were developed along with the other visual elements. The resulting visualization vehicle is known as the Watershed Management Decision Support System (WMDSS) and was used subsequently in the policymaker and stakeholder negotiation workshops. For reference, the WMDSS also contains the current Illinois River Management Plan, a Riparian Area Protection Handbook, and a 20 minute video of the Illinois River Watershed and its history.

Technical Assessment: Ecological Analysis

Historical data were gathered for the fish, benthic macroinvertebrate, and diatom communities. The goal is to have biological population information available from the map interface in both visual and numerical formats. To assess the health of recent fish communities and historical trends, 12 community metrics were compiled into 3 Indices of Biotic Integrity scores for each sampling date. These scores were graphed over time and overlain with a trend line to exam any long term trends in fish populations. A photograph of each fish was scanned into the database to provide a visual connection to the species found. In addition, a description of each fish and its environmental requirements was entered. Data from tributary diatom and benthic macroinvertebrate samples were treated by similar methods. Diatom photographs for all species were scanned into the database and several diversity indices were calculated. Six diversity indices were calculated for these data. In addition to the three U.S. Geological Survey gauging stations, the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission conducts sampling at seven locations along the river and monitors for turbidity, total nitrogen, nitrate, orthophosphate, and total phosphorous. These data were gathered and graphed, with indications of appropriate water quality standards, for the period of record. A significant concern of many stakeholders is the effects of animal waste on water quality, specifically the more than 45 million poultry produced annually. To address these concerns, we developed a measure of the relative magnitude of poultry and cattle waste in the basin. Data on human and animal numbers and nutrients were gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Based upon phosphorous and nitrogen production, it was calculated that the animals in the basin are equivalent to approximately 5 and 15 million people, respectively. An additional concern has been the effects of septic tanks on water quality. It was calculated that 72 percent of human generated waste is discharged to septic tanks, which elevated the concern over their influence; however, the amount of nutrients produced by humans is at most 1-2 percent of that produced by animals.

Journal Articles on this Report : 6 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 41 publications 14 publications in selected types All 6 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Focht W. Stakeholder perspectives on Illinois River watershed impacts. River Currents, Quarterly Newsletter of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission, 2000;2(4). R825791 (2000)
R825791 (Final)
not available
Journal Article Focht W, Langston MA, DeShong RT. Informing policymaking with concept mapping. Oklahoma Politics 2001;(Sp Iss: Environmental Policy):157-178. R825791 (2000)
R825791 (Final)
not available
Journal Article Focht W. Assessment and management of policy conflict in the Illinois River watershed in Oklahoma: an application of Q methodology[1]. International Journal of Public Administration 2002;25(11):1311-1349. R825791 (Final)
not available
Journal Article Meo M, Focht W, Caneday L, Lynch R, Moreda F, Pettus B, Sankowski E, Trachtenberg Z, Vieux B, Willett K. Negotiating science and values with stakeholders in the Illinois River basin. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 2002;38(2):541-554. R825791 (Final)
not available
Journal Article Trachtenberg Z. Scientists and stakeholders: evaluating the legitimacy of the Illinois River Basin management protocol. Oklahoma Politics, Volume 10, Special Issue, December 2001, pp. 33-44. R825791 (Final)
not available
Journal Article Whitaker K, Focht W. Expert modeling of environmental impacts. Oklahoma Politics, Volume 10, Special Issue, December 2001, pp. 179-186. R825791 (2000)
R825791 (Final)
not available

Supplemental Keywords:

biodiversity, conflict assessment, ecological impacts, economics, ecosystem health, environmental modeling, environmental policy, expenditures, input-output, interactivity, local economic effects, multimedia, nitrogen, nutrients, outdoor recreation, phosphorus, policy dialogue, poultry production, river impact concerns, river recreation, stakeholder participation, visualization,, RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Hydrology, Water & Watershed, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, State, decision-making, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecology and Ecosystems, 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:

Original Abstract
  • 1998
  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001
  • 2002