This chapter has discussed Corps of Engineers ESH and SWH projects that are being implemented along the lower Missouri River in compliance with directives from the Biological Opinion. The ultimate outcomes of these site-level projects, and whether they will result in jeopardy status being removed for endangered bird and fish species, is not known—nor will it be known for years. Adaptive management principles dictate that, in addition to these ongoing projects, consideration be given to alternatives that might be implemented if ESH and SWH project objectives are not or cannot be achieved as originally planned. Further, beyond requirements specified in the Biological Opinion, there are several new, major systemwide studies and initiatives such as the Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan (MRERP), the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC), and the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS). These new initiatives consider not only ongoing projects for endangered species recovery, but also management actions at a systemwide scale that can address a fuller array of restoration options and authorized system uses.
Given the uncertainties associated with outcomes from Corps of Engineers Emergent Sandbar Habitat and Shallow Water Habitat programs, it is possible that they may not meet requirements of the Biological Opinion to avoid jeopardizing the continued existence of the tern, plover, and sturgeon. The ESH and SWH programs, and the suite of new Missouri River system initiatives and studies, thus should formulate alternative actions that eventually may need to be implemented to increase the likelihood of endangered species recovery.