RESOLVE acknowledged for outstanding facilitation of Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC)

Jan 10, 2012

“Good facilitators are priceless,” says John Thorson, retired judge and former chair of the ABA Water Resources Committee, in the most recent issue of the ABA’s Section on Environment Energy and Resources (SEER) Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee newsletter. Describing the Missouri as the “river of controversy,” Thorson’s article on the consensus building efforts authorized by Congress in 2007 puts these efforts in historic context and describes insights for how to make large scale consensus building efforts work. Facilitators from RESOLVE and the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution assist the process.

Thorson reminds us that the Missouri River “is synonymous with western history,” noting the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Native Americans of the Great Plains, and the six mainstem dams authorized by the 1944 Pick-Sloan Plan to provide hydro-power, water supply, navigation, and protection from the rivers’ epic floods, among other authorized purposes. These dams also had the unintended consequence of significant alteration to the river’s ecosystem, resulting in three species being listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act and many more in serious decline. In the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, Congress authorized the Corps of Engineers to prepare a studyin consultation with MRRIC to determine the actions required to mitigate losses of aquatic and terrestrial habitat, to recover federally listed species, and to restore the ecosystem to prevent further declines among other native species.

MRRIC operates by consensus – a challenging but important decision making process that requires members to articulate their interests, listen to one another, and engage in creative problem solving. Thorson, who served as MRRIC’s first chair, acknowledges the important role of the facilitation team in the consensus-building process, helping to “carefully plan, moderate, and document every meeting and call.” He also highlights the creative use of technology that RESOLVE uses that allows members who live along America’s longest river to communicate effectively across the large distances involved! Webinars, web-based meetings with real time work on documents, a members-only web site, and video conferencing are among the tools that are being employed.

The restoration of the Missouri River in harmony with the eight authorized purposes of the mainstem dams and other human needs is a challenge worthy of everyone’s best efforts. We at RESOLVE are honored to work with our facilitation partners at the USIECR to help the federal and state agencies, tribal governments, and stakeholders succeed.

- Gail Bingham

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