Standardizing No Net Loss Stream Mitigation Assessment Methods: Tradeoffs between Expediency and River Science

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Environmental regulators use No Net Loss policies to minimize the damaging impacts of development projects on water resources. In this context, regulators prefer standard environmental assessment protocols over ad hoc approaches. This article examines how the St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) directed the development of statewide standard stream mitigation assessment protocols in Missouri and Illinois to comply with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Protocol development in each state included Corps district representatives along with river scientists and various stakeholders. A primary tension in these discussions centered on the tradeoff between the efficiency of using the protocol vs. its scientific rigor. While consensus in Missouri was achieved by leveraging statewide agreements, Illinois lacked similar agreements and included a wider range of scientific participants, which hindered consensus. Despite these differences, the two states produced remarkably similar stream assessment methods. The similarity largely reflected the authority that Corps districts had over the Section 404 process and their privileging of simple and flexible stream mitigation assessments that can be used across different Corps districts. This study provides insights into the social processes that shape no net loss assessment protocols and the practical challenges of protecting the environmental quality of streams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1407-1420
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Clean Water Act Section 404
  • no net loss
  • standardization
  • stream mitigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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