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Energy Resources Assessments & Monitoring Laws & Regulations
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Determining Project Effects and Remedial Responses

The purposes of monitoring are to determine project effects and make adjustments to reduce impacts.

A scientifically based monitoring program accomplishes several things. It enables a determination of ongoing project impacts, identifies problems before they become unmanageable, allows for adjustment in construction or operational processes, and provides information that can be used in assessing impacts for future projects.

The time frame for monitoring programs can be relatively open-ended or be established for some fixed period of years (e.g., often five years), pending the results of the final year. For open-ended time frames, trends in resource status over time (see first bullet below) are often used to determine when monitoring can stop (e.g., once resource conditions are stable following disturbance).

All monitoring programs should attempt to address:

  • Trends in Resource Status: By determining how resources or key variables change over time in the area of influence (e.g., number of young produced by a key wildlife species, condition of cultural resources, expenditures in the surrounding communities associated with employment), the impact of a project can be determined. Having several years of baseline data collected before project implementation can be useful to enable a before-and-after comparison.
  • Cause and Effect: It will be important to determine if observed changes are the result of project impacts or other unrelated factors. The trend analysis described in the previous bullet could help but could also be ambiguous if resource status is changing in response to some variable other than changes wrought by the project. It will often be useful to establish control (also called reference) areas that are unaffected by the project. Data from these areas can be compared to data from within areas known to be affected by the project (also called treatment areas) to determine project effect. Control areas must be carefully selected to ensure they are representative of the project area but are not affected by the project.
  • Adaptive Management: Adaptive management refers to a management process centered on learning the impacts of a project, the effectiveness of mitigation, adjusting construction and operational processes to reduce impacts, and monitoring the effectiveness of those adjustments. Adaptive management programs can be, but are not necessarily, relatively elaborate research programs. The Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Program that focuses on the effects of Glen Canyon Dam operations on downstream resources is an example of such a program. Adaptive management programs need not be this complicated. Ensuring that there is a mechanism whereby monitoring information feeds back to project activities and mitigation is all that is necessary.