When do I engage the ECO-PCX on model review requirements?
As soon as possible! The Review Plan should include all models the PDT may potentially use in the study. Prior to the Alternatives Milestone, a conceptual model of the system should be drafted and firm list of ecological models be used for the study. The list of models should be coordinated with the ECO-PCX to ensure models selected are appropriate for use. This review/coordination should be completed prior to using the model in the decision-making.
What is the USACE Policy on Ecological Models?
Any planning model used by USACE to support decision-making must be certified to assure quality. EC 1105-2-412, Assuring Quality of Planning Models establishes the process and requirements for assuring quality of planning models. Director of Civil Works (DCW) Memo 4 Dec 2017, Modification of the Model Certification Process and Delegation of Model Approval for Use and DCW Memo 11 May 2018, Delegation of Model Certification modified the EC related to delegation. EC 1105-2-412 remains in effect until permanent planning model guidance is issued.
Do I need to use a conceptual ecological model for my ecosystem restoration study?
YES! The use and review of conceptual models is adopted per DCW Mr. Stockton Memo 2008 Policy Guidance on Certification of Ecosystem Output Models.
Where do I find ecological models?
The ecological model library is located here: https://ecolibrary.planusace.us/#/home. You can search like habitat, species or model name. You can also reach out to the ECO-PCX Model Review Manager or your ECO-PCX MSC account manager for assistance in selection, application, review and certification process too.
If I need help with building a new model, where can I go to learn more?
The ECO-PCX along with the ERDC Ecological Modeling Team work together as a dynamic duo to help teams with this process. The ERDC EcoMod team can also assist PDTs through facilitated modeling workshops. To learn more, contact the EcoMod Team at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit their website EcoModTeam.
Model Building Recipe for Success: ECO-PCX + ERDC + YOU = AWESOME!
I plan to use an existing approved/certified model, do I need the spreadsheet calculator I create be reviewed?
YES! All spreadsheet calculators created need to be reviewed for quality assurance and approved for use by the ECO-PCX. This should be done before the spreadsheet calculator is used in decision-making.
Do CAP studies require use of an approved/certified model?
Under CAP, model review/approval is slightly different. Per EP 1105-2-58, Continuing Authorities Program, the use of certified planning models is not required. However, MSC Commanders remain responsible for assuring the quality of the analyses used in these projects.
How long does it take for a model to be certified?
It depends on the complexity of the model... but a typical timeline for a model review and approval is three to six months. This includes time review to scope the review, identify reviewers, review, respond to comments and routing for endorsement and approval for use by the ECO-PCX Director.
How can a model review be delayed?
Typically, incomplete model documentation delays the start of a review. Engage the ECO-PCX Model Review Manager to ensure all documentation requirements are included prior to submittal for review. Other delays happen during response to comments and funding lapses for PDT members, reviewers, and/or model proponent.
What is the difference between single one-time use approval regional model certification?
The review process is basically the same. Single one-time use approval is sufficient if the model only will ever need to be used for a given study. However, if it is anticipated the model will be used again on a different study in a broader region, then the regional model certification may be more efficient in the long-term for future work.
How much does model certification cost?
The costs varies based on the complexity of the model. Costs for model review have been anywhere from $10K to $65K depending on review scope and method. The ECO-PCX Model Review Manager can help PDTs scope the effort and develop an estimate for the review.
During a SMART Planning Study, when should a model be approved/certified?
Model review and certification should be done prior to a decision being made. Typically, during a SMART Planning study this is prior to the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) milestone. So be sure to engage the ECO-PCX early in the study to avoid schedule issues later.
Once a model is approved/certified, can I use it forever?
No. Models are approved/certified for seven years and will require re-approval after expiration.
How are certified models adjusted when new scientific findings contradict or otherwise change the variables currently used in a certain model?
The ECO-PCX has a formal reevaluation process in place for model re-approval and recertification, which must take place a minimum of every seven years. In cases where new scientific evidence requires reassessment of a model before the seven-year period expires, the ECO-PCX uses the same reevaluation process to consider the original certification rationale, review the new information and determine how it changes the components of the existing model and recertify the model, as appropriate.
Is there a requirement to use scientific literature-based sources in model development and documentation, or can model certification rely solely on expert professional judgement?
The basis of evidence for certifying models ranges widely. Models for rare species or habitat types may be primarily based on expert professional judgement and experience in the field given the sparsity or complete lack of literature or date, and therefore are documented to the best of the PCX's ability. While the citation of at least some peer reviewed literature is preferred for all model certification, it is sometimes impossible. When this is the case, the ECO-PCX documents uncertainties and potential complications related to the lack of date to ensure these issues are clearly outlines.
Is it more difficult or time consuming to approve models developed by state agencies vs. models developed by USACE?
Models developed by state agencies are not necessarily harder to approve than models developed by USACE, but the effort and time required depends on how robust and well-documented the model is when it gets to USACE. Some models with detailed documentation that have already been peer reviewed move fairly quickly through the process, while others that are still indraft form and that lack an active point of contact at the submitting agency are much more difficult to review and approve.
Additionally, some models developed by others have parameters that are not USACE policy compliant. For example, some mitigation models developed by other federal agencies include a discount rate and risk factor. USACE does not discount habitat units per agency policy, and risk is accounted for in our monitoring and adaptive management requirements.
Do Districts typically collaborate with their resource agency partners (i.e., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service) when developing their ecological planning models ?
As best practices continue to be shared widely, the ECO-PCX is seeing increased coordination between Districts and their resource agency partners on model development and certification. The resource agencies are typically enthusiastic about getting involved in the model development process and sharing their expertise. They bring helpful field experience and peer review skills to the table that can improve model quality and make the certification process easier.
What happens if I don't get the model I use certified?
HQ and the ATRT will notify the PDT that you have not complied with the EC's and you will be directed to stop and conduct model review before you proceed.
What happens if my model review is conducted and the model is not certified?
If the review is conducted and significant issues arise that you cannot resolve through model modifications, you will be asked to assess the significance of the comments on the planning decision and how they effect your selection and the vertical team will work with the PDT to resolve the issue.