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The Beginning Years of the Adaptive Management Program for operations at Glen Canyon Dam
August 21, 2008
For twelve years now, the Glen Canyon Dam (GCD) Adaptive Management Program (AMP) has provided volumes of knowledge and understanding of the Colorado River ecosystem in Grand Canyon National Park, but has yet to fulfill its primary mandate to stop the cultural and biological degradation of this sublime landscape.
The reason why the program does not work and remains an embarrassment to the watching world of ecosystem management professionals is the recalcitrant attitude of state agencies concerning the management of subsidized federal hydropower.
October 30, 1992 - Grand Canyon Protection Act (GCPA) passed by Congress, which specifies that Glen Canyon Dam be operated in a manner that recovers the resource values of Grand Canyon National Park.
February 14, 1993 - The lead researchers of aquatic ecology recommend the reestablishment of natural hydrological patterns below Glen Canyon Dam to restore the endangerd fish populations in Grand Canyon National Park and submit their report (1994 version).
April 25, 1993 - Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) requests modifications to the proposed preferred alternative on operations at Glen Canyon Dam (GCD). The request is beneficial to hydropower production, rather than park values at Grand Canyon. Thus the stage is set for a management strategy to circle around the GCPA for the next 15 years.
1994 - A Beach/Habitat Building Flow (BHBF), an experimental high flow release from GCD to restore beaches and sandbars is proposed. The water/power agencies claim it violates the Colorado River Basin Project Act of 1968 as an unwarranted spill (water bypassing the generators and the revenue they produce). Interior believes GCPA changed the definition of spill, because the bypassed water is now used for an additional purpose, the restoration of natural and cultural values in Grand Canyon. As of 2008, this fundamental debate remains unresolved and has undermined the intent of the GCPA.
March 21, 1994 - Final ruling on critical habitat for the endangered fish of the Colorado River.
November 17, 1994 - Meeting held to initiate planning for a science center to conduct monitoring (quantitative) and research (qualitative) in the Grand Canyon specific to adaptive management. Adaptive management is defined as a management plan designed from the outset to "learn by doing," and to actively test hypotheses and adjust treatments as new information becomes available.
November 9, 1994 - Non Use Economic Value Policy Analysis
December 21, 1994 - Biological Opinion (BO) of GCD for Modified Low Fluctuating Flow (MLFF), the preferred alternative of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on operations of GCD. The BO is explicit about the importance of initiating experimental flows: "If the Service believes there is not sufficient progress, Glen Canyon Dam would be operated as SASF flows (Seasonally Adjusted Steady Flow) during spring through fall (April to October) beginning in 1998. If the Service determines a study design can not be developed that is expected to provided information to support removal of jeopardy to the razorback sucker and humpback chub populations in the Grand Canyon and associated tributaries, such will be considered new information and may be grounds for reinitating formal consultation."
January 5, 1995 - Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) staff meet in Denver. Glen Canyon Environmental Studies (GCES) to transition out for new Adaptive Management Program (AMP).
August 11, 1995 - Non-use Value Report is peer-reviewed by National Academy of Sciences.
March 22 - April 6, 1996 - Experimental flows start and end with low, steady flows to measure the volume of beaches and sandbars. The main event is an experimental flood flow of 45,000 cfs from GCD to lift sand from the bottom of the river to the margins of the river. Studies since 1996 refute the original findings of the 1995 GCD FEIS concerning sediment conservation in Grand Canyon.
March 3, 1997 - Federal Register Notice that stipulates, among other things, that Congress will receive an annual report on the progress of fulfilling the requirements of the GCPA, and the Annual Operating Plan (AOP) process would include public participation in setting the operations at Glen Canyon Dam specific to fulfilling the mandates of the GCPA. Contrarily, only one final Report to Congress has been produced (see below) and the operating criteria specified to work with the goals of the GCPA and the Biological Opinion (see the above entry of December 21, 1994 to begin Seasonally Adjusted Steady Flows by April, 1998) were compromised by the protectors of hydropower revenue. See also the Federal Register Notice of February 24, 1998 and the AOP of 1998, which affirms status quo operations for Glen Canyon Dam.
March 6, 1997 - TWG meets in Phoenix to discuss Long-term Monitoring Plan.
April 8-10, 1997 - First Science Symposium held in Albuquerque, NM, with papers published by the sponsor, the George Wright Society.
September 10, 1997 - First Adaptive Management Working Group (AMWG) meeting in Tempe, AZ. Minutes.
October 2-3, 1997 - TWG meeting. Minutes.
October 13, 1998 - Federal Register Notice on 4.5 foot extensions for spillway gates at Glen Canyon Dam.
November 3-5, 1997 - A three-day experimental Habitat Maintenance Flow (HMF) of 30,600 cfs was performed to rebuild mid-elevation beaches and low-lying sandbars that had eroded away after the March, 1996 experimental BHBF.
November 4-5, 1997 - TWG meeting. Minutes.
October, 2001 - Comments on the recovery goals for endangered fish. Coggins and Gloss; GCMRC.
AMP CORE DOCUMENTS (Archive)
REVIEWS BY NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
Desired Future Conditions
Click here (Susskind) and here (Camacho) and here (Fellers) to read objective evaluations of the Adaptive Management Program. Fellers' summary as a powerpoint presentation is here. Click here to read report by Lenard. And finally a paper by Ann Brower et al.
Click here to read Environmental History of the Clorado River: A Changing Focus of Science. Bennati and Shannon.
Balancing a Complex Set of Interests: Glen Canyon Dam and Adaptive Management. Water Education Fund, 2010.
Click here (cached) to read Reclamation's response (10/21/09) to the critiques of the AMP. This fascinating article demonstrates that the agency is clearly not going to solve the Grand Canyon impairment issue anytime soon.
2008 - Report to the Secretary's Designee on clarifications of roles in GCD Adaptive Management Program.
Click here to read a history of operations at GCD before Adaptive Management.
Click here to read letter by litigants about AMP to Secretary of Interior.
Click here for AMP primary documents not available on its web page.
2010 - Answers from Grand Canyon Trust and National Parks and Conservation to Subcommittee Chairs Napolitano and Grijalva about AMP.
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