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1 1 Lessons of the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies INTRODUCTION Federal management of water is undergoing a maturational change that involves a drastic reduction in the number of new water projects and an increase in emphasis on qualitative aspects of water management (Wilkinson, 1993~. The leadership of the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) has acknow- ledged and accepted the necessity for this change, although the institutional characteristics of the bureau cannot be expected to adapt overnight to a new mission. Qualitative aspects of water management include improvements in efficiency of water use as well as adaptation of water management to a broad range of environmental objectives such as those that are apparent from the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies (GCES). In dealing broadly with en- vironmental issues, the BOR must find ways to work efficiently with other agencies that have primary expertise in and responsibility for specific kinds of environmental resources. Thus, the GCES has, in microcosm, been a test of the proposition that the BOR can execute a broad-ranging cooperative environmental study of a large river ecosystem and produce results that are useful to management. Previous chapters have illustrated various weaknesses in the organization and execution of GCES. In some instances, these weaknesses may be pe- culiar to the circumstances of GCES. In other instances, the GCES has shown why some strategies are doomed to failure while others have a much higher chance of success. This chapter offers generalizations from the experience of GCES, in anticipation that the BOR and other government ag 209
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210 River Resource Management in the Grand Canyon encies must study complex environmental systems prior to developing man- agement strategies that take into account diverse kinds of resources. It is easy to focus on the defects of a complex project such as GCES. It would be a mistake, however, to overlook the milestones of achievement that the BOR passed in improving GCES and its institutional underpinnings. The achievements of BOR through GCES missions will be the focus of the last part of this chapter. ELEMENTS OF A USEFUL ECOSYSTEM ANALYSIS GCES has illustrated that a successful and cost-effective ecosystem analysis of use to management must meet a variety of requirements that extend well beyond the research plan, data collection, and data analysis. Management-oriented studies of environmental systems can be more difficult to organize than academic studies because they must operate within the institutional framework of mission agencies, be consistent with a variety of laws not directed to ecosystem management, reflect the interest of con- stituencies that affect government, be subject to strong constraints of time and budget, and produce results that are immediately useful to management. Thus, the elements of a successful study involve organizational and admin- istrative matters as well as scientific ones. The Planning Sequence The planning sequence for a successful ecosystem analysis must include steps that take advantage of existing information, define the scope as tightly as possible but still realisticallywith respect to programmatic objectives, and project the products of analysis and the schedule on which they can be delivered. The planning sequence should begin with the creation of a planning group that is selected for its expertise in the major subject areas to be studied. The planning group should include at least one individual having expertise in each of the major areas of study, as well as several individuals who have experience in the integrative collection or interpretation of infor- mation from different areas of study. If the planning group forms primarily around vested interests or agencies rather than the needs of the project, the plan will likely be flawed.
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Lessons of the GCES Review of Existing Information 211 Planning begins with an intensive review of information not only on the location to be studied but also on other similar kinds of systems. This phase of preparation should culminate in a synopsis of all existing available infor- mation, both published and unpublished. This step consumes time (perhaps as much as a year), but it is the only means by which the collective exper- iences of individuals who have dealt previously with similar issues can be brought to bear on the creation of a study plan. GCES proceeded without this phase, and in many instances the issues of GCES were treated as if they were entirely novel, whereas in fact the environmental issues associated with the operation of large dams are recurrent and have been studied extensively in the western United States. Definition of Scope Following extensive review of existing information, the planning groupwill need a list of resources, a list of management options, and an ecosystem diagram (Chapter 2~. These three items are the basis for the definition of scope and the study plan. As shown by GCES, most of the resources to be listed for a particular site will be obvious, but preparation of the list may present some unexpected difficulties. For GCES, the nonuse value of the Colorado River corridor below Lake Powell was not originally listed as a resource because administrative policy precluded its recognition until GCES was almost complete. In addition, cultural resources and effects on tribes were not considered until later in the GCES. Obviously, any intentional or inadvertent exclusions from the list of resources will ultimately undermine the utility of the analysis. Preparation of the list of management options is also critical, and GCES demonstrated that its preparation can be even more difficult than the preparation of the list of resources. Where particular kinds of management options have not been studied administratively or are not favored by a sponsoring agency, they may be precluded on the grounds that even listing them or studying them would seem to legitimize their use. It is essential that this mentality be discarded if the analysis of management options is to be successful. At the same time, individuals conducting studies or using the results of studies should realize that mere consideration of management options does not necessarily justifytheir implementation, which may be com
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212 River Resource Management in the Grand Canyon plicated by legal, financial, or political factors that lie outside the realm of analysis. For example, one of the major factors impairing the cost efficiency of GCES was the inability of the BOR to separate the hypothetical range of management options from the range of management options preferred by or acceptable to the bureau and its cooperators. GCES shows the peril of studies that are organized primarily around a list of resources and management options, even though such lists are integral to the formulation of the study plan. The context for resources and manage- ment options in an ecosystem analysis is the ecosystem diagram. Without a diagram, the study plan will be flawed in its failure to consider the causal connections between ecosystem components. Such connections must be understood before the outcomes of management options can be preclicted. Ecosystem diagrams can be quite simplistic, in which case they may be essentially useless. Boxes with the names of resources connected by lines showing all possible pairwise combinations are not helpful. The ecosystem diagram needs to be subjected to intensive scrutiny and debate among members of the planning group and should be reviewed by individuals (experts) outside the group who are alreadyfamiliarwith the resources or the system. Causal connections that are essential or critical to an understanding of the system should be distinguished from those that are not so critical. The pathways of influence for management options should be identified because they will be of particular interest in final use of the analysis for predictive purposes. GCES adopted the ecosystem concept (Chapter 2) but did not use it effectively because it came too late and was not treated as a true driving force for the study design even after it was adopted. The ecosystem diagram is meaningless if it is used as window dressing or as justification a posterior) rather than as a planning tool. After the list of resources and management options together with the ecosystem diagram are in place, the study group should return to a synopsis of existing information and focus on that which is already available for the site to be studied. The planning group should then decide whether or not existing information is likelyto be useful in explaining some of the causal connections shown in the ecosystem diagram. This may involve consultation with specialists who collected information in the past or who are familiar with particular kinds of data analysis.
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Lessons of the GCES Using What Is Already Known 213 Newly authorized studies of environmental systems often proceed as if information collected in the past at the study site is totally irrelevant. This was the case with GCES, which was criticized by the National Research Council (NRC, 1987) for having ignored extensive past data collection on the Colorado River and Luke Powell. The NRC assisted GCES by sponsoring a workshop in 1990 to which authorities on the resources of the Grand Canyon were invited and asked to summarize the existing state of knowledge about the resources of the GCES study area. Had this been done early in the planning of GCES, it would have been far more useful to the program. The use of past information could have extended even further to the analysis of existing records on sediment, temperature, and chemical concentrations and biota of the Colorado River and Lake Powell. In the rush to begin new work, planning groups characteristically are tempted to waive a hard look at existing information, and this leads to wasted resources and unnecessary repetition of the elementary phases of ecosystem analysis from one study to another. Implementation of the Plan Formation of the Study Group The planning group should give way to a study group. One fault with many complex studies is that the planning group becomes the study group. Because the planning group is selected before the dimensions of the study are known, its composition may render it ineffective as a study group. Furthermore, one criterion for inclusion as a member of a study group should be successful competition in a proposal solicitation process that is open to government employees, public-sector contractors, and universities. Thus, the study group is flexible and is dictated in any given phase of the study by the requirements of the study, not by membership in the planning group or other factors not related to successful completion of the study. Contracting and Project Leadership The GCES showed some of its most severe flaws in the implementation phases involving contracting and formation of the study group. Government
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214 River Resource Management in the Grand Canyon agencies participated in the planning phase on the grounds of their vested interests as shown by their statutory responsibilities. While this is un- derstandable and defensible, its continuation into the study phase essentially closed offflexibility in the solicitation of proposals or in the optimization of the study group to meet the needs of the study. In effect, agency missions were taken by GCES as entitlement for funding (Chapters 2 and 10~. This in turn led to other problems, including the inability of project management to demand performance as contractually agreed or to redirect funds when performance of a particular contractor was deemed inadequate or of low priority. The ideal ecosystem analysis would require a high degree of authority centralized in the project manager. The project manager for large studies might need to be assisted continuously by a senior scientist, as was re- commended for GCES, simply because the management of the business component for a project of broad scope can compete with oversight of scientific dimensions of the study. The project manager can function most effectively, and with lowest cost, without obligations to provide supportto any entity or individual or to continue supporting activities that prove to be inadequate or unnecessary. Such flexibility was absent in GCES, and the result was unreasonable distortion of project scope, failure of federal agencies to meet contractual obligations while continuing to receive support, and excessive focus on budget continuity rather than project objectives. GCES shows clearly that the public sector, like the private sector, cannot function efficiently unless there is a continuous element of merit-based competition in the award of support and in its continuation. Outside Advice Another essential element of the implementation phase is an external advisory board that is retained exclusively for the purpose of providing independent advice and criticism to the project manager and project participants. This element was added very belatedly to GCES and never came to full maturation. The NRC committee fulfilled some functions of the advisory board but was not charged with giving constant operational advice to GCES and therefore did not provide all of the services that a true advisory board could. As an adjunct to the use of an advisory board, all major study products, such as reports on project components, should be subjected to independent
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Lessons of the GCES 215 critique and review rather than remaining internal to the study group. Some review can be accomplished by publication in peer-reviewed literature, but other mechanisms for review also can be used for study components that are not appropriate for publication in full. Achievements and Dissemination of Information Another element of implementation is the organizational framework for dissemination and processing of data. Each large project such as GCES needs a general archiving and organizational system. Such a system was worked out by GCES through the use of the Geographic Information System and other computerized information storage systems. While not fully op- erational as of the end of GCES, the framework was correctly conceived. Reference to Final Objectives A successful ecosystem analysis requires constant referencing of in- dividual project components to the project's final objectives. Retention of appropriate scope for a project is a constant responsibility of management and cannot be executed in one step at the beginning of the project. The manager of the project and the manager of the advisory group need to ask continuously each project component and each participant how specific kincis of data collection will come to bear on the evaluation of management options. When this question cannot be answered satisfactorily, resources should be redirected to other objectives that are more pressing. Budgetary Continuity Federally funded projects can be subject to particular budgetary un- certainty if they are supported as a marginal activity of a major agency. This was the case with GCES, which ultimatelywas continued without interruption for 13 years but in most years was without any secure basis for budgetary planning. Ecosystem analysis is inherently a multlyear activity, although the primary phases of most ecosystem studies will not require as much time as those of GCES. A sponsoring agency should require a study plan leading to specific useful outcomes in a specified period of time, with specified costs.
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216 River Resource Management in the Grand Canyon Once justified, these arrangements should be a priority within the agency, and the study manager should be responsible for producing complete study products and adhering to the budget. In contrast to this ideal, GCES often showed an ad hoc approach to time schedules, partly because GCES was left in fiscal limbo toward the end of each budget year and partly because there was no binding list of study products. COMPLETION AND ANTICIPATION OF FUTURE NEEDS Completion of an ecosystem analysis involves final synthesis and recommendations to management, archiving of study results and data for future use, and recommendations for selective additional studies or monitor- ~ng. Synthesis Ecosystem analysis is almost useless without some final synthesis and rev commendations to management. Even so, this is the phase of analysis that is least likely to be completed satisfactorily. For example, GCES, as of its end in 1995, had not produced any synthesis above the single component level and thus in a sense failed to reach its final objective. While the BOR con- templates future preparation of a synthesis with post-GCES funds, the failure of GCES to produce a more synthetic outcome directly connected to man- agement makes for a poor demonstration of the usefulness of ecosystem analysis to management. A study plan must incorporate a firm commitment to final objectives, including explanation or modeling of connections between ecosystem components under the influence of management. Archiving for the Future Given that environmental regulations are a constant and growing element of management for any given site, environmental studies should be regarded as antecedents of future studies rather than as isolated projects. All of the basic data should be archived in standardized formats, and special studies should be written up in ways that make them and their underlying data useful in the future.
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Lessons of the GCES 217 Continuity into the Future Managers of environmental studies frequently feel strong motivation to recommend extension of their work as they are nearing completion. Such requests are often viewed with skepticism by sponsors, who seek a definite end to the project. There is validity in both viewpoints. A large environmental study can be viewed much like a large construction project. A major in- vestment is made initially to create the corpus of the environmental analysis, much in the same way the initial investment is made in the physical structure of a dam. To be useful, environmental analysis typically requires some sort of long-term continuity in the form of monitoring, which might be likened to the routine maintenance or operation of a dam following the major investment of construction. In the absence of some extension of effort following a major ecosystem analysis, the continuing validity of the analysis and the availability of expertise on the system will fade rapidly and undermine the original investment. In addition, new insights or operational changes may require revision, including new kinds of data collection on selected components of the system, if the analysis is to remain useful. ACHIEVEMENTS OF GCES Although the deficiencies of GCES were many, GCES can also claim numerous achievements, some of which relate to major expansion in our understanding of the Colorado River ecosystem between Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Mead, while others are of a more general nature (Table 11.1~. Important Discoveries of GCES GCES made a number of basic discoveries that can be used as a basis for optimizing the operation of Glen Canyon Dam in ways that benefit biotic communities, recreation, and other resources. The studies of sediment transport, which in some ways were the most satisfactory component of GCES, showed that sand entering the Colorado River through the Paria and the Little Colorado rivers, and to a lesser degree other small tributaries, is sufficient to provide the mass of sand necessary for maintenance of beaches and backwaters along the Colorado River below Lee's Ferry. Prior to GCES, it was generally suspected that the amount of sand from these sources would
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218 River Resource Management in the Grand Canyon TABLE 11.1 Milestones of Achievement for the BOR Through GCES l 1. Use of the ecosystem concept for redefinition of GCES scope. 2. Adclition of senior scientist to GCES. 3. Manipulation of discharge as a means of studying ecosystem responses. 4. Recognition of the potential trade-off between power production and environmental benefits. Recognition of the importance of long-term monitoring. 6. Inclusion of Native American tribes as cooperators. 7. Commitment to active management through controlled floods (beach- building flows). 8. Recognition of nonuse values. 9. Initiation of studies on multiple outlet withdrawal. 10. Creation of power resource studies involving external review. 11. Increase in extramural (nongovernmental) contracting. be insufficient for this purpose. Therefore, GCES showed that management of sand is feasible below Lee's Ferry given the existing sediment supplies without augmentation from a slurry pipeline or other sources. GCES also showed that controlled floods (now called beach-building flows) must be used to manage sand and debris (cobble and large rocks) in the canyon below Lee's Ferry. While the amount of sand entering the river is sufficient to maintain beaches and backwaters, it will not do so in the absence of occasional flood flows that are sufficient to lift sand from the bed of the river and over the tops of beaches and to scour backwaters so that they do not become filled with sediment. Beach-building flows are an ideal man- agement tool because they present low environmental risk and cause the sacrifice of only small amounts of power revenues in that they need to last only a few days and need not occur every year. Beach building flows were set for spring of 1995 but were cancelled by the BOR due to legal concerns from the upper basin states. Another experimental flood flow is scheduled for spring 1996. The GCES sediment studies also showed that moderation of ramping rate and particularly the downramp (decline of discharge) within the 24-hour cycle could offer substantial environmental benefits. The interim flows and subsequent preferred alternative ofthe environmental impact statement (EIS) incorporate moderatecl ramping rates that involve small losses in power re
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Lessons of the GCES 219 venue but create a flow regime that is more appealing for recreational use (rafting and fishing), less likely to cause stranding of trout, and less likely to accelerate loss of beach sand through the slumping that occurs during the downramp phase. Moderation in the extremes of discharge within a given day offers many of the same benefits and may enhance the biotic value of backwaters along the Colorado River. The GCES showed that the humpback chub is, as previously suspected, almost entirely dependent on the Little Colorado River for its maintenance in the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Luke Mead. The intensive studies of humpback chub also showed that small populations are present near other tributaries, suggesting that a second population center might be established in the future. These studies were initiated late in GCES, however, and have not yet produced final conclusions. The effects of various operating schemes on the Kanab amber snail and the willow flycatcher of the riparian zone also are unclear at this time. The definitive results of GCES primarily involve the management of sediment. While modest in number, these results are of great practical value and have led to the acceptance of new management schemes that will produce substantial environmental benefits with only modest loss of power revenues. Recognition of the Need for Comprehensive Environmental Studies Between 1983 and 1995, the BOR expanded the scope of GCES studies to realistic limits geographically and conceptually, accepted the ecosystem concept as the basis of the study and for interpretation of results, and ack- nowledged, during the EIS phase, the necessity of weighing power pro- duction and power revenues against environmental costs and benefits. These were all major advances in the management of the operation of Glen Canyon Dam. The dam is now managed according to an optimization concept that involves environmental, cultural, and recreational resources as well as power production and water management. While some of the management ration- ale is still not sufficiently backed by hard information, and the rationalization process itself is still deficient in some respects, the basic approach is sound and sets a framework that can be improved and refined in the future.
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220 River Resource Management in the Grand Canyon Adaptive Management and Long-Term Monitoring The BOR and its cooperators have proposed adaptive management as a basis for managing Glen Canyon Dam in the future. This will be a marked contrast to the past management strategy, which was essentially static until interim flows were adopted. Adaptive management will require frequent review of information on all resources and adjustment of operations as needed to optimize benefits from the suite of resources that are affected by the operations of Glen Canyon Dam. Beach-building flows (controlled floods) will be a key feature of adaptive management. In addition, the use of a multiple outlet withdrawal structure might become a new element of adaptive management if comprehensive studies of this option prove to be encour- aging. Thus, the adoption of adaptive management is an improvement in the management strategy for Glen Canyon Dam. The EIS team, with encouragement from GOES and the NRC committee, has also specified that long-term monitoring of resources affected by the dam's operations will be important in the future. The BOR has authorized the development of a long-term monitoring plan, and the NRC committee spon- sored a workshop on long-term monitoring in 1992 to assist in the clevel- opment of this plan. The commitment to long-term monitoring is essential as an adjunct to adaptive management. The environmental system below the Glen Canyon Dam is not static and thus will show numerous changes in the future that are responses to dam operations or to other events outside the realm of op- erations. These changes will be detected through long-term monitoring, and adaptive management will allow appropriate responses. One difficulty with the BOR's commitment to long-term monitoring has been the absence of any specific monitoring plan that could be subjected to debate and criticism prior to its adoption. A draft plan was formulated by GOES following the NRC committee workshop in 1992. Although the NRC committee criticized the draft plan in some detail, no revised plan has yet appeared. For reasons outlined in Chapter 2, adaptive management must be served by a specific plan that evolves around needs for information rather than constituencies, political forces, and precedents. External Expertise and Review The BOR made a major administrative advance in appointing a senior
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Lessons of the GCES 221 scientist to assist the project manager of GCES. The scientist was drawn from outside the federal government and brought an independent perspective to GCES. In addition, the BOR approved selective use of the advisory board principle mentioned in Chapter 2, although this principle was never fully developed by GCES. These elements, which strengthen an agency- sponsored project by drawing on external expertise and promoting con- structive criticism, are commendable and need to be extended in the future by greater use of external contracting and review. A HOPEFUL VIEW OF THE FUTURE While agencies of the U.S. government are notoriously conservative, the BOR has shown through GCES its ability to adapt to changing circumstances and new societal priorities. Despite the appearance in 1983 that the operations of Glen Canyon Dam would never be altered, the BOR has re- directed the management of the dam in ways that take into account the many valuable amenities and resources of the Colorado River corridor below the clam. The GCES and the changes that have come about through preparation of the operations EIS have modernized and reformed resource management in the Grand Canyon region. While many problems remain to be solved, the basic elements of a responsive and enlightened environmental management system are in place at Glen Canyon Dam. The BOR has made a significant step in broadening its mission from purveyor of water to environmental manager. The lessons of GCES are, to a large extent, transferrable to other locations and could be the basis for a new era in the management of western waters. REFERENCES National Research Council. 1987. Riverand Dam Management. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Wilkinson, C.F. 1993. Crossing the Next Meridian: Land, Waterand the Future of the West. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.
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