Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 80
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem 4 Ecosystem Monitoring and Science The Center has adopted an ecosystem approach to understanding the effects of Glen Canyon Dam operations on the Grand Canyon. This chapter thus begins with comments on ecosystem studies and monitoring, then reviews the Center's physical, biological, cultural, socioeconomic, and information technology programs. As pointed out in previous National Research Council reviews (1987, 1996a), an ecosystem approach seeks an understanding of interrelationships among important physical, chemical, biological, and social processes. Here we evaluate the Center's progress toward planning and implementing an integrated and comprehensive ecosystem-level monitoring and research program. In particular, two key components are evaluated: development of a conceptual model of the Grand Canyon ecosystem and the long-term monitoring program. Much of the Center's efforts in these areas build upon earlier programs and data gathered by the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies. The Center's use of GCES data and methods is uneven, ranging from good use of past physical sciences and cultural studies to little use of past work in studies on socioeconomic values of resources. The Center has assembled a large amount of information from Glen Canyon Environmental Studies, however, including synthesis projects to determine the limits of those data and methods. This chapter discuss instances in which data from the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies have proven useful for the Center's resource programs.
OCR for page 81
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem CONCEPTUAL MODELING The conceptual model was specified in the 1997 Strategic Plan and the 1998 Strategic Plan. Development and analysis of the conceptual model is the most tangible evidence that the Center is advancing concepts of ecosystem science and management toward a perspective of how alternative dam operations affect downstream resources that is integrated across physical, biological, and social science disciplines. While no single model will capture all processes important to Grand Canyon resources, the Center's efforts in conceptual modeling have helped draw together previously disparate and independent data sets. The Center has built upon Glen Canyon Environmental Studies' conceptual models that were not computerized, and has provided a forum for discussion and interaction among stakeholders and scientists of diverse disciplines. The model and a 1999 Colorado River Ecosystem Science Grand Canyon Symposium are helping integrate the scientific thinking of Center staff and other scientists working in the Grand Canyon. That the Center was able to implement a modeling exercise with leading experts in the field (Korman and Walters, 1998) is encouraging evidence that it is capable of overseeing an excellent ecosystem-level science and monitoring program. Conceptual modeling is proceeding on a reasonable schedule, with the initial contract likely to be completed in fiscal year 1999. Although the original Strategic Plan indicated continuing efforts to refine the model, based on future monitoring and research, there is no firm evidence in the 1998 Strategic Plan of continuing model development. It is anticipated that the most useful outcomes from the current modeling effort will be the identification of key ecosystem uncertainties and stimulation of discussion and action regarding data shortcomings. For example, one weakness identified in the exercise is a lack of long-term comparable data on trends in native and nonnative fish populations. Other preliminary results suggest that interim flows may have been beneficial to some fishes due to increased primary production in the Lee's Ferry reach of the Colorado River. They also indicate that the predam ecosystem may not have supported a great abundance of native fishes. It seems clear that the model already has been useful in framing important ecosystem-level questions. The conceptual model project is not, however, designed to address all questions of interest to the Center. For scaling reasons, some processes at fine spatial or temporal scales are not included, such as
OCR for page 82
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem modeling the dynamics of individual sandbars critical to understanding processes leading to their erosion and development. For this and other excluded processes, the development of separate, more focused models will be required. Some socioeconomic data have been included, but not as systematically as ecosystem data, and cultural resources had not been incorporated at the time of this review. The Center rightly emphasizes that the conceptual model should not be viewed as a predictive tool. Its primary value is obtained through its construction, which can help guide further studies, rather than its specific predictions. For similar reasons, the Center has rightly cautioned stakeholders that the conceptual model is not a decision-making tool. However, development of a new decision support system could certainly build upon lessons learned in conceptual modeling. The model's development should be viewed as an early and significant success, and the Center should be encouraged to use the exercise and its methodology as a vehicle for integrating future programs of science, monitoring, and adaptive management. Improvements in the conceptual model of the Colorado River ecosystem represent an important step forward, as synthesis and integration are areas where Center programs lag behind the goals expressed in the original Strategic Plan. DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION OF A LONG-TERM MONITORING PLAN The past fifteen years of research in the Grand Canyon have left a mixed legacy. On one hand, there has been progress in understanding sediment movement, the effects of water-level fluctuations on some aspects of benthic community dynamics, short-term responses to an experimental controlled flood (AGU, 1999), and other issues. On the other hand, there is still inadequate understanding of how long-term physical and biological dynamics are affected by dam operations. There are relatively few internally consistent, long-term data sets that span these fifteen years. Such data sets are needed to develop a comprehensive understanding of how variations in dam operations have affected Grand Canyon resources (for recent syntheses see Grams and Schmidt, 1999; Patten, 1998; Valdez and Carothers, 1998). One reason there are few long-term data sets useful in quantitative assessment of ecological changes in the Grand Canyon is that a long-term monitoring strategy and plan were not developed and implemented for
OCR for page 83
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem reasons reviewed in Chapter 1. The Center has correctly identified the need for a scientifically sound, comprehensive, long-term monitoring program as a major priority. The Strategic Plan discusses many principles on which a sound, long-term program should be based. These include analysis and synthesis of existing data, development of a conceptual ecosystem model, the need to be conservative in modifying a monitoring program once started (both in terms of items monitored and methods used), and provision of an information management system capable of safeguarding and assuring easy access to long-term data. The Center has also developed an Integrated Water Quality Program, which builds upon monitoring activities initiated in the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies period (Vernieu and Hueftle, 1999). The Integrated Water Quality Program encompasses quarterly reservoir surveys, monthly forebay surveys, and selected downstream monitoring. It uses the Lake Powell split criteria to indicate which monitoring activities—and associated management objectives and information—fall into ''white," "gray," and "black" categories. It also specifies sampling locations, frequencies, and analysis. The Center is clearly aware of the many issues that must be considered in designing a successful long-term monitoring program. The committee is concerned, however, that in contrast to the excellent materials in the Strategic Plan regarding principles of monitoring, there are few details about the emerging monitoring plan itself, or about application of these concepts to the Grand Canyon ecosystem. The Strategic Plan falls short in its lack of discussion of the major next steps toward implementing long-term monitoring. For example, with the exception of the Integrated Water Quality Program, there are no tabulations of existing long-term data sets, no tentative lists of variables that might be considered for measurement, and little mention of where within the ecosystem it may be best to make measurements. The Strategic Plan calls for protocol evaluation programs to critically evaluate sampling protocols proposed by each resource group, but it is unclear if there is a mechanism to ensure integration across resource groups. The Center should place a high priority on developing a detailed, long-term, integrated monitoring plan. The lack of a plan will hamper the rest of its functions, including development of requests for proposals. The monitoring plan must be designed to provide data necessary to evaluate long-term responses to current and future adaptive management. While the flows prescribed in the Record of Decision are now the main adaptive
OCR for page 84
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem management experiment, the range of alternatives considered will likely broaden over time. There are, for example, at least two additional adaptive management experiments currently under consideration: short-term beach/habitat-building flows and installation of a temperature control device at Glen Canyon Dam. In the long term, it is likely that other management options not currently envisioned will become available. Perhaps the only way to ensure that a long-term monitoring program will be relevant to evaluating the broad suite of experiments that may be conducted is to adopt a long-term ecosystem-level perspective. The following suggestions are offered in support of the Center's efforts: A long-term view of the monitoring program should be adopted. Long-term monitoring often yields few benefits in the first several years. A program designed to detect long-term (five- or ten-year scales to a multidecadal scale) changes should not be expected to yield significant results in the first few years. A lack of short-term results must not be allowed to impede development and implementation of a long-term program. Some of the more effective long-term data sets consist of relatively simple variables whose values accrued because of long-term sampling. An excellent example of a simple, yet powerful, long-term data set is the Secchi disk record collected since 1967 at Lake Tahoe, California (Jassby et al., 1999), which has documented slow but definite reduction in water clarity related to biologic responses to increased nutrient inputs from the watershed. Because ecological processes operate over various temporal and spatial scales, a long-term monitoring program should be effective at several different scales. Focusing evaluation of processes at a single spatial or temporal scale may result in an overly narrow view of Grand Canyon dynamics. The Center should consider a hierarchical design, consisting of a few local sites monitored frequently in detail, several index sites that receive less detailed monitoring at longer intervals, and broader reaches that might be monitored least intensively, perhaps using airborne (or other) remote sensing at annual or longer frequencies. The core variables forming the basis of the monitoring program should be explicitly identified. Core data sets should consist of simple, basic data whose value will accrue over time. Core data sets should be selected using an ecosystem-level, multispecies perspective, ensuring salience of variables over the long-term. Even at this early stage, there should by now be an identified list of candidate variables and
OCR for page 85
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem measurement locations, frequencies, and methods. It is troubling that a preliminary listing is not in the 1998 Strategic Plan. Once established, the monitoring program must be protected from fluctuating budgets and changing short-term interests. A monitoring program's value is in its long-term nature. Mechanisms must therefore be developed to buffer it from short-term fluctuations in the Center's budget. A consensus should be developed among scientists and stakeholders that the monitoring program receives first priority in lean budget years. Short-term research projects must be closely linked with the monitoring program. These short-term research projects should be identified by scientists and can be overseen by the stakeholder groups. Prospective short-term research projects should be partly evaluated in the peer-review process by their likelihood of providing a better understanding of relationships among or within the core monitoring data. Examining how short-term projects will enhance understanding of linkages between and among long-term data sets can provide an important way to focus research toward the needs of adaptive ecosystem management. Physical, biological, cultural, and socioeconomic measures should be co-located in space and time wherever and whenever practical. Co-location of monitoring variables, sites, and times among programs is an excellent way to assure integration across resource groups (such as monitoring of the controlled flood event in 1996). It may be increasingly important as the Grand Canyon National Park implements wilderness and other research permit regulations. While co-location is not always possible, there should be strong reasons before making the decision not to measure variables across resource groups at the same place or time. Optimizing co-location of sampling sites requires that the monitoring program for each resource group be developed in parallel with mechanisms for meaningful interactions among groups. The Physical Resources Program has made significant progress toward a long-term monitoring plan and has already convened a meeting of its protocol evaluation program team. The committee is concerned that because other resource groups are behind the physical group in planning and implementation, it will become increasingly difficult to develop integration across groups. The Center should also ensure that a search for a perfect monitoring plan does not become the greatest impediment to implementing an effective long-term monitoring program. It is understood that no
OCR for page 86
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem long-term monitoring program will be able to measure all the important variables with the frequency and spatial coverage that might ultimately be desired. Every program is thus open to valid criticism that it does not measure one or more important variables. The Center must avoid making the long-term monitoring program so ambitious and complex that it is too unwieldy to implement. The Center should consider designing the monitoring program in stages. With each resource program using the conceptual model and with clarified information needs as a framework, the Center might wish to draft a comprehensive list of candidate variables. It could then assign variables to one of several priority lists and begin a process of determining acceptable frequencies and measurement locations. For some variables this will be procedurally straightforward; for others it will become clear that methods are inadequate or benefits of measurement are unclear, and a decision to include it will be held in abeyance until more information becomes available. Through iteration at both the individual resource group and across resource group levels, a draft monitoring plan will emerge. Involving protocol evaluation program teams for each resource group should be encouraged early in this process. THE CENTER'S RESOURCE PROGRAM AREAS Physical Resources Program Management options for addressing downstream impacts of the Glen Canyon Dam are defined primarily in terms of physical controls: flow rates and temperatures of water released at the dam. Adaptive management experiments intended to improve ecosystem resources are linked to dam operations through processes of water flow, sedimentation, and erosion. A description of the physical responses of the Grand Canyon to past and future dam operations provides the framework needed to formulate adaptive management experiments and test hypotheses regarding ecosystem responses to dam operations. A primary focus of the Physical Resources Program is sand within the Grand Canyon and its sources, sinks, and rates of transport. Sand deposits form camping beaches, provide terrestrial and aquatic habitat, and preserve cultural artifacts. Research and monitoring are focused on understanding how to maintain adequate volumes and appropriate mor-
OCR for page 87
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem phology of these deposits in order to preserve associated ecological, recreational, and cultural resources. A sand budget quantifying inputs, storage, transfers, and output provides the conceptual framework for most sediment research in the Grand Canyon. Individual projects focus on inputs from gauged and ungauged tributaries, transport rates within the mainstem, and changes in storage within the channel and along its margin. A budget focuses attention on the large post-dam decreases in sand supply and the need to carefully manage the available sediment. A second focus of the Physical Resources Program is on coarser sediments (cobbles, boulders) that form debris fans at tributary canyons, creating rapids and anchoring most of the larger sandbars in the mainstem. The post-dam flow regime has reduced the river's ability to rework these debris fans. A better understanding is needed of the ability of available floods to rework these deposits and maintain navigability of the rapids. Synthesis of Previous Knowledge Evaluation of past data and research is an active part of the Physical Resources Program, and the committee noted that this program was actively and carefully reviewing and building on past research. The 1998 Strategic Plan includes two research efforts that reanalyze existing data sets for the purpose of developing a consistent historical record of sand storage and transport. One is a compilation of past observations of sandbar volumes. Work conducted at various times by different organizations using a variety of methods has produced historical data on sand bar changes that are difficult to compare and interpret (Grams and Schmidt, 1999). The ability to predict future changes in sand bars will clearly benefit from a better understanding of their history. A second project is reanalyzing historical records of sediment transport in the Grand Canyon and its immediate tributaries. This work has improved understanding of sand transport before and after the dam (Topping et al., 1999) and has contributed to a fundamental revision of the sand budget and a reevaluation of the frequency and timing of floods that would best conserve sand resources. The sand budget paradigm has provided a consistent organizing concept for sediment research over two decades (e.g., Howard and Dolan, 1981; Randle et al., 1993; Schmidt, 1999; Smillie et al., 1993, cited in U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 1995; Topping et al., 1999). Revisions in the sand
OCR for page 88
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem budget reflect important advances toward understanding and managing sand resources in the Grand Canyon. A revision currently under investigation is the channel's ability to store tributary-derived sediment, which has important implications regarding the timing of controlled floods needed to preserve available sand. While the Glen Canyon Dam Environmental Impact Statement was being written, it was believed that tributary sand was stored in the channel in years without large dam releases, leaving it available for redistribution to bars and channel margins by occasional controlled floods. This model was based on sand budgets developed from U.S. Geological Survey gauging records and was based on the assumption that relations between sand transport and discharge were stable over time (Randle et al., 1993; Smillie et al., 1993, cited in U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 1995). U.S. Geological Survey cross-sections of the Colorado River were used in determining sand storage in the channel, information important to planning the controlled flood of 1996. Reanalysis of sediment gauging records (Topping et al., 1999) and observations during the 1996 controlled flood (Rubin et al., 1998; Smith, 1999; Topping et al., 1999) indicated the concentration and size of sediment transported at a given discharge can vary depending on the duration of mainstem flows and their timing relative to tributary sediment inputs. The existence of previously assumed multi-year-in-channel storage is now in question, raising important new questions concerning the effective timing and duration of future controlled floods. A previous National Research Council committee recommended several areas of research and monitoring to support management of the sand resource, including developing triggering criteria and flow specifications for beach/habitat-building flows, monitoring rates of beach deposition during beach/habitat-building flows, and creating a procedure for determining sand budgets for different parts of the Grand Canyon (NRC, 1996a). Research and monitoring supporting all of these recommendations is ongoing, and much of it is incorporated in the 1998 Strategic Plan. Results of ongoing work in each of these areas are also being used to evaluate and revise management decisions. Studies of beach deposition during the 1996 beach/habitat-building flows (Andrews et al., 1999; Center, 1997a; Hazel et al., 1999; Kearsley et al., 1999; Schmidt et al., 1999b) and research on channel-eddy sand exchange (Rubin et al., 1998; Smith, 1999; Topping et al., 1999; Wiele et al., 1999) contributed directly to ongoing discussions of the most effective magnitude and duration of such management events.
OCR for page 89
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem Beach/habitat-building flow triggering criteria have been developed (Technical Work Group, 1997), and information produced by the Physical Resources Program is being used to evaluate the combination of beach/habitat-building flow magnitude, duration, and post-flood flow regime that will provide the best test of the effectiveness of such efforts in conserving sand. Although a sand budget is not yet complete, ongoing research is effectively focused on components that are the least understood. Likely Effectiveness of the Strategic Plan Progress in developing understanding of the physical behavior of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon is evident in the revision of the Strategic Plan. The 1998 Strategic Plan focuses attention on river reaches nearest the dam, where impacts of post-dam reductions in sediment supply are largest. Reaches in Glen and Marble canyons are considered critical because they have little sand input and have shown progressive loss of stored sand in the post-dam period (Schmidt and Graf, 1990; Schmidt et al., 1995; Webb, 1996). The long-term volume of sediment that may be stored in Glen and Marble canyons, its variability in space and time, and, therefore, the viability of related biological and recreational resources, remains to be determined. The 1998 Strategic Plan identifies needs for greater understanding of sand storage potential and sediment residence time in Marble Canyon. The 1998 Strategic Plan places increased emphasis on a fine-grained sediment budget as the primary organizing principle for continued research and monitoring. A sand budget serves to focus attention on parts of the system for which understanding is weakest (e.g., storage and evacuation of sand on the channel bed), while also supplying an internally consistent accounting as a strong basis for long-term monitoring. The 1998 Strategic Plan also emphasizes the need for a complete map of topography and sediment content of the river corridor from the channel bed up to pre-dam flood elevations. Such a map will provide the basis for accurate routing of flow and sediment through the canyon and gives a baseline for effective, long-term monitoring of sediment. The need for a synoptic channel sediment map was recognized by a review panel convened in August 1998, and the Physical Resources Program responded within a month with an end-to-end (from Lee's Ferry downstream to
OCR for page 90
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem Diamond Creek, located at River Mile 225), side-scan sonar survey of the channel bed. The magnitude, duration, and post-flood flow regime of future beach/habitat-building flows are currently under debate (Argonne National Laboratory, 1999; Melis, 1998). One proposal involves releases of up to 60,000 cfs for several days, followed by fluctuating (load-following) flows. Discussion of this proposal focused on issues of hypothesis testing and multiple treatments (Sit and Taylor, 1998). This is an appropriate discussion within the framework of designing adaptive management experiments and focuses on the appropriate magnitude and duration of beach/habitat-building flows, the sequence of experimental floods most likely to demonstrate clear results, and the utility of a fluctuating post-flood regime for conserving deposited sand. Research during and after the 1996 controlled flood suggests that a shorter-duration beach/habitat-building flow of larger magnitude may be more effective than the flood in 1996 (Schmidt, 1999). The concentration of sediment in suspension decreased during the 1996 flood, indicating that channel sediments available for redistribution decreased over its course (Smith, 1999; Topping et al., 1999). Bar deposition rates were larger, while suspended sand concentrations were higher early in the flood (Andrews et al., 1999; Schmidt, 1999), a result supported by numerical simulations of the flow and transport field (Wiele et al., 1999). A shorter-duration beach/habitat-building flow is also supported by observations that most debris-fan reworking occurred during the initial hours of the controlled flood (AGU, 1999). Numerical modeling of the flow and transport field provides a means of evaluating effects of different management options and a means of forecasting conditions at locations where monitoring is not conducted. Both the 1997 and 1998 strategic plans emphasize the utility of numerical modeling and incorporate it as part of the long-term monitoring program. Both plans also emphasize the desirability of developing remote sensing methods for basic water and sediment monitoring, and the Physical Resources Program is actively exploring less invasive means of collecting adequate monitoring data. The present state of the art in both numerical modeling and remote sensing, however, is such that on-the-ground long-term monitoring and periodic detailed measurements of local processes are still required. The Physical Resources Program was reviewed by a protocol evaluation program panel in August 1998 (Wohl et al., 1998). The panel
OCR for page 114
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem suite of physical changes in the Grand Canyon. But it is certainly important that stakeholders be informed about and account for the value imputations they have selected when making recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior on dam-operation alternatives. Implicitly assigned valuations deserve as much scrutiny as the scientifically measured physical effects. Even the best physical measurements can lead to bad management decisions if the social values of these changes are assigned incorrectly. The Strategic Plan contains little discussion of how the Center plans to stay abreast of research on the valuation of nonmarket environmental goods, including both use and nonuse values. More importantly, there is little discussion of how the Center plans to use these valuation methods to monitor the social effects of dam operations. In some nonmarket valuation contexts, a strategy called "benefits transfer" is highly desirable when feasible. This is a technique of finding other studies done on the values of similar environmental goods, under sufficiently similar conditions, to allow the approximate social values from these other studies to be transferred for use in the current context. Benefits transfer is not likely to be as useful in valuing Grand Canyon resources as it is, say, for valuing the reduction in social value from small oil spills. There have been many small oil spills; there is only one Grand Canyon. For unique resources like the Grand Canyon, benefits transfer is likely to be less fruitful. In the absence of viable benefits transfer opportunities, it is important to consider the implications of limited budgets for future economic analysis. In the near term, the Center is unlikely to have the internal resources to undertake innovative original survey research to establish social values for different components of the Grand Canyon ecosystem. If future recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior require more precise knowledge about social estimates of environmental benefits than has been needed in the past, it may become necessary to raise funding for research to learn about these benefits. In-house expertise in the relevant environmental valuation methods is a prerequisite for ensuring that the necessary research is done correctly. Information Technology Program Figure 4.1 shows a simple model of the flow of data and information, and its role in decision-making in the context of adaptive
OCR for page 115
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem Figure 4.1 A model of the data—information—decision-making cycle for the Grand Canyon (adapted from Rob and Coronel, 1997). management of the Grand Canyon ecosystem. In this model, the Adaptive Management Work Group proposes actions. When the Secretary of the Interior takes an action, the system is monitored: data describing the physical, biological, cultural, and socioeconomic system are collected. These data, when compared with "without action" data, produce information about changes to the ecosystem. This, in turn, provides a basis for judging the efficacy of the action taken, thus leading to further decision-making. In this model, two "data sets" are equally important: the set that describes the system with the proposed actions taken, and the set that describes the system prior to the action. The Center's scientific programs are charged with monitoring the former and describing the latter, where it is not already done. The Center's Information Technology Program is charged with maintaining and distributing information about the latter
OCR for page 116
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem (which is, in fact, dynamic because of natural changes in the system). The Information Technology Program is viewed properly as a support program at the Center rather than as a research or monitoring program. According to the fiscal year 2000 plan, this program's goal is "to satisfy the information needs of stakeholders, scientists, and the public relative to the Colorado River ecosystem." To fulfill this goal, three tasks are assigned to the Information Technology Program: Archiving and delivering scientific data and other information to stakeholders, scientists, and the public. Providing technology-based solutions to data collection, manipulation, and analysis. Providing support in areas of computers, surveying, and geographic information systems. Task 1: Archiving and delivering scientific data and other information to stakeholders, scientists, and the public. According to the Center, the Information Technology Program (ITP) "becomes involved with scientific investigations at the point of contract award, to provide relevant background literature, scientific and remotely sensed data, and survey and other spatial data. The researcher identifies to the ITP the type and attributes of. . .data they are collecting. . . When GCMRC [Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center] receives a deliverable from a researcher. . .the ITP reviews it. . .and incorporates it into the appropriate data system [from which it is] made available to stakeholders, researchers, and the public through delivery systems" (Center, 1998). The Information Technology Program relies on three core technologies for data archiving and delivery: A database management system. A database is a shared, integrated computer structure in which raw facts (data) are filed, along with a description of the characteristics and relationships of the data (metadata). A database management system is a set of software programs that permit a user to manage the database structure, to file and selectively to retrieve data, and to control access to the data. The Center staff recognizes the value of data and the value of managing these data in a systematic fashion with modern database
OCR for page 117
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem management systems. They have selected the Oracle database management system as the tool for data management. Implementing this as an enterprisewide system will facilitate: (1) interpretation and presentation of the scientific data in useful formats, (2) distribution of data and information, (3) data preservation and use monitoring, and (4) control over data duplication, internally and externally. Current efforts include installing software, documenting installation, and designing and programming the database structure. Plans for fiscal year 1999 focus on inventorying available data and designing a system for filing these in a consistent electronic format within the Oracle system (implementation of the database management system was scheduled for December 1999 but was delayed because of staff turnover). A geographic information system (GIS). A geographic information system is a software system that integrates the capabilities of a database management system with the capabilities of drawing, drafting, mapping, and coordinate geometry packages. This permits the storage, selective retrieval, and manipulation of data that are spatially referenced, and presentation of the result of the retrieval and manipulation as maps. Glen Canyon Environmental Studies staff, and subsequently Center staff, recognized the value of the systematic archiving of spatial data and have undertaken work to provide staff, researchers, and stakeholders with GIS capabilities. The Information Technology Program has selected protocols for geographic data storage, and plans for fiscal year 2000 include developing tools for distributing the geographic information system on the Internet, integrating the geographic information system with the database management system, and incorporating data collected in fiscal year 1999. A library. The Center's library is a conventional facility in which books, reports, maps, photographs, and videos are stored and from which these materials are loaned to staff, scientists, and stakeholders. The Information Technology Program manages the library and is responsible for the acquisition and distribution of its holdings. Work is underway to establish policies for library material use and check-out; to catalog contents; to facilitate day-to-day operation; to provide electronic searching capabilities; and to provide more information electronically.
OCR for page 118
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem Task 2: Providing technology-based solutions to data collection, manipulation, and analysis. Scientific data collection, manipulation, and analyses required for Grand Canyon research and monitoring are, in many cases, accomplished best using modern technology. The Information Technology Program is charged with promoting in-house use of this technology. It is also charged with providing coaching and encouragement to stakeholders, outside scientists, and the public in effective use of the technology. Information Technology Program staff have devoted significant efforts to investigation of remote sensing solutions to the data collection problems, as these solutions promise to provide a cost-effective means of resource monitoring, with minimum impact. The program proposes to allocate approximately 50 percent of its fiscal year 2000 budget to this remote sensing work. Activities will include: (1) evaluation of the utility of satellite and airborne imagery, global positioning systems, telemetry, hydroacoustics, and sonar, (2) acquisition of image-processing software, hardware, and consulting services necessary to make best use of the remotely sensed data, and (3) establishment of ground control for the remotely sensed data (through allocations for topographic and hydrographic surveys). Other efforts at providing technology-based solutions are intertwined with the database management system and GIS activities that support archiving and delivering scientific data. For example, plans for GIS activities include developing an Internet map server. This relatively new technology will significantly improve the capability of the Center to distribute spatial data to stakeholders so that they can use the information for decision-making. Task 3: Providing support in areas of computers, surveying, and geographic information systems. The Information Technology Program supports office automation at the Center. This is a housekeeping task presumably assigned to the Information Technology Program, rather than to administrative staff, because of expertise of the Center's staff with the technology. The Center's system includes approximately 50 computers with various peripherals. The computers are linked within the Center via a local area network and to the world via the Internet.
OCR for page 119
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem In addition to this administrative chore, the program provides survey support to researchers. This support includes establishing the location of physical, biological, and cultural features of the Grand Canyon, using global positioning systems, conventional topographic surveying tools, and hydrographic surveys. Products of the survey department include spatial data, which form the basis for various GIS coverage areas, and maps of features of interest. These products are produced for both staff and contractors. The fiscal year 2000 plan identifies development of protocols for data collection, processing, and use as "areas of focus" for the Information Technology Program. This is critical, for data standards and protocols will ensure consistency in application of technology within the Center and by its contractors. This program has adopted the principles of the National Information Infrastructure, the National Biological Information Infrastructure, and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, and it has promised to incorporate their guidelines and protocols into the overall database design and into delivery systems whenever possible. This is an important and positive contribution to data maintenance at the Center. As currently programmed, data standard and protocol development will continue through fiscal year 2000. Other support activities include efforts to provide stakeholders with direct access to selected data and information in the database management system and the GIS, and to assist stakeholders in utilizing data and models incorporated in the Information Technology Program. Strengths The roles of the Information Technology Program within the Center are appropriate: the program has not driven the science; it is designed to support it. Its activities are managed much like a business, with goals that can be clearly defined and with performance indicators that can be measured easier and sooner than indicators in the scientific program. The efforts of the Information Technology Program managers to coordinate site surveying in the Grand Canyon have been commendable. Without this, establishing the required geographic references could be chaotic.
OCR for page 120
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem Weaknesses and Alternative Approaches This committee feels that with some modifications, this program could better serve the needs of the stakeholders, scientists, and public relative to the Colorado River ecosystem. These modifications include the following: Survey information users to determine information needs. The stated goal of the Information Technology Program is to "satisfy the information needs of stakeholders, scientists, and the public relative to the Colorado River ecosystem" (Center, 1998). These needs, however, have not been well defined. We thus feel that program staff can contribute significantly to the Center's progress by surveying information users, particularly stakeholders, to identify types of information necessary for informed decision-making and the form in which that information would best be presented. This survey may provide an additional benefit of helping better formulate the questions that are to be answered by the scientific research and monitoring programs. Assign a higher priority to data archiving. Since the earliest reviews of Grand Canyon scientific programs, the lack of archiving of data and results has been criticized. For example, in 1996, the National Research Council committee reviewing the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies wrote that, "Good work was performed and excellent data were collected, but there was little coordination among the different elements of the research team. . .each project remained essentially an independent entity. There was little coordination of results and little exchange of information among research teams" (NRC, 1996a, p. 74). This lack of coordination is a communication problem that technology cannot solve. But using technology to archive and distribute data and research results will make coordination easier. For example, if one is interested in studying the movement of cobbles in the river, one should be able to access measurements previously taken without some special "inside track" to locate these data. Researchers at Glen Canyon Environmental Studies reported that they worked with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to create metadata reports of all data collected. An electronic metadata form was distributed to all researchers. The goals were to document the data available and to provide a georeference through the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies GIS. To the extent that these metadata reports exist, however, they are not widely available. In fact, the
OCR for page 121
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem fiscal year 2000 plan notes that "extensive data and information currently exists in the GCMRC. . .potentially equal amounts. . .exist within museums, universities, state and Federal agencies, etc. However, much of this information has not been evaluated to assess the interrelationship of resource attributes and differing flow regimes" (Center, 1998). Various plans lay out programs for information management tasks that may remedy the problem. For example, the 1998 Strategic Plan spells out advantages of using a common database management system. The Oracle system (a good choice) was selected as the enterprise data-warehousing tool, and a plan was developed for implementing the system over several years. But in the meantime, more data will be collected, more scientific research will be conducted, and the volume of data not yet archived will grow. This committee believes that a carefully formulated strategic plan for database development and management is important. But being correct is of little consequence if the results are too late to influence the decision-making. The delays in database design and implementation put this effort at risk of being too late. The committee thus urges either: (1) adoption of an interim solution that will use available database management tools to make more information available while design and implementation of the enterprise data-warehousing system proceeds, or (2) acceleration of the warehouse development. We endorse the plan to continue requiring that contributor data be provided in appropriate electronic format. This will expedite data-warehousing and will minimize the risk that newly collected data and results will not be available in a timely fashion to researchers and stakeholders. According to discussions with this committee, the condition of the Center's library has deteriorated following the transition from Glen Canyon Environmental Studies to the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center. Acquisitions have not been cataloged properly, and loan and recovery of materials have not been monitored carefully. A strategic plan for restoration was developed in October 1998, and a student was employed to assist with this effort. We recommend that this restoration be given higher priority. While much of the academic community is "plugged in" to the Internet and can take advantage of electronic distribution, some stakeholders and large segments of the public cannot. For this group, the documents, photographs, slides, videotapes, and other materials held in the Center's library are critical sources of information.
OCR for page 122
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem Expand and accelerate data and information delivery via the World Wide Web. The Information Technology Program staff have articulated well the problem that they face: "Bring together years of disparate historical data collected by multiple entities located in databases across the southwest in an organized fashion and then deliver it transparently to an equally disparate group of stakeholders for decision making and modeling purposes" (Center, 1998, p. 77–78). The Internet, specifically the World Wide Web, provides a partial solution to this problem. Center staff and the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation realize this. The main Center Web site (http://www.gcmrc.gov) currently provides information about activities of the Adaptive Management Work Group, the Technical Work Group, and the Center. It permits visitors to download various documents. For example, minutes of the meetings of the Adaptive Management Work Group and Technical Work Group commonly are available. The site also provides access to the annual and long-term monitoring and research plans. Furthermore, the conceptual model (described elsewhere in this report) and accompanying documentation are available for downloading through this site. Recent efforts have presented data (at least a graphical representation of the data), through graphics and animation, of Lake Powell conductivity (see http://www.usbr.gov/gces/pleth.htm on the World Wide Web). Links between the Center and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Adaptive management Program Web pages could be more clearly and closely organized. The Information Technology Program staff have proposed plans for broader World Wide Web distribution of data from the data warehouse and from the geographic information system, an effort this committee applauds. We feel that much could be done, however, while planning continues. Some relatively quick and inexpensive measures would permit the Information Technology Program to make strides toward satisfying the information needs of stakeholders, scientists, and the public. An example of such an interim solution is the Lake Tahoe data clearinghouse Web site (http://blt.wr.usgs.gov/tahoe/GIS.html#other). This site provides links to databases of several participating federal, state, and local agencies, universities, and tribes. From these sources, a user can retrieve, for example, geographic information system data. In some cases, the link is to a file transfer protocol (FTP) server, such as that at http://edcwww.cr.usgs.gov/doc/edchome/ndcdb/ndcdb.html. No sophisticated Web interface exists there, and the querying features are limited to "click here if this
OCR for page 123
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem is what you need.'' Current data can nevertheless be retrieved in common GIS formats, and with these researchers and stakeholders have access to the information critical for decision-making. Anticipate and plan for development of a computerized decision support system. As described elsewhere in this report, work underway at the Center will contribute to further development of the Grand Canyon ecosystem model. When complete, this conceptual model will provide stakeholders, scientists, and the public with an important opportunity: when used in the context of decision support systems, this model will provide important information for the Adaptive Management Program. We believe that the Center's Information Technology Program can play a significant role in ensuring that the conceptual model will be a useful tool for scientific investigation, and in promoting the use of the model as a decision support system within the larger Adaptive Management Program. To do this, priorities in the Information Technology Program must be revised to permit staff to interact with the model developers, and to participate in the design and programming to establish data connectivity with the Oracle database management system and the Center's GIS. Current priorities do not permit this. As of early 1999, the database administrator-developer position was vacant and had been vacant for several months. Meanwhile, development of the conceptual model was proceeding quickly, with a projected completion date of March 31, 1999. Opportunities for early coordination of modelers and database developers were thus lost. Fortunately, the developers of the conceptual model used Microsoft Visual Basic 5.0 as the development tool. Thus, subsequent modifications to the conceptual model by the developers, by the Information Technology Program staff, or by others would be relatively straight-forward. Oracle Corporation provides Oracle Objects for OLE, a development tool that delivers Oracle database access from Visual Basic, using OLE2 technology. Microsoft provides similar access through ActiveX Data Objects. Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc., provides similar tools for filing, retrieving, and displaying geographic data with Visual Basic applications. With sufficient resources, these applications can be used to provide the conceptual model with access to the Center's databases as the source of state information. Manage computer-system administration independently of the other Information Technology Program activities. The Information Tech-
OCR for page 124
Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem nology Program staff has recognized that proper system configuration, maintenance, and repair comes at a high cost and has recommended that sources outside the Center administer much of this work. This is possible because such system administration requires no familiarity with specifics of scientific programs. This shift of responsibilities from the staff to a vendor, or to system administrators in the U.S. Geological Survey or the Bureau of Reclamation, will free staff for other duties. In turn, they can concentrate on more important activities that demand familiarity with the Grand Canyon scientific programs.
Representative terms from entire chapter: