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Beyond Conjecture: Learning About Ecosystem Management From the Glen Canyon Dam Experiment

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This brief article, written for a symposium on "Collaboration and the Colorado River," evaluates the U.S. Department of the Interior's Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program ("AMP"). The AMP has been advanced as a pioneering collaborative and adaptive approach for

This brief article, written for a symposium on "Collaboration and the Colorado River," evaluates the U.S. Department of the Interior's Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program ("AMP"). The AMP has been advanced as a pioneering collaborative and adaptive approach for both decreasing scientific uncertainty in support of regulatory decision-making and helping manage contentious resource disputes -- in this case, the increasingly thorny conflict over the Colorado River's finite natural resources. Though encouraging in some respects, the AMP serves as a valuable illustration of the flaws of existing regulatory processes purporting to incorporate collaboration and regulatory adaptation into the decision-making process. Born in the shadow of the law and improvised with too little thought as to its structure, the AMP demonstrates the need to attend to the design of the regulatory process and integrate mechanisms that compel systematic program evaluation and adaptation. As such, the AMP provides vital information on how future collaborative experiments might be modified to enhance their prospects of success.

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2008-09-19

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Colorado River Campsite Monitoring, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, 1998–2012

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River rafting trips and hikers use sandbars along the Colorado River in Marble and Grand Canyons as campsites. The U.S. Geological Survey evaluated the effects of Glen Canyon Dam operations on campsite areas on sandbars along the Colorado River in

River rafting trips and hikers use sandbars along the Colorado River in Marble and Grand Canyons as campsites. The U.S. Geological Survey evaluated the effects of Glen Canyon Dam operations on campsite areas on sandbars along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. Campsite area was measured annually from 1998 to 2012 at 37 study sites between Lees Ferry and Diamond Creek, Arizona. The primary purpose of this report is to present the methods and results of the project.

Campsite area surveys were conducted using total station survey methods to outline the perimeter of camping area at each study site. Campsite area is defined as any region of smooth substrate (most commonly sand) with no more than an 8 degree slope and little or no vegetation. We used this definition, but relaxed the slope criteria to include steeper areas near boat mooring locations where campers typically establish their kitchens.

The results show that campsite area decreased over the course of the study period, but at a rate that varied by elevation zone and by survey period. Time-series plots show that from 1998 to 2012, high stage-elevation (greater than the 25,000 ft3/s stage-elevation) campsite area decreased significantly, although there was no significant trend in low stage-elevation (15,000–20,000 ft3/s) campsite area. High stage-elevation campsite area increased after the 2004 and 2008 high flows, but decreased in the intervals between high flows. Although no overall trend was detected for low stage-elevation campsite areas, they did increase after high-volume dam releases equal to or greater than about 20,000 ft3/s. We conclude that dam operations have not met the management objectives of the Glen Canyon Adaptive Management program to increase the size of camping beaches in critical and non-critical reaches of the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Mead.

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2014-07

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Collaborative Planning and Adaptive Management in Glen Canyon: A Cautionary Tale

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The Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (AMP) has been identified as a model for natural resource management. We challenge that assertion, citing the lack of progress toward a long-term management plan for the dam, sustained extra-programmatic conflict, and a

The Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (AMP) has been identified as a model for natural resource management. We challenge that assertion, citing the lack of progress toward a long-term management plan for the dam, sustained extra-programmatic conflict, and a downriver ecology that is still in jeopardy, despite over ten years of meetings and an expensive research program. We have examined the primary and secondary sources available on the AMP’s design and operation in light of best practices identified in the literature on adaptive management and collaborative decision-making. We have identified six shortcomings: (1) an inadequate approach to identifying stakeholders; (2) a failure to provide clear goals and involve stakeholders in establishing the operating procedures that guide the collaborative process; (3) inappropriate use of professional neutrals and a failure to cultivate consensus; (4) a failure to establish and follow clear joint fact-finding procedures; (5) a failure to produce functional written agreements; and (6) a failure to manage the AMP adaptively and cultivate long-term problem-solving capacity.

Adaptive management can be an effective approach for addressing complex ecosystem-related processes like the operation of the Glen Canyon Dam, particularly in the face of substantial complexity, uncertainty, and political contentiousness. However, the Glen Canyon Dam AMP shows that a stated commitment to collaboration and adaptive management is insufficient. Effective management of natural resources can only be realized through careful attention to the collaborative design and implementation of appropriate problem-solving and adaptive-management procedures. It also requires the development of an appropriate organizational infrastructure that promotes stakeholder dialogue and agency learning. Though the experimental Glen Canyon Dam AMP is far from a success of collaborative adaptive management, the lessons from its shortcomings can foster more effective collaborative adaptive management in the future by Congress, federal agencies, and local and state authorities.

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2010-03-23

Paul Grams Oral History

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Summary: 

Interview conducted by: Dr. Paul Hirt, Arizona southwestern U.S. state. State University and Jennifer Sweeney, Four East Historical Research, LLC. Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program Administrative History Project. Administered by Arizona southwestern U.S. state. State University Supported by a

Summary: 

Interview conducted by: Dr. Paul Hirt, Arizona southwestern U.S. state. State University and Jennifer Sweeney, Four East Historical Research, LLC. Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program Administrative History Project. Administered by Arizona southwestern U.S. state. State University Supported by a grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation.

Biography: 

Paul Grams has worked directly with the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (GCDAMP) since 2008, as a program manager and research hydrologist at the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC). His involvement in Grand Canyon studies goes back to 1991, when he took a Colorado River research trip as part of an undergraduate science course. Grams is an expert on the effects of dams on river geomorphology and sediment transport. He holds a BA in Geology from Middlebury College, an MS in Geology from Utah State University, and a PhD in Geography and Environmental Engineering from Johns Hopkins University.

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2020-01-24