New Member Orientation

Effective date: 8 April, 2021

Why GCDAMP exists

In 1992 Congress passed the Grand Canyon Protection Act (GCPA), which mandated development of an environmental impact statement to evaluate the effects of Glen Canyon Dam on downstream resources. The Act also mandated the Secretary to “establish and implement long-term monitoring programs and activities that will ensure that Glen Canyon Dam is operated … to protect, mitigate adverse impacts to, and improve the values for which Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area were established…”

The US Department of Interior (DOI) published its Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Operation of Glen Canyon Dam in March 1995. In October 1996 it published its Record of Decision and in January 1997 Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt signed a Notice of Establishment of the Glen Canyon Adaptive Management Work Group as a formal federal advisory committee. The GCDAMP has evolved over time into a complex, collaborative body of scientists and stakeholders and federal agency representatives, but its fundamental purpose remains to fulfill the mandates of the Grand Canyon Protection Act through research, monitoring, and advice to the Secretary of Interior.

Laws that affect the program

Primarily the Grand Canyon Protection Act (Public Law 102-575, Sec. 1801-1809). But operations of Glen Canyon Dam and management of the Colorado River are also influenced of a larger body of law collectively referred to as The Law of the River. In fact, the Grand Canyon Protection Act states in Sec 1802: “The Secretary shall implement this section in a manner fully consistent with and subject to the Colorado River Compact, the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact, the Water Treaty of 1944 with Mexico, the decree of the Supreme Court in Arizona v. California, and the provisions of the Colorado River Storage Project Act of 1956 and the Colorado River Basin Project Act of 1968 that govern allocation, appropriation, development, and exportation of the waters of the Colorado River basin.” This complicated and occasionally conflicting body of law makes it difficult at times to determine exactly how to implement the resource protection mandates of the GCPA without violating other aspects of Colorado River water law.

The 1995 Glen Canyon Dam EIS and 1996 Record of Decision (ROD)

The Glen Canyon Dam Final EIS analyzed baseline impacts of dam operations on downstream environmental and cultural resources from 1963 to 1990, and compared those baseline impacts to possible alternative operations of Glen Canyon Dam, including three alternatives that would provide steady flows from the dam and six alternatives that would provide various levels of fluctuating flows. The EIS team and the cooperating agencies identified a preferred alternative called: the Modified Low Fluctuating Flow Alternative. This EIS served as the culmination of the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies launched in the early 1980s to document the effects of Glen Canyon Dam on downstream resources, fulfilling one of the mandates of the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992.

The 1996 RoD formally adopted the preferred alternative from the 1995 EIS stipulating the Modified Low Fluctuating Flow Alternative for operating Glen Canyon Dam. It also initiated the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (GCDAMP) by establishing the Adaptive Management Work Group (AMWG) under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). AMWG’s stipulated purpose was to develop “a long-term monitoring, research, and experimental program” to evaluate the continuing effects of dam operations and to propose additional modifications when warranted.

Original AMWG Charter of 1997 and Subsequent Renewals

The Adaptive Management Work Group (AMWG) is a Federal Advisory Committee, so it is required to have a charter. The first AMWG charter was formulated in 1997. This initial charter described AMWG’s objectives, scope of activities, and duties; how it interacts with federal entities; and its estimated annual operating costs. The charter also mandated that AMWG membership consist of a set number of stakeholders, drawn from specified entities and groups with an interest in Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. Originally planned to be indefinite, the 1997 charter was renewed in 2015 under new Federal Advisory Committee Act rules requiring renewal every two years. The AMWG charter continues to be renewed biennially.

The role of the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary’s Designee

Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt created GCDAMP in January 1997 in response to the 1995 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Glen Canyon Dam operations. Since then, it has been the Interior Secretary’s responsibility to operate Glen Canyon Dam in accordance with the Grand Canyon Protection Act (GCPA), while also satisfying various statutory requirements for Colorado River management. For advice in this endeavor, the Secretary receives formal recommendations on dam operations and management actions from the Adaptive Management Work Group (AMWG) through the Secretary’s Designee who serves as the liaison between AMWG and the Interior Secretary.

The Secretary’s Designee—usually the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science–monitors Department of the Interior (DOI) compliance with its obligations under GCPA and the Record of Decision for the 1995 EIS. The Designee also ensures the DOI’s trust responsibilities to American Indian tribes with interests or assets affected by GCDAMP are being fulfilled.
The Secretary’s Designee acts as the AMWG Chair and is nominally responsible for calling and attending meetings of AMWG and its subcommittees, preparing meeting agendas, and chairing the meetings themselves. In practice, however, many of these administrative details are handled by delegated staff from the Bureau of Reclamation and the Interior Department.

A crucial role of the Designee is to facilitate consensus among participants at AMWG meetings as they develop recommendations for the Secretary of the Interior. AMWG recommendations are subject to review and modification by the Designee, who then forwards approved recommendations to the Secretary within fifteen working days of the meeting, along with any necessary background information. In cases where the AMWG recommendation was not the result of consensus, or where the Designee anticipates adverse consequences arising from a unanimous recommendation, the Designee has the authority to facilitate formulation of a DOI response. The final DOI response is due in writing within forty-five working days of the AMWG meeting, with the Designee providing a written status report in the event of a delay.

GCDAMP Membership

While many organizations have interests in the Grand Canyon river corridor and the impacts of Glen Canyon Dam on downstream resources, there is a limited set of official “member” organizations and agencies in the adaptive management program. Pages 3-4 of the original GCDAMP Charter of 1997 specified the interest groups that would make up the membership of GCDAMP. They included five federal agencies, six tribes, the AZ Game and Fish Dept, one representative from each of the seven Colorado River Basin states, and two representatives each from environmental groups, recreation interests, and purchasers of federal hydropower from Glen Canyon Dam.

The term “stakeholders” is sometimes used to refer to these member groups, but it is an inexact term that can include interest groups that are not formal members of the GCDAMP.

The original membership list has changed very little since 1997, although the specific organizations and individuals representing those interest groups has changed over time. Here is the membership list specified in the 2019 GCDAMP charter re-authorization:

  • Secretary’s Designee, who will serve as Chairperson for the AMWG.
  • One representative each from the following entities:
    1. The Secretary of Energy (Western Area Power Administration)
    2. Arizona Game and Fish Department
    3. Hopi Tribe
    4. HualapaiTribe
    5. Navajo Nation
    6. San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe
    7. Southern Paiute Consonium
    8. Pueblo of Zuni
  • One representative each from the seven basin states:
    1. Arizona
    2. California
    3. Colorado
    4. Nevada
    5. New Mexico
    6. Wyoming
    7. Utah
  • Representatives each from the general public as follows:
    1. Two from environmental organizations
    2. Two from the recreation industry
    3. Two from contractors who purchase Federal power from Glen Canyon Powerplant
  • One representative from each of the following DOI agencies as ex-officio non-voting members:
    1. Bureau of Reclamation
    2. Bureau of Indian Affairs
    3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    4. National Park Service

While other tribes have a declared interest in the Grand Canyon, not all have a representative on the GCDAMP. The Havasupai Tribe in particular, whose reservation is contained within the Grand Canyon and extends to the river corridor, has not participated in the adaptive management program and is not specified as a GCDAMP member.

The representatives of the basin states are nominated by each states’ governor and they normally represent the state’s water interests.

The “environmental organizations” category has seen the most variation in representation. In the early years, the two environmental representatives came from the Grand Canyon Trust and American Rivers. Other environmental groups lobbied for representation but those were the two groups chosen by the Secretary of Interior to send a representative. Around 2004, American Rivers dropped out and was replaced by the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council. Around 2011 the Grand Canyon Trust dropped out and was replaced by the National Parks Conservation Association.

The groups representing recreational interests and hydropower interests have been stable. Grand Canyon River Guides and Trout Unlimited have represented recreation interests since the beginning, while the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association (CREDA) and the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) have represented federal hydropower purchaser interests since the beginning.

The individuals who represent the member organizations serve renewable three year terms. Normally the interest groups or agencies will designate a representative, who is vetted and forwarded by AMWG to the Secretary of Interior for appointment. Occasionally an interest group will nominate a representative that the Secretary will reject. To avoid this, nominations tend to be vetted internally before they are formally recommended to the Secretary. Members of both AMWG and TWG are appointed in this manner.

How AMWG and TWG Evolved and How They Function

The Adaptive Management Work Group (AMWG) is a Federal Advisory Committee mandated in the 1995 Environmental Impact Statement on Glen Canyon Dam Operations. The aim of such committees is to give private citizens a voice in federal policymaking, and in most cases meetings and records are accessible to the public. Federal Advisory Committees solicit the advice of experts on specific issues or complex problems, then make recommendations for statutory, regulatory, or management actions.

AMWG makes formal recommendations to the Department of the Interior on alterations to dam operations and on monitoring of any changes that are implemented. It also coordinates, reviews and forwards budget and program operations information. AMWG directs recommendations and reports to the Secretary of the Interior through the Secretary’s designee, who serves as AMWG chair. Members also formulate research objectives and have a role in GCDAMP budget and work planning. In AMWG’s early years, members voted on recommendations and other items, and the majority ruled. The group now prioritizes stakeholder collaboration and consensus in decision-making. AMWG meets twice a year, typically alternating between Flagstaff and Phoenix.

The Technical Work Group (TWG) is a subcommittee of AMWG. It advises stakeholders on the technical and scientific aspects of issues that come before AMWG, and serves as an intermediary between AMWG and the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC). TWG has the same representative makeup as AMWG, except that instead of a single National Park Service representative, it has two–representing Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon Recreational Area–and includes a representative from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The GCMRC and its Relationship to AMWG/TWG

The Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC) is often called the “science provider” for GCDAMP. GCMRC coordinates the long-term research and monitoring of downstream resources mandated by the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act. Founded in 1996 as a subdivision of the Bureau of Reclamation, GCMRC moved to the U.S. Geological Survey in 2000, where it is part of the Southwest Biological Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

GCMRC develops research designs and proposals based on AMWG objectives. It implements experiments and research projects using both in-house and contracted personnel. GCMRC works closely with the Technical Work Group (TWG) to develop resource management questions and monitoring criteria, and to relay technical information to AMWG members. It also works closely with AMWG, TWG, and relevant Department of the Interior agencies to develop Triennial Work Plans for GCDAMP.

Primary Areas of Research and Adaptive Management Actions

From 1983 to 1989, Glen Canyon Environmental Studies Phase One (GCES I) established a baseline for determining the effects of Glen Canyon Dam operations on downstream resources. GCES II (1989-1996) explored possibilities for mitigating those effects with modifications to dam operations. GCES research laid the foundation for the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act, the 1995 Environmental Impact Statement on Glen Canyon Dam Operations and, ultimately, GCDAMP. The research and monitoring efforts that underpin GCDAMP, and the adaptive management actions that have been implemented, continually expand understanding of downstream impacts and the efficacy of dam operations modifications.

The primary areas of research and action in the GCDAMP have tended to focus on resources that have special additional legal protections such as endangered species and archeological sites. Additionally, resources of particular interest to recreationists, such as camping beaches along the Colorado River and the Blue Ribbon trout fishery, have also received substantial research attention. Because the purpose of the program is to make recommendations about how to modify dam operations to help mitigate the environmental and social impacts of Glen Canyon Dam, a great deal of research has also focused on how dam operations have influenced downstream resources and how alterations to those operations might impact the river, its riparian ecology, fish resources, archeological sites, and river runners.
Major categories of GCDAMP research include:

  • BIOLOGY/ECOLOGY: Research on rare and endangered native fish, particularly the humpback chub, has been the leading topic of biological research. Other biotic research has included studies of non-native fish, especially sport fish like trout, riparian vegetation (native and invasive), and aquatic food base studies. Many of these other studies also have implications for humpback chub. There has been a lot of research effort focused on ecosystem modeling and anticipating ecosystem responses to unpredictable and uncontrollable variables.
  • SEDIMENT TRANSPORT AND RIVER GEOMORPHOLOGY studies, with a focus on sandbars, which serve as camping beaches and influence micro-environments that provide habitat for native fish. Sediment also affects cultural resources, an area of study especially important to tribal GCDAMP participants.
  • CULTURAL RESOURCES: Indigenous occupation and use of Grand Canyon has been the focus of most cultural resource studies, including inventories of archeological sites and traditional cultural properties, along with threats to the preservation of those resources.
  • RECREATION: socioeconomic studies of recreational use and visitor values have dominated this category of research, although it has received much less attention than studies of fish and sediment within GCDAMP.
  • ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT: Because this program embraced the experimental new philosophy of “Adaptive Management” in its original charter, there have been quite a few studies addressing what Adaptive Management means, how it might be applied in Grand Canyon, its opportunity and limits, and whether it has been successful as applied in the GCDAMP so far. Studies have analyzed adaptive management policy and governance, stakeholder dynamics, the role of collaboration and consensus, and the effects of management experiments.
  • HIGH-FLOW EXPERIMENTS: Perhaps the best known GCDAMP management action is the High Flow Experiment (HFE) program. HFEs are impressive, but GCDAMP has implemented a wide variety of experimental flow regimes meant to influence sediment transport, river temperature, native species habitat, and food ecology.

Meetings purpose, structure and schedule

Adaptive Management Work Group (AMWG)

The Secretary of the Interior is mandated to operate Glen Canyon Dam and regulate the Colorado River in a manner that satisfies a number of statutory requirements and incorporates various stakeholder interests. AMWG is essential to that process. Membership consists of a representative and an alternate from each of the interest groups designated in the AMWG charter. Meetings of AMWG and its subcommittees provide the structure for work and budget planning, assessing and monitoring management actions, and developing research objectives for GCDAMP. They also provide a forum for discussing complex issues and achieving consensus on the recommendations AMWG submits to the Secretary of the Interior.

Thirteen members or alternates must be present at any AMWG meeting to achieve a quorum. Meetings conform to Robert’s Rules of Order, with some flexibility allowed in certain situations. AMWG members can request that an issue be addressed either at a regular or special meeting. The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) requires that all AMWG meetings be open to the public and that written notice of the date, location, and purpose of each AMWG meeting be published in the Federal Register fifteen days in advance. The Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for arranging AMWG meetings and determining meeting location, preparing minutes and Federal Register Notices, and providing other means of operational support.

AMWG is expected to meet twice a year. Meetings are typically held either in Phoenix or Flagstaff, Arizona to allow easier travel for members and to facilitate public involvement. Additional meetings may be scheduled, or different meeting locations selected, at the discretion of the Secretary’s Designee.

Technical Work Group (TWG)

TWG is a formal subcommittee of AMWG. Membership consists of a technical representative and an alternate from each of the AMWG stakeholder groups. TWG meetings are intended as a forum for review and discussion of technical and scientific issues that are assigned by AMWG. The analysis conducted at TWG meetings helps AMWG members better understand the technical recommendations they receive from the subcommittee.

Sixteen members or alternates must be present at any TWG meeting to achieve a quorum. The Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for arranging meetings and determining meeting location, preparing minutes and Federal Register Notices, and providing other means of operational support.

TWG meetings take place quarterly and are usually scheduled several months in advance. They are typically held in either Phoenix or Flagstaff, Arizona. The TWG Chair can decide, with input from TWG members and the Bureau of Reclamation, to hold meetings elsewhere. Members should receive a meeting notice and a revised meeting agenda no later than ten days before a scheduled TWG meeting. The group can schedule meetings outside the quarterly format if necessary.



1995 EIS on Glen Canyon Dam Operations

The Glen Canyon Dam Final EIS analyzed baseline impacts of dam operations on downstream environmental…

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66.80 MB1995-EIS-on-Glen-Canyon-Dam-Operations.pdf


1996 ROD on Glen Canyon Dam Operations

The 1996 RoD formally adopted the preferred alternative from the 1995 EIS stipulating the Modified…

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160.54 KB1996-ROD-on-Glen-Canyon-Dam-Operations.pdf


1997 AMWG Charter Original OCR

The 1997 GCDAMP charter, signed by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, established the general form and…

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197.67 KB1997-AMWG-Charter-Original-OCR.pdf


2015 AMWG Charter Renewal

The 2015 charter renewal, signed by Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, reiterated and updated the…

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243.37 KB2015-AMWG-Charter-Renewal.pdf

More documents

For a more extensive list of documents pertinent to the administrative history of the GCDAMP, please see the Key Readings section of this website (under Archive).