Balsom, Jan Oral History Interview
This is Paul Hirt and Jennifer Sweeney of Arizona State University interviewing Jan Balsom senior advisor to the superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park on September 7th of 2018. It’s about 2:30 PM. Jan, thanks for sitting with us today.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to Grand Canyon National Park in my humble offices up here in park headquarters.
(Laughs.) Thanks. So, um, if you would start out by telling us your position, all the positions that you’ve held in the Adaptive Management Program in the years that you participated in it.
Within the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program I actually began working odd issues related to Glen Canyon Dam and its effects on the resources of Grand Canyon prior to the Grand Canyon Enlargement Act [Grand Canyon Protection Act] being passed in 1992. I started working as an archeologist in the Grand Canyon as a student actually of Arizona State University, a graduate student, um, and working up at Grand Canyon on my thesis back in the early eighties and ended up on the river in 1982, ‘83, ’84. In 1983 is when we had the large releases from Glen Canyon Dam–
Right. An El Nino year.
Big, big water that came down starting in July and continued for quite a while after that and as, um, an archaeologist for the park at that point in time, I was still a student, um, and I became the park archeologist during that period of time. I was one of the ones who discovered a lot of the archeological sites that had been washed out after the high water started to recede in ‘83. And then in ’84, ‘85, we had still a lot of high water, 45,000, 50,000, 60,000–
Acre-feet per second that were traveling through the canyon. And we started seeing more and more archeological sites that were, um, eroding and had been affected in some way, shape or form by those higher flows. So as the archeologist for the park, at that point in time, I’d finished my work at Arizona State. I was working up at Grand Canyon fulltime as the, uh, the park’s archaeologist starting in May of 1984. Um, and that was prior to the initiation of any of the programs per se, the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies (GCES) had begun in 1982. So this was two years into that program and the original GCES program was established to evaluate the effects of low and fluctuating flows on the resources below Glen Canyon Dam and here we are in 1983, 1984 and 1985 with not low and fluctuating flows, but really high steady flows.
So a lot of the research that was initially designed to evaluate low and fluctuating wasn’t appropriate anymore because they had high steady flows. So we [were] seeing impacts downstream that a lot of the research wasn’t capturing, but the scientists working within that program adjusted accordingly to try to start documenting some of those activities. And at that point in time a fellow named Dave Wegner, who was the lead for Bureau Reclamation’s GCES program had contacted the park about what kind of studies we thought we needed to include within the GCES program at the time. And looking at the archeological resources was a big piece of it. Looking at the effects to recreation was a big piece of it. So those two components were really key for us getting involved in those early years of the GCES program. You fast forward to 1989, we have Secretary of the Interior at the time, Manuel Lujan, identified the need to do an environmental impact statement on the operations of Glen Canyon Dam. And it was the sort of thing that wasn’t normally done. They had never done an EIS on an existing facility. So they’re starting with a program they hadn’t really done. They didn’t really know. But the um, public pressure was huge, um, recreational boaters on the Colorado River and Grand Canyon were sitting on beaches watching the water come up and down because they operated the dam at, uh, a way they called a cash register dam; but when people turned on their lights, they would let more water out; when people turned off their lights, they would stop the water flow. So you had wide fluctuations that would be in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 thousand cubic feet per second changes in a day that would result in 10 or 15 feet downstream of stage change–
–that would leave boats high and dry or wash camps away in the middle of the night. Um, so you had both ends and I think I got to participate in both ends of that: boats being high and dry and also boats floating into your camp in the middle of the night. So all of those things were in play at that time. And as archeologist for the park, I was most concerned about looking at, um, the archaeological resources and how the dam flows were affecting the integrity of those properties. So 1989 comes around, [Interior Secretary] Lujan identifies the need for an environmental impact statement and the Department of Interior agencies and Department of Energy Western Area Power Administration [WAPA] identified individuals from their staffs who would be tasked with helping to write the environmental impact statement and do the analysis of effects of dam operations. So as the park’s archeologist, I then became a member of the EIS writing team for the Glen Canyon Dam Environmental Impact Statement that was done. In combination with that, we had to begin doing the archeological inventory survey then of the Colorado River corridor, and I was the principal investigator with a staff that included, um, Helen Fairly, Peter Bungart, Chris Coder, uh, Jim Hoffman, a few other folks who are our crew leads. And we spent the better part of nine months with the crews working under a cooperative agreement with Northern Arizona University to do the 100 percent inventory of the river corridor. That resulted in a documenting 475 properties in the near shore environment from the dam down to the lake that were potentially effective–
Traditional cultural properties, archeological sites?
Archeological sites. Archeological sites. Um, it was really in the early eighties or early nineties, the concept of what a traditional cultural property wasn’t quite fleshed out, the identifications that of how to go about documenting those are still in flux. They’re still not well understood. Um, but at that point in time we were strictly focused on what are the archaeological resources.
And a piece of that was bringing our tribal colleagues down onto the Colorado river so that they could help us design the research module, how we’re going to do this, so that they understood what we were looking for and that we can understand from them things that we may need to be looking for. And it was the first time, and I didn’t realize this at the time, but it was the first time that anybody had done a river trip where we had invited the traditionally associated people back into the canyon. And that led to a whole other legacy of the tribe’s involvement. But the very first trip was in 1990 where we had tribal people and archeologists working for the tribes on the river with us to evaluate sort of what the environment looked like and how we’re going to structure the survey.
And this was a, um, a joint trip between the tribes and NPS–
–or the tribes and–
Tribes and the Park Service.
–and the Park Service. And that was 1990, and that was the first time you’d done it. They are annual trips now, aren’t they?
Or, actually, more than once a year.
More than– It depends on which one, on which tribe, but yeah, but that was the very first time we’d done an intertribal, multi-tribal trip. It was the first time anybody had done anything like that and I was young enough and naive enough I didn’t realize that I was doing something that hadn’t been done before. It seemed like the logical thing to do at the time.
Let me get the chronology straight, was it before that or during that year that you did the 100 percent survey and identified the 400 and some sites?
It was–we started the survey probably, I’m gonna say two months after we did the intertribal trip.
So pretty much we’d identify we’re going to do it. We brought all of our tribal colleagues down to look at the area with us and then we set our crews out to start actually walking the length of the Colorado River.
And those subsequent trips that did the actual surveys. Did any tribal members participate in those?
We didn’t have tribal participants on the survey trips themselves. We pretty much were hiring archeologists through the university that walked the entire corridor through the winter months. It was all oar [boat] supported. There was a lot of suggestions that we could do the job much quicker and cost less if we used motorboats. The Grand Canyon is a proposed wilderness and looking at minimum tool requirements, we couldn’t justify the use of motorboats, especially because our crews were walking, they weren’t trying to get down quickly. Um, so we structured it with our crews, um, and pretty much over an eight-month period of time, they walked the entire corridor and recorded all of the archeological sites that could be seen at that point in time. We’ve added some since then, um, because other sites have become uncovered, but that’s formed the basis of the inventory of the river corridor and a lot of the work that’s been done subsequent was based on those surveys from ‘90 to ‘92.
Can you estimate a out of curiosity for me, can you estimate about what percentage of those sites that you all documented in those early years were actually being affected by river flow fluctuations and what percentage were higher and outside that flow regime?
So when you look at the effects to an archeological site, you’re looking at direct and indirect and cumulative, so you can’t only look at those that were in the flood zone per se, those from like up to the way–the power plant capacity was only, is only like 30,000. So you can’t really use that as a guide because at 30,000 if you’re eroding sediment, everything above it starts to fall down.
Slide down, yeah.
So you can’t just, so when we did the survey, we kept the survey corridor to the area that was sand that was all part of the pre-dam alluvial terrace.
So the survey went from the current river up to about the 120,000 cubic feet per second line. And that’s where the mesquite zone is. That’s where you can clearly see the river terraces. And, people being people, always lived along rivers, especially if they had them available and it was no different here. And I think for us, the early archeologists who went down the canyon—and the first one was in the 1950s who had documented it—he had said that there was little evidence of people living along the Colorado River [P.H. laughs]. And in the 1960s there was a number of excavations done by the School of American Research, um, at a number of sites along the river. Unkar Delta and Bright Angel were the two most well known. And they found that people were indeed living along the river. And then a lot of those sites, it turns out were just inundated. They were buried by sand, by pre dam flooding. So up until 1963 annual flooding would have covered everything.
So the archeologists who went down in 1958, they didn’t see it because it was under sand, they wouldn’t have seen it. They couldn’t have seen it. Um, so it makes perfect sense in hindsight to say it, they, it’s not that they were bad archeologists, they, they–it wouldn’t have been visible because every year you would have these big floods that would just cover everything over and make a new flood plain. It’s only when you stop the sediment supply did those things start becoming available to see. And that’s the legacy that we’re looking at is all of those things, all of those thousands of years of people living around, along the river, and every year they would come back. There will be a flood, they’d come back, they’d plant, they’d do whatever, you know. Next year it would flood again, they’d come back there, there was a new flat surface because everything was buried in sand again, everything was an annual cycle. It just kept happening for thousands of years until 1963. And then that stopped–
And that’s when Glen Canyon Dam was completed, and the gate’s closed and the lake filled.
The lake filled and sediment was trapped upstream. So you’ve got a difference in the dynamic of the system at that point in time. And that changed the stability and the preservation of the, uh, the river terraces that are along the river and the, sort of, the dynamic of the ecosystem.
That was beautifully described (laughs).
I could visualize it. I’ve been on the Unkar Delta–
Oh, you have?
–and was super impressed.
And, uh, I’m, I’m, I’m very surprised, I’m, now I’m trying to imagine it completely covered in sand [J.B: Yeah]. And then subsequently over the years, uh, of erosion starting to reveal all of the–
Right. So you’ve got the delta and the areas that are up top, but then if you go off the delta down towards the river, you’ve got a whole bunch of sand dunes down there. And lo and behold, there’s archaeological remains all through that area. Um, but again, Doug Schwartz wouldn’t have seen that because it was still, he was doing excavations there just a couple of years after they closed the gates of the dam. So it was still all big sand dunes.
So, um, one of the things we’ll talk a lot about today is, um, is the integration of tribal representatives into this program over time. And, um, I want to go back to you mentioning the surveys that you did early on, um, the tribes were involved in thinking about that research project and helping design it, um, but not involved in the actual site surveys. But I’m sure that they were very curious about what you discovered. Can you talk just a little bit about how you shared the results of those site surveys with your tribal representatives and the kinds of concerns that they had and how you continue to integrate them over time into that, that research study and then, you know, later on the Adaptive Management Program?
Yeah, so working with the tribes on the archeology and in the survey, I mean it seems funny. I mean it was the early 1990s, it wasn’t that long ago. But there wasn’t a lot of integration of archeologists with tribe’s anywhere. I mean we had the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 and we had a number of, of legal structures that were set up. But in terms of the, on the ground working with tribes, there wasn’t a whole lot of that going on. When we began this project and started looking at how we going to do the survey, um, and I’m going to back up and say that in addition to being the park archeologist at the time, I also was the park’s tribal liaison.
And also was in charge of the section 106 compliance for the park, which meant, um, anytime we we’re going to have an action that has the potential to affect a resource of a concern to one of the tribes, it was our responsibility to, um, consult with them. So– and I had started as taking on the role of the tribal liaison when we were doing a project to build a parking lot up on the east rim and we had an archeological site there and I knew enough from my studies that in working at the State Historic Preservation Office that we needed to contact the tribes, sent out letters to all of our– the known tribes. We had five at the time that we worked with.
Oh, you have 13 [tribes] now?
Eleven. Just eleven. No, only eleven
Uh, so we sent out letters to the five tribes that we worked with and the entire Havasupai tribal council showed up in the superintendent’s office.
And the superintendent at the time was a fellow named Jack Davis. He looked at me and he said, “I think we need to have somebody who does tribal liaison, I guess that will be you.” [P.H.: Laughs]. And so I added that to my portfolio of responsibilities. So we started working along the river and we knew that there was enough, the archeology was pretty extraordinary, even the limited amount that we knew about, um, we contacted tribes early on, let them know we are going to be doing this, got them engaged with at least that portion of the project. And also as we began moving towards the environmental impact statement, [Interior Secretary] Lujan identified in 1989, we’re going to do the EIS. We started having an EIS writing team and upon the insistence of a couple of us, um, we convinced Bureau of Reclamation that they needed to include the tribes as part of the cooperating agencies, part of the writing team, because these are resources of concern to the tribes, not just to us as the National Park Service or to the American public who we’re all responsible to. But, even at that time we knew the Hopi, for example, have significant histories in the canyon. The Navajo border the river for 60 plus miles. The Havasupai, the Hualapai to the West, we knew that they have ancestral areas. The Southern Paiute to the north. So, you know, we worked with Reclamation. It wasn’t something they had ever done and it was challenged them a little bit, uh, to think about a different way of inclusion.
We were fortunate that it was, um, Bruce Babbitt was Secretary of the Interior for a good portion of this, um, after [Secretary] Lujan a change of administrations with Clinton administration that there was more acceptance of the tribal perspectives. There were a number of executive orders that were issued during those years as well that instructed federal agencies to consult with tribes on a more meaningful level, um, government to government relations. So there was a lot of things within our governmental structures, societal structures that pointed to us working more with tribes. And it, so at that point in time, the legal mandates were there as federal agencies. The recognition within our society of those needs were there. So it provided us, um, leverage to make sure that the tribal voices were heard. So on that initial writing team, in addition to the biologists, the archeologists that you had from the agencies, you had the archeologist from the Hopi tribe, you had the archeologist from the Hualapai tribe, you had archeologists from the Navajo Nation, and they were archeologists but also cultural specialists. Um, so that all of a sudden you have a group that’s not just, sort of, the Western National Environmental Policy Act we’re going to write a NEPA document. You had representatives from Hopi, Hualapai and Navajo on that initial writing team. So when that was a real shift for them and I think um, the tribes have all come to expect it. I think it was a real shift for Reclamation who was not necessarily comfortable with going that route, but they kinda got, um, kind of forced into it, I guess. I don’t–
Their arms twisted a little bit?
I think it was too much of a, a public program to try to exclude the tribes who’ve called this canyon home for thousands of years.
You’ve mentioned a couple of times some inertia or resistance on the part of traditional agencies and land managers to incorporating tribes. Was there any resistance on the part of the tribes? Because I know there’s a certain amount of distrust or sort of lack of relationships as you were saying. There hadn’t been good relationships between a lot of the professions and some government agencies and the tribes. So I imagine, you know, that it was difficult to begin to bring these people together into a cooperative working relationship. Can you talk a little bit about that dynamic?
You know, it’s funny when you think about some of the political discord between the agencies, the federal approach to Indian law and policy, the differences amongst the tribes in terms of land base and resources and a lot of those things, but for whatever reason, when you talk about the Grand Canyon, everybody comes together because they all have common histories here. There’s a recognition that everyone has a vested interest in ensuring that this place continues. So I think that because of the place and the way in which we included the tribes from the very beginning—with the archaeological survey saying we understand that this is your history, we want you to help us preserve these things—that it was a general opening to all of them to participate with us. And that followed through into the formal NEPA process with them being part of the writing team.
And it was something, again that hadn’t been done before. And I think at this point it’s expected. It’s– I don’t think we can close the door on that one. We need to include all of them. And you know, within this process we were also providing funding for tribal specialists. It wasn’t– I mean one of the problems we see is that the tribes were asked to participate without any financial compensation and it’s not like everybody is independently wealthy or they have other jobs that they can go back to. We’re asking for their expertise to help us with this. And just like all of us are on salary, they needed to be too. So it really did shift things because all of a sudden they were recognized as the subject matter experts in these arenas and, you know, Hopi wrote the Hopi section of the EIS; they did the evaluation of how the river flows were affecting their [cultural] properties.
You know, each one of the tribes, and at that point Zuni came into our fold of interested tribes. We didn’t know about Zuni’s history at Grand Canyon until partway through this process. And all of a sudden Zuni is now a part of this discussion as well. And three different southern Paiute bands were added to the dialogue. So we keep expanding and in a lot of ways there’s some suggestion that these folks don’t necessarily have the same claims. It’s not by the other tribal groups, but outside groups who are looking at how we consult. And, um, my answer typically has been, it’s not that much fun to work with the federal agencies, so if you don’t have that kind of interest, you’re not going to want to get that kind of paperwork. So the interest that we’ve gotten from all of the tribes and their continued engagement over all these years speaks to the deep history and connection to the land. And that continues today.
Um. Was it as easy to get the, uh, tribes, various tribes involved as stakeholders once the formal Adaptive Management Program was set up and Adaptive Management Working Group was set up?
So the process of establishing the Adaptive Management Working Group–so the Grand Canyon Protection Act was passed in 1992 and I will say that I was one of the ones sitting in an office downstairs faxing suggested text language to the committee staff–
–which is why cultural resources is part of the Grand Canyon Protection Act. It hadn’t been before I got to see it.
And as the cultural manager here at the time and it’s like: wait a minute, it can’t just be natural resources and recreation. What about the thousands of years of history here? So cultural resources got added to the bulk of the, the majority of the 1802, the section of the Grand Canyon Protection Act that speaks to what, you know, that we’re gonna, you know, uh, mitigate adverse impacts to and improve the conditions for which Grand Canyon and Glen Canyon were established, including but not limited to natural and cultural resources and visitor uses.
So all of those pieces, um, got put into place and we had to recognize that historic properties, archeological sites—and at the time I was really focused on archaeological sites, over the years I realized that that was kind of limiting, that cultural resources and I’m glad I just used that word at the time because it’s more inclusive, and certainly of the tribes interest because archaeology is one piece but the other piece is the traditional cultural values that the tribes place on the landscape and within the Grand Canyon, so it’s kind of good that it was a much broader–. So in 1992 you’ve got the Grand Canyon Protection Act that says we’re gonna do all of these great things, agencies, Secretary of the Interior, you are required to finish this EIS within two years of the passage of the law, which we didn’t quite make, but we were close. We finished the draft and ‘95, the Record of Decision was signed in ‘96. And once that was done, one of the environmental commitments in the Record of Decision was to establish the Adaptive Management Program. So the tribes had been cooperating agencies on the EIS, so it transferred fairly straightforward into them being a part of the Adaptive Management Work Group. The other part of that in the law, it identified who the stakeholders are going to be. And it includes the seven basin states, the tribes, the affiliated tribes, power and water interests, recreation, blah, blah, blah. So it actually included all of that in the act. So they were built in and it was a requirement to consult with them.
Were specific tribes mentioned?
I would have to go back and read the act. I think it was just presumed that the regional tribe, the tribes that had been a part of this. It may well have mentioned them by name, but I would have to go back and actually look.
Can you rattle off the 11? You mentioned five already.
Yeah. Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Navajo, Kaibab Paiute, San Juan Southern Paiute, Las Vegas Paiute, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, [knock on office door] Yavapai-Apache–
[To Jennifer Sweeney] Do you want to stop that? [recorder paused]
[Recording resumed] So of all of the tribes, we’ve got the various Southern Paiute groups, including the Paiute Indian tribe of Utah, and then of course to the Pueblo of Zuni in New Mexico that make up our 11 consulting tribes.
For the national, for Grand Canyon National Park–
For Grand Canyon National Park (speaking over each other).
–the formal eleven consulting tribes.
And of those, the Kaibab Paiute, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, the Las Vegas Moapa [Paiute], that whole group of southern Paiutes north of the Colorado River, um, consult together as a group as the Southern Paiute consortium. Uh, the San Juan Southern Paiute have not ever been particularly interested. The Havasupai have not, they were part of the original cooperating agencies, but they haven’t actively participated in the monitoring or mitigation work. Their interests are a little different. Uh, the Hualapai have been very active because they bound the area for 108 miles on the south side of the river. The Navajo to the east, the first 60 plus miles. And the Hopi and Zuni have actually been the most engaged and I think it speaks to the level of their ancestral interests in Grand Canyon so that most of what we see and that most of the recommendations come from them.
And then the Southern Paiute groups, because you kind of look at the place names in Grand Canyon is a good indication when you have places like “Nankoweap,” “Toroweap,” [inaudible] they’re all Paiute words and it speaks to that history. And we know that there are places in the canyon that are significant for their histories that are different than some of the other groups. So each group, each government, each cultural identity is represented somewhere different, but there is a shared understanding of the importance of Grand Canyon as part of all of the traditional landscapes for the Native peoples of the area.
And for the time that you’ve been involved in the Adaptive Management Program, have all of those tribes consistently participated or are there a handful that are more dedicated to, uh, participation over the long term?
I think participation by the tribes in all of this is really based on very specific interests that they have and also the realities of allocations with their own time and money. Um, the Zuni, the Hopi, the Hualapai, the Navajo and the Paiute, those five have been consistently involved and they continue to stay involved. But it’s difficult because, like I mentioned before, I mean, we’re all funded to participate in this. The tribes and they may have a representative, but the representative from Zuni who attends the meetings has to go back and speak with the religious advisors and the council. And so those people aren’t getting paid. So there’s gotta be some way that the information that they have and the evaluations that they do, that they’re compensated for that work. Because it is we, the federal agencies, who are asking them for it. Within the Grand Canyon Protection Act, there is a presumption that the ongoing monitoring and mitigation will provide improvement, benefit to the resource. And, certainly from a tribal perspective, only you as a tribal member can know if the traditional resource that you are concerned about is doing okay.
Does it need help? Is it still as functional as it was? Are the spring sources that you rely on for a traditional purpose still functioning the way they have? Or had there been a change? And only you would know that. Um, so it’s important for the traditional people to be able to come down and evaluate within their expertise how well a specific resource is adjusting to this changed environment. And that’s been the focus point for us as to how the tribes’ continued participation has helped us be better managers and better stewards because they’re the only ones who know if this resource is responding correctly. And it’s um, and they each have their own view as to how to evaluate that. For some tribes, you know, there’s– it’s the religious leaders. For others, it’s youth; and trying to orient them to have a sense of place of where their ancestors came from. But all of that is part and parcel of the experiences of being within the Grand Canyon and being part of the Canyon.
It’s a continuum and there’s no one answer and it will shift over time. I mean, Glen Canyon Dam was finished in 1963, so you’ve got 50 some years now of an experiment essentially, and many of our tribal colleagues will remind me that they’re patient people. They’re just going to wait. Every dam that’s ever gone on the Colorado River has been eroded around. We just haven’t taken a long enough perspective. But we also, as federal agencies, have responsibility to preserve in perpetuity. I mean the National Park Service in particular we’re the, you know, we’re the forever people. You know, these resources are our responsibility forever. As long as the [National] Park Service exists, we will see ourselves as the stewards for these lands. And we’re stewards not for our own selves, but for the American people and the tribal groups who have called this, again, this canyon home for thousands of years and we take that responsibility really seriously.
You’re the third or the fourth person that we’ve interviewed who has mentioned this issue of financing of participation, and I remember seeing a memo from one of the tribal representatives a few months back saying that he would not be able to make it to the next meeting because funding wasn’t available and that more funding was needed to really engage tribal members and other participants. Can you talk a little bit more, because nobody has really discussed this in any of the interviews we’ve done before. What is the, sort of, compensation mechanism for participants in the program and how has compensation for tribes changed over time and is it adequate or not in your mind and why or why not?
When we first began the program, um, those of us who were working in at recognized the need for funding for our tribal colleagues; that you can’t expect this sort of participation for free. When we were working on the first EIS, each of the tribes who were participating, there was a funding agreement with Bureau Reclamation and that their staff time, the travel, all those things were compensated. When we started moving into, after the record of decision, into the Adaptive Management Program, the woman who was the former Reclamation archeologist, a woman named Signa LaRonde(?) and I came up with what we felt was an adequate dollar figure at the time, for one staff person at a GS11, which would be an equivalent position to a resource specialist to participate in a full-time basis and an amount of money to support a tribal river trip [annually] and compensation for elders. And we ballparked it. And this would’ve been in 1995 at $95,000. That each of the tribes, that would be sort of their base so they can hire somebody and then have money for these other things.
And it provided a lump sum and they could use it any way they wanted–
Right. (Talking simultaneously). That’s how we figured–
But the ballpark was how you– OK.
That’s how we figured it out. We said if it was us, we would have one staff person and then travel and money for, um, honorarium. That’s what we would do. So that’s how it started out. And those dollars then we’re taken out of the Department of the Interior’s budget as a whole, off the top, and then put into a funding source for the tribes that Reclamation administered to annual contracts. The problem is–
Ahhh, this wasn’t from hydropower revenue, this was straight out of the federal budget—(pause) an earmark.
Yep. The problem is that there’s never been any adjustments over time for cost of living or wages or any of the other reasons why one’s budget goes up, there’s not ever been a shift. Yet everything else in the program got funding, additional funding put to it. And that’s never been adjusted. And as many different times as we’ve tried to explain it, I’ve tried to explain how that number came up, and I sit in meetings often and I listen to people talk about what they must have meant when they wrote this or did this. And I’m sitting there saying, “I’m the one who actually wrote it,” so maybe you should just ask me (laughing) because I actually know. And it was never meant to be a static number. It was a starting number. Um, but it’s never changed. So from 1995, ‘96 until now, it’s not changed. And the needs have changed, the wages have changed obviously, you know, all of those things have changed over the last 25 years and nothing has changed. So it’s a problem. And then there’s just the mechanisms of contracting that Reclamation has to do. Um, and that’s the– lag time in coming up with: this is the agreement, this is the work plan, and then actually having the funding transferred can be enormous.
So it’s, uh, it’s unfortunate. And because the tribes themselves don’t necessarily have funding for this, I mean, this is something that if you were to go out to Hopi, most people who work at Hopi would have no idea that the Hopi tribe has staff who work on this. Because it’s not important to them in their daily lives. It’s not something they pay attention to. Um, so that it’s not built into the tribal budget. So when Hopi doesn’t get their allocation, it means that the staff person that they have working on this has to get put on another project where they have funding and that creates a big gap. When they’re going to do an evaluation and monitoring river trip, they don’t have the trip money to fund the trip or compensation for their elders. It’s, it’s an unfair ask for them to do this for free. Because we are asking as the federal government for their best evaluation of how the resources are doing in the canyon. And it’s a continual problem for all of the tribes. And I don’t understand why it’s so hard to get the funding mechanisms in place. Um, I will say that for the Park Service, our agreements take forever to get through as well, but we have a little more flexibility with our funding that we can use funding from our base to cover the staff who are working on river related projects and when those funds come in we can just transfer back to the accounts they’re supposed to be in. So we have a little bit more flexibility. Our administrative people hate it, um, but we track it pretty well. We know what our projects are and how much it’s gonna cost and we’ve got full budget information. But for the tribes, they don’t necessarily have that level of flexibility within the, um, the tribal budgets to do that.
Most of the other stakeholders have representatives who are working, salaried people working for an agency, for example, and they have their own salaries and travel budgets and stuff like that.
So with, um, the 25 different stakeholders who participate in the Adaptive Management Program and Work Group, um, all the federal agencies have their staff. Bureau of Reclamation staff is paid for mainly out of Basin Fund [federal hydropower revenue] monies, so they’re actually using not appropriated dollars, but power revenues for their staff. Um, Western Area Power [Administration], their funds come out of the Basin Funds, so they’re tapping into power revenues to fund their programs. Um, I’ve always found it interesting that many of our colleagues from other entities, whether they be state or um, municipals with the power and water interests, seem to have the ability to send more staff to meetings than those of us who manage these lands have, because for the most part we’re a one or two person show and you’ll be sitting there and there’ll be four people from Western Area Power, for example, or five people, you know, multiple people from each of the states, and we can barely cover it with one person because we just don’t have– we have so many other things to do. But these programs are obviously important enough to the participants that they dedicate time and money to them. More than I’m afraid we have the ability to do.
And they have access to hydropower revenue outside the regular federal budgeting process.
And that’s a benefit that you would want to hang onto I suppose.
And more flexibility in how they spend it then you would have in a regular budgeted appropriations.
Yeah. I mean, for Grand Canyon, one of the things you asked me early on was the roles that I’ve played. Well, I was the archaeologist here and led the, I was responsible for the initial survey, I was part of the initial EIS writing team. Then when the Record of Decision was issued, as part of that piece, I actually was working for our Washington Office to finish off the first Environmental Impact Statement and write the Record of Decision.
I was detailed to our Washington Office, physically located in Salt Lake City, working in Reclamation’s office to finish writing the whole adaptive management portion of that first EIS and the Record of Decision. So that was one of the things that I was tasked with doing. The two other National Park Service people who had been working on it had left at that point in time, so I was the last gal standing–
The last standing (laughs)–
–and was, you know, the only Park Service in Salt Lake City at the time, um, and was working in Reclamation’s office to write how adaptive management program was going to be, the alignment of it, what the research program was going to look like, which was a small six to eight person coordinating group. It’s not how it’s ended up, but that was the initial idea. Um, so that was another role that I filled, which was that as the Park Service’s representative, I was there at the signing of the first Record of Decision with [Secretary] Bruce Babbitt.
He thought my name was Mary. I have an autographed copy of that. [P.H. laughs] Not, not Mary. But my colleagues in Reclamation said that they had the power vested in them, for some reason, to change my name if I needed. [P.H. laughs]
We’re interviewing Bruce [Babbitt] in a couple of weeks.
Are you? OK. So, we did, we actually did the signing at, um, the Papago Park area–
Oh yeah? In Phoenix?
Yeah. That’s where we did the signing. (Talking simultaneously)
Wow. [J.B.: Yeah]. I’ll ask him about that.
I was there. I’m sure he doesn’t remember that he called me Mary or who I am. [P.H. laughs.] But yeah. So, you know, so that was another role, which was archeologist and specialist to represent our Washington Office, sort of to finish that. And then moving into the establishment of the Adaptive Management Program as being the Technical Work Group [TWG] representative for Grand Canyon. And we had modeled the TWG, the Technical Work Group, after the technical writing team from the EIS.
We had a really good working group of specialists and we all took off our agency hats so that we can combine as “ologists” and specialists to do those evaluations and actually write this EIS. And our naive idea in the ‘90s was that we could continue that comradery once the EIS was finished, once the Record of Decision was finished, and we’re moving into this long-term program, we would have the same type of relationship moving forward. It was naïve. Because all of a sudden, once it was done, it became much more political. And the agency hats were staking out positions not for the good of the Grand Canyon as the Grand Canyon Protection Act identified, but now that it’s done, how can we make sure that we get what we need out of this. And for me, being a relatively simpleton, I just wanted to see the resources of the canyon protected and improved, and if we couldn’t do that, mitigate any damage. That was what we were trying to get through.
Um, the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Park Service haven’t always had the same interests or collaborative relationship over this issue. Um, but you are writing the EIS in the Bureau of Reclamation office, regional office in Salt Lake City. What was the nature of the relationship at that point? Was it better or was it always– did they always see you as a kind of an outsider and representative of another agency with a different mission and different interests?
So the Reclamation-Park Service relationship was definitely strained over at times. A lot of it had to do with what the mission of Reclamation as they saw it was versus the mission of the Park Service. You know, we’ve always been the tree huggers. We always will be because we are the stewards and we are the forever people. Um, and their role is very different. They’ve got a dam to operate, so in a way I think there was some resistance to recognizing they had an environmental mandate.
I think individuals like Dave Wegner clearly saw the environmental mandate and he was sort of a renegade within Reclamation. Um, this might, may be why we got along so well (laughs). But I think others were very much in the engineering mode of– we build dams and we flood things. We don’t protect things. That’s a different–
Was Floyd Dominy still in charge when you started?
No, but I think that people who he hired were. [P.H.: Uh-huh laughs]. So, I mean, the mindset was definitely there: “we’re engineers, we don’t care about this other stuff, that’s fluff. We don’t do that.” Um, so I think that that made it hard. The individuals that I worked with on the writing team, fabulous. Because they, again, they took off their agency hat, and said, we have a Grand Canyon Protection Act now, we know what we’re supposed to do. NEPA gives us these guidances. We have the Protection Act that says what we’re supposed to do. Let’s do our best. And from the very beginning the folks on that writing team, we all clearly saw what we could do in terms of how to manage that dam so that we could improve conditions downstream. We didn’t get everything done that we wanted to, and one of the things that we had started with early on was we all believed that we needed to add sediment back into the river, and we talked about a slurry line and including that in the very first EIS.
We were summarily told repeatedly that that was outside of scope and it wasn’t going to happen. We also understood that temperature was a controlling factor with the endangered fish, and we had recommended a temperature control device early on and we were summarily told, “Not going to happen, not going to include it, [it’s] outside of scope.”
And this is the Bureau of Reclamation summarily telling you that.
Their own people and the rest of us who were on that writing team.
So they would be responsible for implementing both of those mitigation measures, the sediment slurry line from higher in the reservoir and these temperature control– Actually, one of our interviewees was telling us about the proposals for the temperature control. It may have been Carl Walters, if I remember correctly.
Carl came in much later into this discussion. It was a guy named Dave Truman, who, if you haven’t interviewed him, he actually did the environmental assessment. He’s since retired from Reclamation, but he was actually tasked with doing the environmental assessment to look at that, subsequent to that first EIS.
What was his first name?
And he worked for–?
He worked for Reclamation. He’s since retired. Um, but if you go back to those early documents, that stuff was in there. Everybody who worked on that initial document will tell you that those are the two things that if we could have done, included, would have been sediment augmentation of some sort and temperature control. Because those are the two pieces that the dam excluded that was part of that natural system that was interrupted.
So there are programs now for trying to restore some sediment and the high flow experimental [HFE] events are part of that. Is there any progress in temperature control?
So there’s two parts to that question. I’m going to start, though, I’m going to talk a little bit about the high flow piece. So one of the things that we included in the first EIS were two different types of high flows. Um, one was, uh, was a beach habitat building flow, then a habitat maintenance flow. Two different things that we included. Because even then we knew that we needed to manage whats little sediment we have since we couldn’t get augmentation. We, those of us who wrote that document and those of us who helped write that Record of Decision, felt that we had set it up pretty well, that based on certain sediment loads, we would be able to trigger, uh, habitat building flows, beach building flows, and habitat maintenance flows. After the first one in 1996, [we] found out that others felt that we didn’t have the environmental compliance to do additional ones. So we got stopped after the first set, which was– the Record of Decision laid out an Adaptive Management Program that was supposed to be the starting point, not the ending point for operations and we could never get beyond, that was the start. Also a change of administrations at that point in time. A little bit of a shift in how the Bureau of Reclamation and the stakeholders viewed the environmental responsibilities and what flexibility we had in the Adaptive Management Program. And that set up another set of tense discussions and meetings and, um, many of the adaptive management meetings after that.
Was that the shift from the Clinton administration to the second Bush administration?
It was, it was. Um–
And can you quickly explain the difference between a maintenance flow and a [J.B.: building flow] beach building flow?
So what we had looked at in the first EIS was these two different types of flows, recognizing that we needed larger flows to be able to deposit sediment higher in the system. Um, so a building flow would have been a larger flow above power plant capacity. A maintenance flow would have been a lower level within power plant capacity to try to keep the sediment there once we got it there. So we had looked at both things knowing that the system was built on perturbation. Every year there would be different sorts of flooding events with different amounts of sediment in it. So, how do you go about trying to maintain and then build upon, because we also knew that we were in a losing situation since we didn’t have the sediment coming in. So we knew then that those are the things that we needed.
And you can’t have a high flow event, an event that builds beaches, unless there’s a lot of sediment in that high flow. Otherwise, it’s just taking more of the sediment away, right?
Right. And taking that away is kind of what happened in the ‘80s after the, the initial huge flows of 100,000, 93,000, it started stripping [the sand], so you have a combination. So we got to see both things. Um, so you’ve got the two different kinds of flows that we built in to that first EIS. We were only able to affect one or two after ’96, the ‘96 one [and] I think we did a short one after that. But that led us to, um, not being able to because of some legal challenges. And then I’m going to jump a little bit forward for a sec, but we ended up under Secretary Lujan in the Obama administration doing a high flow experiment environmental assessment that set up a program for us to do high flow experiments on a routine basis whenever we had enough sediment.
And I was part of that environmental assessment process as well and making that part of a routine that then got rolled into the most recent environmental impact statement, the Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan EIS [LTEMP] that we finished in December of 2016. One would think that if you had to write an EIS for Glen Canyon dam once, he would never have to do it again. But apparently if you stick around long enough you get to write it twice. (Laughter) And that would be me and Mike Yeatts who got to do it twice.
Good. We’ll talk to him about that tomorrow.
Yeah. Yeah, I mean he’s gonna, I’m sure he’ll have a lot of the same things to say about that. It was frustrating. Um, the other question you asked was about temperature.
So when we started looking at temperature control early on during the first EIS, we were at a full reservoir level.
The water coming out of the reservoir was cold and clear. Um, over the last 20 years we’ve been in a bit of a drought. The reservoir levels have been going down–
A bit of a drought (laughs).
A bit of a drought. Reservoir levels have been going down. And with the lowered lake levels, you’ve got warmer temperatures coming out of the lake. So now one of the concerns is maybe the water’s too warm, maybe we need to have it be cooler. The thing about a temperature control device is it would give you the ability to decide within a range of only a couple degrees, but a couple degrees C makes a big difference for native fish. And I’m an archeologist even I figured that part out, it makes a difference, um, that where you pull the water off the lake makes a difference. And that as that goes downstream, you’ve got solar warming all the way down. So, um, having the ability to control the temperature would be a benefit for aquatic life in the system.
Um, so at this point it, it’s um, almost we have concerns about some of the warm water nonnatives [species], not so much the cold water nonnatives. But the other part of that is, I’m looking at the map on my wall here is Glen Canyon Dam has protected us from a lot of bad nonnative predators that are in the upper Colorado river system. So that because of the dam–
The smallmouth bass is a, is a biggie, um, which I don’t understand why they call them smallmouth because they have enormous mouths. Walleye, pike, and there’s number of, of nasty predators, but the bass are the worst, striped bass [P.H.: (talking simultaneously) and they’re all up in the reservoir]. And the striped bass are in the reservoir and up in the Upper Colorado that the Grand Canyon population of Humpback Chub, for example, is the healthiest in the entire Colorado river system up in west water they’ve pretty much been wiped out because of striped bass. So we have a system that’s actually in a way protected and that we’re kind of getting some invasives coming in around the edges that we’re still trying to keep it at bay.
Talking about rainbow and brown trout?
Rainbow and brown trout, green sunfish, walleye, stripers coming up from the lake, from Lake Mead.
From Lake Mead below, huh?
Yeah. So, but we still have a really healthy native population [of fish]. And our native population is getting stronger. So it’s something that we’re doing within this. It may not be us at all, it may just be the fact that the water’s warmer these days is helping our natives do better. We’ve been controlling brown trout in particular, so the source population for those at Bright Angel [Creek] and we’re seeing a native population explode. The western Grand Canyon sections are dominated by natives now. A lot of a bluehead [sucker] and flannelmouth sucker, along with Humpback Chub. So we’re seeing our natives actually increasing.
So something within what we’ve laid out there is working.
Maybe the temperature change from the reservoir declining over the last seventeen, eighteen years of drought.
I think everyone thinks that temperature was key and we did back in the nineties when we were working on the first EIS, we, it was sediment and temperature. It’s like, it was pretty obvious, and it still is.
Let me ask you a clarifying question about that shift from when you’re writing the EIS to when the Adaptive Management Program came into place. It sounds like you were saying that, um, the technical writing group that worked on writing the EIS morphed pretty quickly into what’s now called the Technical Work Group, TWG. Did that TWG exist before what’s now called the AMWG, the Adaptive Management Working Group? What was the timeframe for the creation of those groups?
So when– the writing team was comprised of a small number of individuals, really, who had this technical background. Um, I was the archaeologist, Steve Carothers was working for the Hualapai (?) tribe at that point.
He was? OK.
Yeah, he was. Yeah, it was kind of funny.
He’s on our list as a potential interviewee. Do you think– OK.
Oh yeah! He’ll be very colorful. He and Wegner together would be a lot of fun.
Oh, get them together in the same interview?
Yeah, and I would like to have a beer and watch.
You want to be there (laughs)–
Because it will be a lot of fun.
Great! That’s a great suggestion. (laughter)
I’ll come too, because I can egg them on. That would be totally fun. Um, so we had this small writing team that represented the Bureau of Reclamation, Park Service, [U.S.] Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Area Power [Authority], and the tribes were all part of this writing team.
Um, that team went away with the completion of the Record of Decision. When we wrote in the Record of Decision and in the EIS itself, the description of what this team was going to be, this new Technical Work Group and the Adaptive Management Work Group, we wrote the descriptions of those. We envisioned that technical work group to emulate the writing team. It turned out that, again, we were naive because each of the stakeholders placed their people as their technical specialists. And unfortunately it wasn’t just, it didn’t, they weren’t necessarily technical in nature. The representatives were much more agency policy driven than technical and they didn’t take off those agency hats at the door.
They became representatives of the particular stakeholder.
Yep. Yeah, and that was an error I think in the way we had described it earlier on. I don’t know if it would have mattered if we had described it differently because once we went into the Adaptive Management Program, the way that was going to be played out, um, if you didn’t win during the EIS, you had your opportunity then during the adaptive management, you could try to influence how the funding was going to get spent, what research was going to get done, all of those things now in the post EIS arena.
And that pretty much carried on for the last twenty years. Um, and there was a lot of frustration with what things got funded, what things didn’t get funded. We were stymied to get a lot of the archeological work funded. Didn’t happen out of that program because there were individuals who didn’t believe that Glen Canyon Dam operations were affecting these archeological properties, no matter how many times we documented it and how many studies we did, because they were outside the flow zone they weren’t affected. But when you look at the integrity of archeological properties, historic properties, and the legal structure of how you evaluate them that are articulated in 36 CFR Part 800 [Protection of Historic Properties], you look at direct, indirect, and cumulative [impacts] and we know that without sand that is forming the substrate for those [archeological] deposits they’re going to erode. And the argument from some of the folks in the system, in the program, mainly from Western Area Power [Authority] and CREDA, those two in particular, said: “Well that’s about the existence of the dam, not the operation of the dam.”
So it’s not considered. And we all are saying, “Well, how can you separate out those two?” Because if you operated the dam differently to, um, preserve sediment, for example, it is about the operation. And all of the money that’s being spent on endangered species and the Humpback Chub, trout, all of that stuff, well, you have a problem with trout because of the existence of the dam, not the operation of the dam. Yet, they don’t have any problem with funding those programs. And I’m sure Mike [Yeatts] will articulate it because it comes up all the time and we fight this all the time. It’s like– and we gave up fighting because we were losing properties. And we ended up, um, finding a way through some Park Service fee money to fund a project we called Grand Archeology, which–
To stabilize the sites?
We did excavations at ten of the most endangered sites, nine of the most endangered sites. And it’s a huge multivolume monograph that we came out from doing those excavations. But we also work with Reclamation for a number of years on stabilization of these properties. So we worked with the Pueblo of Zuni, they had a, um, for their soil conservation program. We had folks from Hopi who were engaged with doing preservation work on the reservation. Um, we had, we started out doing some great, um, uh, ruins– it’s not really ruins because it was really landscape preservation work on sites down there. Um, and this would’ve been in probably ‘95, ‘96, right when we were finishing the EIS. We started doing the first preservation projects down there and we did a workshop up at Lees Ferry. We did a river trip where all the tribes sent folks down so we could start working on how do we go about stabilizing the landscape to keep these properties because ultimately our goal is to keep everything in place. You know, we want the histories of the ancestors to be where they were left. Not collected–
(Speaking simultaneously) Not in a museum somewhere–
Not in a museum. None of that stuff. But let’s create the landscape situation where things could be preserved in place. And our first big project was actually at Palisades Delta, which is a couple miles downstream of the Little Colorado River confluence. And we had– we have a video that we did of that project to show how we did it. We, the Zuni did these basket weave kind of features within the drainages to try to stop some of the water flow. We did rerouting of trails. We put in check dams. We did all sorts of stuff to try to actually keep these sites in place. And that’s something we had all bought into. But we ran into problems with Reclamation at that point in time and some of the other Adaptive Management Program members who didn’t feel that we should be spending any money on cultural resources and archeology. And I’m afraid that that’s still a bit of a problem.
And I think when you look at why the tribes’ funding has stayed static, why there hasn’t been money put towards preservation of these sites, it all gets back in, in some ways it’s um, it’s unfortunate, but I think it’s– there’s a view amongst some of these stakeholders that history and culture don’t matter. Or it’s not their responsibility; one or the other. Or “sorry, but it’s not the dam.” And it’s like, you know, really, and we keep going back and say it’s existence versus the operations. Like really?
Is that distinction still relevant today?
It seems to be. And it seems to keep coming up even though we’ve settled it more than once. We started doing work with USGS on the geomorphology issues related to the canyon. Back in the early nineties as well, some of the early work that Rich Hereford did with us looking at how it is that these sites were eroding out. And then we started doing that with Hereford, with Lukita, um, with Joel Pederson after that, take your pick, Joel Sankey.
Now it’s like over and over again we have documented the reasons why, Amy East’s work looking at the different types of sites and the um, geomorphic situation where they get eroded. I mean there’s [inaudible]– we’ve gone through multiple times with this and it’s like we would’ve spent a whole lot less money if we just would have been able to go treat the site. Then you continuing to say that, “It’s not affecting the site–.” It’s like, “Yeah, it is.” “Well prove it.” And it’s like, Okay, so we’ll have another study funded. And you’ll listen to some of our tribal colleagues, in particular, our friends at Zuni, Kurt Dongoske in particular, who was fed up with looking at funding going to geology essentially, which is the sentiment studies when it should be going to archeology. Because pretty much it’s called the cultural resource support monies. But it’s not, it’s going to more sediment work, more geomorphology. Its giving us nothing in terms of preserving the archeological sites or the associative values the tribes ascribe to these places. I mean all of these places are part and parcel of tribal histories, and unless you’re going to actually take the time to work with the tribes on these places, you’ll never get those associative values. What you get is a fairly routine version of archeology and, you know, I’m a culprit of that myself. That’s how I came into this program and at some point in time I realized there was a whole lot more to it, which is when we started bringing the tribes in. But it’s hard to get the funding mechanism to be able to provide adequate support to be able to look at those associative values. And we talked about taking some areas that were relatively easy to access, um, upstream of Lees Ferry where you’ve got the minus nine mile petroglyph panel, which is pretty well known, it’s archaic petroglyphs that are in the cliff face there. Well they’re right at ground level and you know that people were not laying down to peck these things in [to the rock]. The living surface had to be down below them. It’s like, let’s take an area like that and let’s work with the tribes who have histories here and combine archeology with traditional values with ethnography with associative values and actually design and develop and implement a study of one place to see how it works. Haven’t been able to get that done yet. That’s one of the things I wish, I still wish I could get done.
So you have a plan for it, you have partners for it, you have a place where you can do it. You’re waiting for–
Funding from the program?
Yeah, yeah. And I think everyone has, there was an acknowledgement amongst the cultural practitioners, whether it be the federal side or the tribal side, that that’s what we need to be looking at. Um, but it’s having the investment to make it happen. And with all of us, I mean, the staff the Grand Canyon has working on this has– gets no funding out of the program and everybody has another job to do. I mean, my hat, my plate is full with multiple other things and this is just one of the many things that I’m tasked with doing. So in addition to being the TWG representative, I’m also the alternate for the National Park Service’s Superintendent of Grand Canyon for the AMWG role. So I have both of those pieces within this program. And I’ve been the alternate AMWG member for multiple Grand Canyon superintendents. Um, when the Obama administration came in, the federal family was gotten together by Ann Castle, who was the former Assistant Secretary who said, “You know what, we are all part of this. We all need to not be infighting. We, the agencies, have to give our best recommendations to the Secretary who’s responsible for this, so we the federal family need to come together and we’re not going to be voting with our stakeholders.”
It’s a pretty odd thing for this, for us to vote with our stakeholders on a recommendation to us. So we should not be doing that. And again, in hindsight, because I was one of the ones who helped create the original adaptive management framework and all twenty-five stakeholders, when you look at it that way, it makes no sense for us to vote on a recommendation to us because we’re all representing the Secretary of the Interior in this. So when Ann pulled us out of being voting members of the AMWG. It changed another dynamic and some of the tribes were really concerned that that would mean that we would be less engaged because we didn’t have a vote. I mean, prior to that, we’d have some pretty difficult meetings where the basin states and the power and water interests would vote one way; the Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service who have responsibilities for historic properties and endangered species would vote another way; and the tribes would abstain, and we’d get out-voted on our own policies and our mandates. It is like, this is crazy. We can’t do this. And it would happen all the time. Um, and it was–made it really hard.
Well, making you nonvoting members wouldn’t that weaken your voice even more?
Except that the Secretary is going to make that decision and it’s going to get recommendations from the agencies that report to the Secretary. So by having all of the DOI [Department of Interior] agencies talk about these things beforehand and have consistency in understanding leaders’ intent within the program and agencies’ responsibilities, we actually then can come together and say, this is our collective recommendation. And you see that play out in the last years of the Obama administration and Ann Castle’s tenure. The high flow experiment EA that we got done, at that– and then the LTEMP where the Park Service and Reclamation were joint leads. Which was the first time that had ever happened. And that was a big deal, because usually we get the folding chair at the end of the table. This time we actually had a real chair at the table.
Did those changes, um, survive beyond Ann Castle’s tenure?
So right now the makeup of the Adaptive Management Work Group does not have the federal agencies, the DOI agencies, as voting members.
DOI, Department of Interior?
Which includes Bureau of Reclamation, Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service– any others?
Bureau of Indian Affairs. However–
But the tribes represent themselves, they’re not represented by BIA, but the BIA has a representative?
They have a fiduciary responsibility to participate because there are tribes like the Havasupai, for example, who are part of the canyon but who don’t participate. So in that way they have another role for tribes that have an interest but aren’t here.
The other, the outlier in all this is WAPA, [Hirt and Balsom say simultaneously] Western Area Power Administration, who every so often they want to be called “Western,” but now they want to be called WAPA again. Not quite sure why. One sounds friendlier than the other. (Laugh) Western sounded friendly, but now they’ve gone back to WAPA. Could be a change of administration that made that decision for them. Um, they want to be part of the federal family, but they want to vote, so they’re still a voting member of the AMWG because they’re not part of Interior, and so they had this odd role where they want to be part of the inside discussion with the Secretary, but then they want to be in the outside to be able to do whatever maneuvering they would like to do outside this Interior–
Hmmm. Have it both ways.
And they have been playing that a lot. And their interests are purely economic.
Yeah. Just occurred to me, U.S. Geological Survey is another Interior agency.
They don’t vote anymore either.
No, right. And they never did. Even in the early things because they’re the science provider, they’re not a manager of the resource.
Not a stakeholder. OK.
Because that’s the thing, I mean, these are about managing, whose managing this resource. Reclamation manages the water releases, Park Service obviously manages the land base, Fish and Wildlife Service has responsibilities for endangered species, where BIA has a trust responsibility to the tribes in their best interest. So, you know, within that, but USGS doesn’t manage anything other than they’re the science provider.
Uh-huh, okay. Interesting.
So, um, you brought us right up to the point where we had a group of people writing an EIS and then there’s a transition and suddenly we have an Adaptive Management Program with an incipient AMWG, Adaptive Management Working Group and an incipient TWG. Which came first? How did those evolve, and how did you get the tribes in there right from the start?
So with, um, when we finished the Record of Decision, um, in it there was an environmental commitment for adaptive management.
This is ’96?
In ‘96, I think March of ‘96 is when [Secretary] Babbitt signed it. Um, and the Grand Canyon Protection Act provided the structure for that with the stakeholders and everything, consultation with the tribes. And I’m pretty sure the tribes were named at the time, because they were the same tribes that were participating in as cooperating agencies in the EIS.
So there was a transition of close to two years from when it was finished to when the formal Adaptive Management Program started, and the structure of that did come out of the [Grand Canyon] Protection Act, but it was also articulated, more–better defined, I guess, in the Record of Decision as to how this would move forward. There’s a lot of debate as to where the science provider would be. There was some, um, misgiving about it resting with Bureau of Reclamation as the science provider because some perceived conflicts at that point in time. [Secretary] Babbitt had created the National Biological Survey at that point, the NBS. Um, so there was a thought that maybe that would be the institutional home. That didn’t last very long. Um, so ultimately it ended up being within the USGS which–
Would seem to be a more neutral agency?
And they are indeed identified as the science provider for the Department of the Interior. I mean their reputation for that. But again, they’re generally looking at geologic resources. So the fact that this program included cultural, biological was a bit of a stretch. So they really had to restructure a lot of what they were doing and, and bring in some additional expertise. Um, you had the senior scientist, Duncan Patton, was a senior scientist from ASU when we were working on the first EIS.
National Academy of Sciences did a lot of reviews of all of that work, the GCES work, and how we move forward. There was a, I mean, there was a big interest in how this large adaptive management program would be played out because, again, there hadn’t been one quite like this. There were some examples from the Pacific Northwest and the Columbia [River] that were used, but this was– the seven basin states have a different role to play. And the water that we’re talking about was part of the 1922 [Colorado River] Compact. There was a lot of other legal challenges that had to be addressed. And then you’ve got a little bit of this drought thing going on, and then you’ve got in 2007 the Interim Guidelines that were issued by Reclamation for how they’re going to manage the reservoirs between Powell and Mead.
And within that they didn’t really integrate in well, uh, the provisions of the Grand Canyon Protection Act, the 1996 Record of Decision or any of the information since then. So it’s almost like they forgot that they had this whole thing in between the two reservoirs–
Right, and a park–
And a park, a little bit, little. So, I mean, and so that also kind of added into some of the complexities because you’ve got the Upper Basin not wanting to let any water go until they have to. You’ve got the Lower Basin with more people saying, “We need the water sooner.” You’ve got a brokered deal that [Secretary] Babbitt was involved in, in terms of, um, how to work the guidelines between the upper and lower basins in terms of criteria for–. You can’t just hold it up in the north. You got to let it go to the south.
I mean, Upper Basin states, Lower Basin states, you got to figure it out. But there were certainly disagreements amongst the seven states, the four upper and three lower, as to how they were going to balance this stuff. So you’ve got then the elevational tiers for how much water gets released based on that.
Lots of complicated moving parts–
Lot of other moving [parts]. And then you’ve got the, the minute, whatever it was called, for the pulse flows that went to Mexico that happened during the Obama Administration, because Mexico has theoretically a water allocation out of this that they rarely see.
So I mean, you’ve got all of these moving parts. So all of this is a complicated system. And then within this you have the needs for certain environmental flows to do good within the canyon that if you do them the way many of us were hoping we could do them, um, there’s a perception that it would cost too much money to the power interests. That you would be wasting water, wasting power, when you bypass the generators. It’s lost revenue potentially.
At least at that one dam, you still have that water for the next dam. But you’ve lost it at Glen Canyon Dam.
Yes you do. Right. And they’re administered differently. So, you know, for me, I’d always looked at it as potential profit not realized, because you don’t know if you had a buyer for that electricity. Um, but that was just me. OK, well, you might not have– And if you’re running at full power plant capacity, you’ve got extra electricity to sell, and talking to the power people who’ll say, “Well yes, but you don’t know if you have a buyer so you might just have to flood the market and then the price goes down.” And it’s like, and that’s why I’m not an economist. (Laughter) It’s like, okay, I sort of get it. Um, but ultimately for us it’s about how do we regulate flows, um, given the sideboards we have, so that we can actually improve conditions in the canyon for all of the resources. So it keeps getting back to how, how can we best do that? Knowing that we’re in the forever business, we’re stewards of this place and we need to pass it on in at least as good, if not better condition than we found it.
How would you sort of–you know, historians like periodizing history, we like breaking the past into chunks in which you can talk about there being sort of a consistent cultural inclination. I mean, there’s the Depression, the Progressive Era, World War II. How would you periodize the stretch from the time, uh, when the Record of Decision was completed in 1996 to the present. Were there eras in which certain things prevailed, certain scientific research was done, certain policies were more influential than others, certain stakeholders were more at the table. How would you break that up?
Uh, fish and sand.
Fish and sand.
Over the entire period?
So those are the issues that got the most amount of attention from ‘96 to the present.
Yup, and still do.
We have seen that in all of our interviews and the documentation.
Yep, fish and sand. But, and what’s interesting is, though, the fisheries are Endangered Species Act. Sand, it’s the substrate for everything, but there’s actually no law that says that you have to do this. Really, it’s about Section 106 National Historic Preservation Act and protecting those historic properties. So that there is a clear connection in most of our minds, except for those who say it’s not the existence versus operation of the dam thing, but most of us understand that connection. Um, but all of the funding has gone to fish and sand.
So, um, some of this– Among the stakeholders are recreation interests and it seems to me that, um, another group that’s very concerned about sand are the river runners.
Because that’s where people camp, that’s the only place you can pull off for the night. And, um, so would you say that the emphasis on fish and sand reflects the dominance of certain stakeholders, or does it reflect legislation and law like the Endangered Species Act and the Grand Canyon Protection Act?
I think the ESA is–
Why is that?
ESA is huge. Endangered species because it gets litigated in particular. So most of the stakeholders, regardless of where you’re coming from, are going to be really concerned about Endangered Species Act compliance. So the focus on Humpback Chub, the states are going to support that, the power interests are going to support that. I mean, that’s an important piece of this. Um, the recreational users– you know, you think about it, the Grand Canyon Protection Act talks specifically about natural and cultural and recreational uses, you know. Um, (pause) the public perception of the diminished resources in the canyon came from those recreational users. They’re the ones who saw it everyday. They’re the ones who saw the daily tides and watched the beaches go away.
They wrote the letters to Congress.
They wrote the letters. There were trips they, you know, um, guides would bring postcards with them and have their clients fill them out while they’re there and they’d send them out at Phantom, you know. So they were actively engaged. Once we stopped– we started a program of interim flows more working on the first EIS, they kind of, um, it was our best guess at the time for how to do no more harm. So we had a fairly restricted flow pattern at that point in time, which carried through into the final recommendations in the EIS. And what we did in LTEMP isn’t all that much different to be honest. I mean, we got it pretty right. It’s really sediment and temperature, though, no matter what. Um, so within that, we still have recreational boating. When we first started doing the work back in the early ‘80s and into the ‘90s, we had really low flows, there would be days where the river would be down to 1500 cfs and nights where it would go up to 28, 30, 32,000 [cfs]. So huge variations.
And that’s because of management of the hydropower dam.
Hydropower dam. Um, so that you’d have recreational groups that would get stuck because there’s not enough water. And all of a sudden get flooded out. So the concerns, there was a lot of safety concerns. You had water rising really fast. You had, uh, fisherman up in the Lees Ferry area who would be, have their waders on, and all of a sudden get, not realize that they were— maybe because they were numb from the waist down, I don’t know, because the water was so cold that their waders are filling up—and there was, there were some, uh, serious incidents with fishermen back in those days, not realizing how quickly the water levels would change. Uh, river rafts would get stuck on big rocks, they’d have to wait for the water to come up to float off.
So, um, the lower the water, the more rocks, the more incidents where people would get knocked about a lot. Higher water is actually, a lot of the rapids wash out. At a certain water flow there’s a phenomenon called the hydraulic jump that would happen and it happened at Crystal [Rapid], where there’s like a 40 foot hole that developed at about 60,000 cfs that was flipping every boat that went through and we’d have to go rescue people. You know, there was a bit of a mess. Um, so the control of water flows within a fairly narrow set of parameters has actually made boating safer. [Inaudible]
Intentionally or by accident?
Well, I think both. I mean, we, we talked a lot about minimum flows so that we could try to keep the rocks under water and a certain maximum flow. Um, so that we still had that recreational experience and we maintained the sediment on the beaches that we didn’t wash them away. So we definitely worked within those parameters to try to find that sweet spot for recreation as well. Um, but that’s a resource that people don’t understand and–. We talk about how much economic value recreation brings to the region, um, because it’s one of the few things that the power interests, it’s all about how much money is being made off this electric resource. Well, there’s more to it than that. I mean we, we pioneered in a lot of ways the non-use value studies that were in the first EIS, um, that there is a value, an existence value, in knowing that the Grand Canyon exists and is maintaining its integrity, that the resources are being taken care of. And there were a lot of folks who weren’t particularly happy with the fact that we were able to insert within this program, this non-use value–
Yeah, the existence value. I mean, and some people are still– We have now WAPA pushing the existence value for hydropower (laughter), the non-use value of hydropower, and they’ve got a PhD economist out of Oklahoma who by golly is doing that work for them. To show that there’s this incredible existence value for hydropower that’s equal to, you know, the existence value of the Grand Canyon and it’s like, it’s actually a use it, it’s not a non-use, it’s a real use. You turn on your lights, I have lights on. I understand that lights are good, electricity is good. But it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to get it.
Do you think there are other issues that ought to be addressed besides, uh, sand and fish; that, um, because maybe there’s not a legal angle like the Endangered Species Act to sort of force that issue to the table, it constantly gets neglected?
I do. I mean, I think that um, you know, I keep going back to the historic properties and tribal values. I mean, that’s one that– it eludes most everybody. I mean, you see it in the meetings, where when one of our tribal colleagues giving a presentation, people go out of the room and they go to the bathroom or there’ll be reading a newspaper, or they’ll be surfing the web and you see that all the time. So you know that they’re not vested in it at all. Um, the vegetation components along the river are things that we’ve been trying to move forward. The tribes have concerns about it as well. We’ve got [invasive species] encroachment issues that are directly related to dam operations that we are still arguing with some of the stakeholders who believe that the funds are theirs, not to be used for the program. That when you have beaches that are overrun with tamarisk or arrowweed [Pluchea sericea] or anything else, that it’s actually a function of how the dam works as well.
Because without those, that yearly flooding, it doesn’t, that stuff doesn’t get washed out. You don’t have new sediment deposited and you basically have this whole crop of arrowweed that’s just taken over your beach and there’s no place to camp anymore because it’s all arrowweed. Or the beach is gone because it’s gotten washed out and it’s all rock. So, if we give– one of the things that we included in the Record of Decision for LTEMP was vegetation management because we made a direct link and we wrote it into the environmental commitments in the ROD, which made some people unhappy because they don’t want to fund vegetation work. And some of the things I’m talking about, these are relatively small mitigation measures that don’t cost a lot of money, if you just were able to maintain them. So that you go in and you actually do restoration work at a camp where you remove some of the nonnatives. You actually, um, manipulate the area so that it catches more sand when we do have a high flow and you maintain it that way. And for some of the areas that we’ve identified it, you can actually do it in a reasonably contained area. Um, it’s 280 miles from the dam down to the lake. You’re not going to work on all of them, but you can certainly pick out key locations that have cultural significance, or certain plants that are important, or collection areas, things like that, so you– or archeological sites where you need to open up the sand area so that—and Kurt Dongoske hates this—but sand blows at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and the more sand you have, the more it blows. And as much as those of us who have camped down there aren’t always all that happy waking up as part of a sand dune. That sand blows back up to the old river terraces and reburies those archeological sites.
Which preserves them–
Which preserves them. Um, so that, you know, we’ve tried to target certain areas where the prevailing winds are right, where we have good sand deposits. If we keep those as open sandbars, that wind will blow and it will pick up that sand and it will deposit it, because that’s where it came from to begin with. We’ve watched the cycle. You see it. Washes back down and then it gets blown back up. [P.H.: Blown back up.] And then the only mechanism for depositing sediment down there is the river. And it all comes down, you know, whenever we can capture it. The Paria is our trigger point because the dam keeps everything else upstream.
The Paria River.
The Paria River coming in out of southern Utah. Um, so when we’re looking at sand balances, it’s the Paria that gives us the biggest bang for our buck. And the Paria’s mainly sand; and the Little Colorado [River] is mainly silt and clay. So when it’s really mucky and slippery and stuff like that down below the Little Colorado, that’s all the Chinle formations coming in. So you want the Paria, which is more of a sand based. So you’re looking at that complement. And if we can–
Does the Escalante River contribute to any sediment?
It’s up above Lake Powell.
Oh, it’s all captured behind the dam. Okay.
Yeah. So you’ve only got a limited amount. Over ninety percent is, is kept up above the dam and Lake Powell. So you’ve only got these two sources as they come downstream. So in the first sixty miles is all Paria. Once you get below the Little Colorado, you’ve got a lot more to work with, um, but you’ve got sixty miles above is where the critical reaches are and that’s where you’re trying to capture as much as possible. So, our triggering criteria for high flows is based on what comes in on the Paria because if not, you’ll strip out that first sixty miles with any kind of flow.
So, really, there’s some really smart people that we work with on this stuff. We figured this stuff out, um, and it’s great. This is where you look at the, the range of individuals who I’ve had the opportunity to work with, um, some who were very much in the, the environment is just a nuisance, we’re about water engineering and operating a dam. And then you move into a kinder and gentler period of Reclamation staff, and Katrina Grantz, who I’m sure is on the [interview] list, who’s the current, uh, um, program lead, and a gal named Kendra Russell who worked for Reclamation and now she works for [US]GS, but Kendra was critical to developing the criteria for the high flow experiments. I mean she’s brilliant. And she was great to work with on the LTEMP. I mean, we had a small team of folks: it was me, Rob Billerbeck, Katrina, um, and Kendra, um, who kind of made the core group to get this LTEMP stuff done with our contractor in Oregon.
Was Kendra Russell also working for Reclamation?
She was. She’s now with USGS, so she’s totally fine but she’s back east. But she’s fabulous. But it’s like you, you go from this very narrow minded engineering perspective and to these newer, younger, more broadly focused engineers, Kendra and Katrina both, saying, “Maybe there is a way that we can actually accomplish the goals that we have in terms of managing the, the dam and the flows and the environmental concerns that we had that we also have to take responsibility for.” So you had a shift in personnel as well that actually allowed for a more enlightened approach.
That’s a really interesting point. Let me ask you if you think that that more enlightened approach, uh, or changes in the approach—maybe it’s not always more enlightened—but, uh, when you see a change in attitude and approach by members of the Adaptive Management Working Group and particularly Bureau of Reclamation, which kind of holds the purse strings, do you think it’s, um, you just kind of implied or suggested that it was a new generation, and as a historian you see sort of generations and eras like there is the Depression era and the War era and the Baby Boom era– Um, so some of that is in place, but, um, you also mentioned that some of the key changes came with changes in political administrations. Which do you think was more influential in this more recent change and how do you see the significance of those two different kinds of changes in the long term of this program?
You know, it’s interesting because we look in the Park Service at um– we’re sitting in a Mission 66 building, is a huge period of time: 1956 to 1966 the Park Service recognizing the post-World War II Baby Boom, blah, blah, blah.
[Recreation is] huge. So that, you know, I look at our own developmental history and it mirrors what’s going on in society.
And I think what you’re looking at in some of this is it, it’s a coincidence of timing that the shifts in personnel with Reclamation and were kind of part of the old guard Floyd Dominy world were near retirement. And it just happened to coincide with the Obama administration coming on board. There was a couple of folks who were hold-ons. There was one woman who worked for Reclamation, who I swear started during the Eisenhower administration (laughter) and she was still, no matter what, still touting the same line. But I think she realized that times had changed and that some of the attitudes had changed, and it was time to retire. So you had a lot of retirements that kind of were happening at the same time. And you know, part of it is, um, it’s just as we all look at the baby boomers starting to get to retirement age, I mean as the early part of the baby boomers were retiring, you’ve got these younger, more um [pause] openminded, more creative, coming in with this generation. And it’s, some of it I think is happenstance. I don’t– I think that we’re fortunate in some ways that you had sort of a changing of the administrations, of the guard, at the same time. We’re also very fortunate that we were able to get the LTEMP signed under [Secretary] Sally Jewel. So the first EIS was signed under [Secretary] Bruce Babbitt, the second one under [Secretary] Sally Jewel.
Both Democratic administrations.
Both with a very strong environmental record.
Uh-huh. Has, um, have there been any significant shifts in the last year under the new Trump administration? Year and a half now.
Yeah, I mean, we’re, we’re all trying to understand that shift. Um, the recent directive to WAPA to transfer all the funding out of the Basin Fund that was used for environmental programs to Treasury is something that all of the stakeholders are up in arms about. Um, so that’s twenty-five years of having all of these funds providing support for these programs. And all of a sudden they’ve decided they’re not going to; yet the laws are very clear that that’s how those monies are supposed to be used. But it doesn’t seem like anybody cares. It just, they just not going to do it. It’s like, well, how can you not do it? It says you’re going to do it. This is the law that says you’re going to do it.
In the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act that set up the Basin Fund?
And subsequent acts, that clarified how the funding was supposed to be used.
And so the Trump administration is just kind of sequestering it and saying we’re going to put it back into Treasury and if you want any money for any of these programs, you have to ask for it in the regular budget process. Is that what’s going on?
I don’t think that there’s been a suggestion that you have to ask for it.
They’re just saying we’re taking the money away, too bad.
That seems to be what we all have understood. And, and Reclamation is trying their best to get the money back because these are their environmental programs too.
And, I mean, the nice thing is that the folks in Reclamation are the same ones who are so committed to making sure that this happened and got that 2016 ROD signed. It’s the same people that we’re still working with, and we’re all just kind of shaking [our heads] and saying, well we don’t know what to do next. We have briefed up the chain—Reclamation, USGS, Fish and Wildlife Service, Park Service altogether as the DOI agencies, [Bureau of] Indian Affairs didn’t have a whole lot to say about it because they’re not engaged in that way—but the four of us all collectively wrote the same briefing papers, the same perspectives, have sent it up through our chains in Washington [DC] and there was just nobody there. At the last AMWG meeting, Andrea Travnicek [acting Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks starting in August 2018] was there and she heard it loud and clear from all of the stakeholders and the agencies.
And she’s your representative from the Secretary of Interior’s office.
So the way the Adaptive Management Program is set up is, it’s the Secretary’s program. The Secretary has a designee, the designee for the program currently is a fella named Tim Petty [Assistant Secretary for Water and Science]. And the alternate designee is Andrea Travnicek. The previous meeting she was representing, uh, water and science. At this meeting, she now has the hat of acting [Assistant Secretary] for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. So you’ve got both sides of Interior. In a way, she’s then representing both water and science and fish, wildlife and parks. Convenient, I guess.
Could be a good thing.
You don’t have to brief each other that way, you know, um– (laughter). But she, I mean, she, she gets it. She, she, you know, and I think, uh, uh, Mr Petty got it, you know. The southern basin states signing the same letter to the Senators to Congress to OMB, you know, very concerned about what’s going on and none of them are getting a response. So it’s a very different time and none of us have ever seen this.
Do you think it’s generic or do you think, I mean is this, um, this sequestering of funds, uh, happening to all the federal advisory committees, all the adaptive management programs, or is, do you, is this sort of being targeted at this program? Because, I don’t know–
–there’s a lot of money associated with it.
This program, has a lot of money associated with it and I’m not sure of other FACA programs with this sort of, um, legal basis for, um, the revenues and for distributing them for environmental programs. I’m not familiar with the other programs, but this one, I think that the number of questions we get about how this one is structured I think is fairly unique. We also have the Grand Canyon Protection Act, which there is no other program that has a law like this that directs these sorts of environmental programs. And then you’ve got the Upper Basin, um, San Juan River and Upper Basin RIP programs [Recovery Implementation Programs] that are funded out of this as well. So the Recovery Implementation Program, so it’s Endangered Species Act. So the $23 million that’s reported that’s being taken away from this program, $10 million of it goes to the Glen Canyon Dam program. The other $13 million is for the other programs that are operated through the Basin Fund on the Upper Colorado River. So, you know, it’s um–
And you haven’t got any explicit rationale for why the administration–
No. Not explicit. No.
No. Just, OMB has directed WAPA to transfer these monies to the [U.S] Treasury. No, nothing. Yeah. No nothing.
And this is the first time in the long history of this program, we’re going on thirty years.
Yes we are.
This is the first time that a complete removal of funding has been threatened?
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- Grand Canyon Village, Arizona
Interview conducted by: Dr. Paul Hirt, Arizona State University and Jennifer Sweeney, Four East Historical Research, LLC. Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program Administrative History Project. Administered by Arizona State University Supported by a grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation.
Archaeologist Jan Balsom has devoted her career to preserving Grand Canyon and the resources within it. She started working in Grand Canyon as a graduate student at Arizona State University, becoming a seasonal employee of Grand Canyon National Park in 1982 and serving as the Park Archaeologist from 1984-1995. She has held several leadership positions, including Deputy Chief of Science and Resource Management and, since 2016, Senior Advisor to the Office of the Superintendent. Balsom is a leading researcher on the state of cultural resources in Grand Canyon.
Suggested Bibliographic Citation
Balsom, Jan. ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW. Transcript of recorded Interview conducted by Paul Hirt, Arizona State University, and Jennifer Sweeney, Four East Historical Research, LLC, on 7 Sept 2018, at Grand Canyon, Arizona. Edited by Paul Hirt and Jennifer Sweeney.