August 21, 2019 |Flagstaff, AZ|01:20:46

James, Leslie Oral History Interview


This is Paul Hirt and Jennifer Sweeney of Arizona State University, interviewing Leslie James in Flagstaff on August 21st of 2019. Leslie, thanks so much for, uh, interviewing with us today.

00:00:01 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:00:16

Well, thank you for asking me.

You bet. Um, let’s start out by you telling us the positions that you’ve held in the Adaptive Management Program, the years that you’ve been involved, and the interests that you represent.

00:00:18 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:00:29

Okay. Um, I started with the Adaptive Management Work Group [AMWG] as a, as a designated representative, uh, an AMWG member, in 1999, uh, representing one of the two seats of, of power customers or entities representing purchasers of power from Glen Canyon Dam. And I’ve been reappointed to that position periodically, uh, whenever the appointments have come back up since that time.

What were those–

00:01:00 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:01:00

So since 1999.

What were those organizations that you were representing?

00:01:02 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:01:04

Uh, the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association, or CREDA. Uh, CREDA is a not-for-profit, uh, organization that represents the majority of the firm electric service customers of the Colorado River Storage Project [CRSP]. So, our members are all not-for-profit entities. They are all, uh, they all have contracts with the Western Area Power Administration [WAPA] and allocations from the Colorado River Storage Project.

And was there a second organization that you said that you were also involved in that, um, besides CREDA?

00:01:35 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:01:41

No, I’ve, I’ve been the CREDA Executive Director since June of 1998. [P.H.: mmm.] So I, I came on to AMWG shortly after the next reappointment time.

Wow. And you’re still serving in that capacity?

00:01:51 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:01:53

And I’m still serving in that capacity. Same job. Twenty-one years (laughter).

So, you’ve been involved since 1999. That’s a good long time with the Glen Canyon Adaptive Management Program [GCDAMP]. Um, can you talk about the main changes that you’ve seen in the program over that long period of time? How did it start out, and how did it evolve over time? And your participation in it?

00:01:57 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:02:17

You know, the main changes I’ve seen, um–when I first started, the program was primarily managed by the Bureau of Reclamation. Um, at that time, the science was, uh, provided through the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey] Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center [GCMRC]. But Reclamation was where the program was housed. And you know, I don’t recall the year, it was probably early 2000s. Uh, then Assistant Secretary of Water and Science–I can’t remember his name, um, brought the question of where the program should be housed to the AMWG. And I, I remember the meeting, we were sitting in a hotel conference room in Phoenix, and the question came up, should the Adaptive Management Work Group stay underneath Reclamation, or should it move to USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center? There was quite a, quite a bit of discussion as I can recall, and, uh (pause) someone asked the question, “Well, where does the funding come from for the program?” And the, the response was, “The funding is almost solely from CRSP power revenues.” And so, his name was Mark, I’ll think of it, um, so he called for the question and said, uh, “What do people think about leaving it with Reclamation, or moving it?” And the vote came down to leaving it with Reclamation. And shortly, you know, I don’t recall what month that was exactly, but shortly thereafter, and just before he left office, he issued a memo transferring it to USGS, GCMRC (laughter).

Leslie James 00:04:16

So. That underscored, uh, one of the roles of the Adaptive Management Work Group. And that is not, it is not a decision-making body. It is a body that is intended to make recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior. So that’s a prime example. There was another example at one point too, where there was a vote to do a High Flow Experiment (HFE), and it was way before the High Flow Experimental Protocol, and, um, the vote was to not do it, and Interior decided to do it. And that was in a Republican administration. So, you know, I–partisan politics aside, you know, it just kind of underscores that, yeah, the Secretary has an obligation under all of the, um, underpinning laws, uh, the Law of the River and everything else, to do certain things with this dam. And with this program, and we are an advisory committee.

Have you noticed that there are different periods in which the AMWG seems to have more influence and the Secretary is more deferential to its recommendations, versus times in which the Secretary is more hands-on directive and AMWG is more advisory?

00:05:13 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:05:31

I don’t know if it’s hands-on. Well, I think it’s more or less participative. Maybe not so directive–

Got it.

00:05:39 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:05:39

But, um, with the (pause) you know, I’m trying to remember how many different Secretary’s Designees I’ve kind of lived through (laughter), but the first one I recall was Steve Magnuson. Uh, we had Mark Limbaugh. We had Brenda Burman. Um (pause) we had Mike, he’s a–he was a Reclamation person. Not for very long. Um, and really, the biggest difference I think I saw was after the ’08 elections, um, Assistant Secretary Anne Castle became more directly involved. And you know, you, you heard some of that today from discussion about guidance memos, and the guidance memo that, that she issued early on in her tenure, um, setting out her priorities. And, um, that was a guidance memo that the program, Reclamation, USGS all took to heart and said, you know, Anne Castle’s guidances, these are her top priorities, these are her resource priorities. And, um, so I would say during that period there was more direct involvement from [Washington] D.C. And I don’t know that that’s a good thing, I don’t know that it’s a bad thing, I think it’s a different, it’s a different thing. Um, to a large degree though, again, I think that (pause) that the Secretary needs to provide some sideboards and provide some guidance. But, if this is really intended to be a Federal Advisory Committee, then let it operate. And let it, let it truly reflect the interests that are outlined in the, in the laws that establish it, and the requirements that establish it. Let it kind of do its thing. And within reason, of course. And you know, the, the original budget, in, I think, the original vision for the program, was fairly modest. Um, in the studies that were done prior to the first Environmental Impact Statement [EIS], uh, there was the ROD [Record of Decision] was finished in 1996, the ’95 EIS, 1996 ROD. And that was under, um, Secretary Babbitt. But I think there was, there, there were some, there was some antic–anticipation that it was going to be quite a fairly modest program, maybe five or six people (laughter).

Leslie James 00:08:24

And so, uh, one of the, you asked about one of the significant changes, one of the changes came about in the 2001 (pause) either 2000 or 2001 appropriations bill, where there was some language included that established a cap on the amount of power revenues that could be used as to–used to fund this program. And, um, you know, there was, there was quite a bit of consternation from some quarters, uh, when that, when that legislation went through. But likewise, um, the agencies knew that that legislation was being proposed. And um, because I sat in a meeting where the Senate staffers sat all, sat us all around and said, “This is what we’re proposing. I just want to make sure you all see this.” So, um, anyway, the funding cap, I think, especially now with some of the challenges that we’re seeing with federal budgets, with OMB [Office of Management and Budget] directives and with limited funds everywhere, I think that that was probably a pretty important thing that happened. Because at that point it was capped at seven and a half million dollars per year, adjusted for CPI [Consumer Price Index], and it’s pretty clear on what the funds can be used for. And it was intended to cover the Biological Opinion and, um, NHPA [National Historic Preservation Act], cultural resources. So–you know, that that was what, eighteen, nineteen years ago? Almost twenty years ago. And that was a big change.

(Speaking simultaneously) And now our cap is about nine–

00:09:52 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:09:55

It’s up to about–is it eleven? 11.3 million.

And that’s just–Consumer Price Index inflation each year–

00:10:00 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:10:04


Sets that cap. So that cap is still in play.

00:10:05 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:10:07



00:10:07 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:10:08


So let’s concentrate a little bit more on, um, hydropower and its role in the Adaptive Management Program because that’s the interest that you are sort of responsible for representing. Talk a little bit about, you know, from the early years on forward, how hy–how you tried to bring hydropower interests to the table and how you negotiated with other interest groups.

00:10:10 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:10:34

Well, you know, prior, prior to my coming on the AMWG, the ’95 EIS and ’96 ROD had been issued. Um, the hydropower impact, uh, from that ROD was about a one-third reduction in capacity. So it w–so, it had already happened when I came in. And, um (pause) you know, that was a pretty robust process. I worked on it peripherally in my prior, um, employment at Salt River Project [SRP]. Because, when I was at SRP from 1995 until 1998, I was a CREDA board member for SRP. So that’s how I got to know CREDA, was in that capacity. But during those years that EIS was going on. Um, the, the thinking of the ROD at the time was, it was really primarily heavily driven by sediment, sediment resources. Uh, certainly we had an endangered species, but that was a, that was a primary–key resource. And so, hy–with hydropower being restricted, our thinking at the time was, well, we have what we have, we have a record of decision. So, let’s just get in this program and try to make sure that the monitoring is really capturing how the, the ROD flows are affecting resources. Are they doing what people thought in the analysis? Are they not? And, you know, are there ways to, to try to gain back some of that lost capacity within the existing constraints? So that really has been, if you look at the CREDA, uh, mission and vision, that is to preserve and enhance the availability and affordability of the resources of the Colorado River Storage Project in an environmentally sound way. That’s our mission. So I, I bring that to my role in AMWG and, um, you know, it really is trying to ensure that the science is sound, is appropriate. So, since I’ve been in AMWG, CREDA has funded biologists. For a while, we funded a geomo–geomorphologist, Bob Mussetter.

To study sediment flow.

00:12:59 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:13:01

Yeah. Yeah. And, um, we had a cultural resources expert, Kurt Dongoske, worked for CREDA for six years.


00:13:10 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:13:11

Yes, because we, we really wanted to be sure that we had the technical capability and advice from the cultural folks, as the Programmatic Agreement and those things were going on. So, we (pause) we as an organization are very small, but we have spent, uh, the significant portion of our budget trying to ensure that we have, we have technical support, and support to help the program. It’s not always welcomed, but it’s there. It’s there. So, um, that’s been, really, my objective is to, hopefully, educate people about, where does this hydropower go? Why is it marketed the way it’s marketed? Who are the customers? And I’m still, haven’t been quite as successful as I would like to be with the tribes. Because in, in the year 2004, the resource was up for a new marketing plan, and we supported all of the CRSP customers taking a seven percent reduction in their allocations, to create a resource pool for tribes. To ensure that all the tribes could have some of this CRSP resource.

An allocation of hydropower.

00:14:42 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:14:25

An allocation of hydropower. So in 2004, all of our–my members’ contracts were re–redone, there was a seven percent pool, and fifty-three tribes now had an allocation of CRSP. Some already did. A couple already did, earlier, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. But in 2004, you know, we were very supportive of that. I think the, the struggle here is most of the folks, the tribal folks in this forum, are probably not the ones that deal with their power resources and their, their contracts with their providers and their transmission contracts. So, we keep trying to say, um, as a tribe you should have the same concerns we have about availability and affordability. Because you’re, you’re the same customers as we are, and the contracts are the same.

I’m curious to know, you said that, um, with the Record of Decision in 1996, they had already decided to reduce the amount of hydropower generation capacity at Glen Canyon Dam by about a third.

00:15:20 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:15:32


Um, since then, has it been reduced further, in your view, or has it stayed about the same?

00:15:33 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:15:39

Good question.

Or has it gone back up?

00:15:39 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:15:41

Good question. No, it’s been reduced further. Um, with the LTEMP (Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan), um, EIS and Record of Decision, uh, the preferred–the selected alternative, further reduced, um, that (pause) let me put it in dollars and cents. There was a study that looked at, what did that one third translate to? Um, Argonne [National Laboratory] did that study and they valued it at about fifty million dollars per year annual impact. That was from the ’96 ROD. The L-TEMP, um, ROD, EIS and ROD, um, valuation of reduction, or negative impact to hydropower, is 104 million dollars, but that’s over the twenty-year period.

And that’s derived from restrictions in how the dam is operated that make it difficult for the dam to optimize its operation to maximize revenue. Is that about right, or not?

00:16:23 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:16:38

Not quite. The very–the last two words. And that’s an education that I haven’t been successful at either, because a lot of times, um, these impacts are characterized as revenue. What they really are is (pause) less cost expended. So, WAPA has long-term forty-year contracts with each of its CRSP customers, including all the tribes. They provided allocations to everyone. If the total integrated projects of the Colorado River Storage Project aren’t able to meet those commitments (pause) or meet them in a time–in the time it’s needed. They can always meet the quantity, it’s just when. The timing. But, when they don’t, WAPA has to go out on the market and purchase replacement power.

I see.

00:17:28 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:17:29

So, when the operations get changed and restricted, they have to buy more replacement power.

And that could be more expensive.

00:17:35 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:17:36

It will–it will. Well (pause) you know, we heard a lot today about wind, but generally, at the time they’re having to buy, it is more expensive. So, it isn’t a revenue maximization. It’s a–an, uh, trying to avoid–

Cost avoidance.

00:17:51 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:17:52

Cost avoidance. Thank you.

Okay, thanks for that clarification.

00:17:54 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:17:55

And that’s a very–and that’s a hard concept because the darn, you know, I cringe whenever I hear “revenues.” At least we haven’t heard “profits” so much anymore (laughter). But revenue. Yeah. Yeah.

So, um, uh, continuing along the same lines, what other, um, issues related to, um, hydropower and its relationship with the rest of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program objectives, what other issues have you worked on, uh, over the years that you’ve been involved?

00:18:08 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:18:29

Related to hydropower or others–in the program? Other–

In the program.

00:18:31 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:18:32

Okay. Um, I participated in, we–we had tried to have kind of a robust (pause) public (pause) POAHG, I got–have to get the acronym: Public Outreach Ad Hoc Group, the POAHG. And the POAHG, um, did a lot of–did really some good work. Um, we produced some white papers talking about each of the resources. I think they’re still out and around.

What are each of the resources?

00:18:55 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:18:58

All of the downstream resources?


00:19:00 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:19:01

Okay. Let me, let me count the ways. How many objectives are in LTEMP? (Laughter.) So, we have endangered fish, native fish and other species (pause). (Whispering) I know where you’re going with this.


00:19:19 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:19:20

Recreation, hydropower, cultural resources. You know, if I think back to the Desired Future Conditions [DFCs], there were four.


00:19:29 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:19:30

Cultural resources. Hydropower. Ecosystem. (Whispering) and what was the other?

Wilderness? No.

00:19:37 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:19:39

No. And interestingly, and this is where there’s been a, a debate. Is sediment a resource? [P.H.: Ah hah] That’s why–I thought, or, I thought you were trying to catch me on that one.

No! (Laughter.)

00:19:51 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:19:52

Yeah–sediment, in my humble opinion, uh, sediment is (pause) sediment is a resource, but it is not an objective. An objective should be, what is sediment used for? Or used to benefit? And that’s where in the Desired Future Conditions year and a half-long process that group, um, made that determination, that sediment was not, in and of itself, a resource. It’s what you do with it.

When did you work on those Desired Future Conditions?

00:20:22 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:20:23

Okay. That was a, that was a good process that um, there is a lot of documentation out there. This was Secretary (pause) it was Anne Castle’s, so Secretary [Ken] Salazar. [P.H.: Salazar.] Yeah. Um, the question came up, what is this pro–what are the Desired Future Conditions of this program? Where do you want to be when you grow up? And so, they hired a facilitator, and I–don’t even ask me his name, because I can’t remember, but, um, for about a year and a half, I think, we worked in groups to establish a set of Desired Future Conditions for the resources. And it was a hard, it, it was a very–very hard, um, process, because we had a lot of different interests. But the end result was a report and recommendation that was adopted by Secretary Salazar. And it came up, um, I can remember the dates, it was about the, 2010, 2010. Uh, the report, uh, came up, was recommended to the Secretary, and he adopted it. What Assistant Secretary Castle then said is, “Okay, we now know what the Desired Future Conditions are. We need to put metrics to those.” How do you know–

When you’ve achieved it?

00:21:50 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:21:51

When you’ve achieved it. And that’s exactly the question we’re–starting–we’re facing again today. At that time, though, the thinking was, LTEMP, the LTEMP process would establish those metrics. And it didn’t quite get there. But that, the Desired Future Conditions and, and our, uh, you know, with that type of a facilitated process, it was, uh, it was, it was pretty good. And for some of those resources, they started getting into metrics. Like how many trout, how many humpback chub. Um, hydropower, we had our metrics kind of down, because it’s much easier. And, uh, but some of the other resources, how many and where–what beaches? How many and where, you know, vegetation things? But there’s a real, there’s a very, very good report that went up to the Secretary. Larry Stevens and George Kahn, who was with Colorado River Commission, were the chairs of that Desired Future Conditions ad hoc, and wrote up the report. So that, that would be a, that’s a very important document.

Well, we’ll go back in and take a look at it. We–we got to interview Larry Stevens–

00:23:01 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:23:05


And a lot of other people that you’ve mentioned, we’ve interviewed, so, um, let me ask you a little bit about, um, this Desired Future Conditions document and the resources. I, I find this interesting. Sometimes, um, one or more resources are compatible in a vision of a desired future, and sometimes some resources have conflicting desired futures. How, which resources did hydropower, were hydropower visions of a future able to ally with, and which ones were you more in conflict with?

00:23:05 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:23:42

Um, I–and that’s been very interesting because, um, from work that was done in the five-year (pause) fall steady flow experiments that Bill Pine, et al., worked on, looking at humpback chub. Um, they, they did a five -experiment where they steady-flowed the river during the fall months. The hypothesis being (long pause) we should steady the flows to preserve sediment because sediment is important for backwaters, which are important for humpback chub. (Pause.) The findings, ultimately, of that five-year study were, humpback chub don’t select for backwaters. They prefer other areas. And in fact, if they do use backwaters, they get eaten. So, right–there was, um, there was one of the “lights went on” things, because early on, High Flow Experiments were primarily justified to benefit endangered species. And after that study, it’s like no, are–we–no. So, the next round of, um, arguments supporting High Flow Experiments, then we’re getting to cultural and aeolian transport, but not so much the endangered species debate. So, what went on there, and also in 2005 and ’06, there was an ex–a little bit of an experiment done to agitate, to increase flows to, um, disadvantage trout. And that’s where you’re starting to see more about trout flows. So, between those two studies, what that basically said is, at least, we think, fluctuations are good for humpback–for the endangered species, because they can be used to disadvantage the predators and competitors. So from a, from a, in fact, I think if you looked at the analysis that was done for the LTEMP and for the swing weighting process, has anybody talked to you about the swing weighting process?


00:26:15 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:26:16

Okay. I will in a sec, because that was important. There’s documentation on that. Um, hydropower fluctuations that are good for hydropower can also be good for endangered species. And that was, that’s very important to us. Hydropower (pause) and I think here’s another light that has gone on over time: operations for hydropower fluctuations tend to not be good or complimentary for sediment, but it’s, it’s temporary. Because with HFEs coming in, you can redeposit the sediment, park it up there, fluctuations don’t get up that high. Where the science is showing us now, is volumes are more impacting on sediment, not fluctuations. So, when–and that became apparent when the equalization flows occurred in 2012, or whatever, because of the law–because of the operating criteria, they had to do equalization. Those were flat and steady. They killed us. They killed hydropower.

Send hydropower water downstream from the dam to Lake Mead (speaking simultaneously).

00:27:24 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:27:27

Yep. Yeah. So when you’re looking at sediment impacts, you can’t just say hydropower is always butting heads against sediment, because it isn’t. It’s volumes. And the volumes are ni–not dictated by hydropower needs. The volumes are dictated by [Colorado River] Compact requirements. So, you know, in an opportunity to look at, when we’re starting to look at what are potential experiments (pause) I would like to see, let’s do some more fluctuations and let’s be sure and monitor that sediment. And let’s see if an 8,000 [cfs] cap really does damage, or, uh–anything above 8,000 damages what the old 1987 study said it would.

8,000 cubic feet per second.

00:28:16 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:28:18

Yeah. Yeah.

And that’s the cap on–

00:28:19 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:28:20

That’s the cap on operations, and that’s very detrimental to hydropower, especially in summer months. Because you may, in–especially in the low, low volume months. Because you’re just hitting up, you’re hitting this cap, and your demands are up here, your summer peak demands. So, I would, you know, in a perfect world I would love to see someone dust off the Bishop study from 1987 that was cited in LTEMP that, in fact used 10,000 cfs as its metric, not eight. And see exactly what it does, what it does to the system. Uh, there–safety was another issue, and just kind of–

Safety of what?

00:29:03 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:29:04

Of rafters. Recreationists.

That fluctuation is difficult on people camping on a beach, for example.

00:29:07 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:29:10

Right. But is there a difference between eight and ten [thousand cfs]? I don’t know that. How do you know that until you try it?

Well that sounds like a perfect example of adaptive management, right?

00:29:17 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:29:19

It is a perfect ex–absolutely. In–

You have a hypothesis, you do an experiment, you learn, and then you adapt your management.

00:29:22 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:29:26

That’s exactly right. And you know, I, we, we tried very, very hard to get an experiment included in LTEMP that would just do that, and that would challenge what is being cited as the best available science, which is a 1987 study that used 10,000 cfs, not eight. And that’s the science that was cited for keeping the 8,000 cap and because it was a cap in the ’96 ROD, too.

So it became a regulatory cap because it was part of the Record of Decision.

00:29:55 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:29:59

Yeah. Yeah.

So do you feel like, um (pause) that hydropower interests have been a full and fair voice at the table, that you get listened to? I know in some of our interviews with tribal representatives, they express concerns about how their perspectives are not, you know, um, accepted as readily as others. How do you feel hydropower’s role has been at the table?

00:30:01 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:30:35

You know, I, I don’t feel like we’re precluded from, uh, um (pause) trying to (pause) trying to comment, like I have been on, “Why don’t we do some experiments here or there,” whatever. I, I think though that, and I’m glad to see over years, because years ago, there was a common theme that the DOI [Department of the Interior] agencies only listened to the states and the power providers. And that was, that was pretty commonly held, and–for the life of me, I would always say, uh, “Why would you think that?” Our resource is cut by a third. Um, in LTEMP, we are the only resource that is negatively affected by the preferred alternative. If you look at all the objectives in the LTEMP, we are the only ones that–


00:31:31 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:31:31

Aren’t benefited. So let me talk for a–so. You know, I think (pause) and it may just be lack of understanding, and I think, like I said, we’ve really, really tried hard to help educate about, we are not ENRONs. We are, you know, this resource has to go to the nonprofits and, you know, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. So I think there’s been a better, better understanding of that role, I hope. Um–

On the other members–

00:32:00 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:32:01

Of other members.

Of AMWG and other stakeholders.

00:32:02 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:32:02

Yeah, yeah. There, there may still be (pause) you know, and even–there have been times when even we’ve had differing views from WAPA. We aren’t WAPA. We are (pause) utilities that provide resources to retail customers. They aren’t. WAPA is a wholesaler. So yeah, I hope that we’ve tried to distinguish ourselves. We aren’t a federal agency and we aren’t WAPA so we do have kind of a different voice. And uh, it was pretty telling after LTEMP, one of the tribal reps said to me, “Now you know how we feel.” (Laughter.).


00:32:44 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:32:45

Yeah. Because again, we’ve been cut by a third plus more, and we’re the only resource, uh, through this analysis that take a hit. So, let me tell you for a second about the swing weighting, because I think that’s an important piece–that’s an important and an interesting aspect of this program. I think it was maybe in 2012 or ’13, hard to know. At the beginning of AMWG, the department decided that they wanted to do a structured decision-making (pause) process, or swing weighting. They brought in a guy from, uh, USGS back in Virginia or wherever, and we–all the stakeholders sat in a room for maybe two days. And first we learned, we had scientists all talk to us about the resources and the state–the state of play of the resources, and, and then they talked to us about potential alternatives, the LTEMP alternatives, in fact. They educated us on (pause) all six, I think, maybe five. And what those alternatives were hypothesized to do. Then, all of the participants were asked to swing weight. Um, and it was a really (pause) hard to understand, complicated kind of process, but it was attempted to elicit stakeholder values on how these, um, LTEMP alternatives would perform, and how the stakeholders value all of the resources based on how the LTEMP alternatives would perform. So, after learning and listening, uh, we did, filled out all of our forms, and it really was very, very complicated. You had to (pause) I still, I could still couldn’t replicate it. But it’s all, it’s all documented, and (pause) the interesting thing that came back, uh, some of the part– participants were skittish about it, because it was, “How is this going to be used in LTEMP? Are you going to make decisions based on that?” And, you know, we were assured this is just to inform, we’re not making decisions, we’re just trying to (pause) determine values. So, the results came back the next day and (pause) irony of ironies, Alternative B, which was the hydropower alternative, scored the highest. All (pause)–

Among all–

00:35:31 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:35:32


The AMWG stakeholders expressing–

00:35:32 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:35:34



00:35:36 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:35:36

But you look at–it’s hard to interpret the table. I went back and looked at it because I’ve been trying to clean through my files on some things, but, it’s a fascinating process to look–to look at the various charts and graphs that they produced and, again, it’s another piece of information. So I think structured decision analysis maybe became a–an appendix or something in LTEMP. But, that report and all that stuff’s out there. So. Another (pause) another interesting, when–what made me think of that is your question about how the–how the different resources conflict, or are compatible. Because they’re–the traditional conflict at this table is sediment and hydropower. You know, it’s just kind of an assumed thing. But I think we’re starting to get there where (pause) it isn’t, it isn’t the fluctuations and following load. It’s volume, and volumes are not dictated by hydropower contracts. They’re dictated by Law the River.

Now, some of the earliest complaints about the impacts of Glen Canyon Dam were from the river rafting communities–

00:36:38 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:36:46


About those fluctuations leaving them high and dry [L.J.: Right] in the morning, or having floods come into camp in the evening [L.J.: Right]. And um, uh, that probably continues to be um, a difficult-to-reconcile set of values, I would imagine.

00:36:46 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:37:04

It may be, if the operations did that, but since Modified Low Fluctuating Flows–

It has not been a problem.

00:37:11 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:37:12

It hasn’t been a problem. So, that’s why I’m saying, it would be very interesting to dig out the ’87 study, Bishop, that, that assessed the views of the recreation, the rafters and the fishermen. Because, look what operations were back in those days.


00:37:31 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:37:32

1983, you know, the highest, highest releases ever. All of that was pre-ROD, pre, pre-initial EIS and ROD. So, perspectives of how people can manage different flows have to have changed, because they haven’t seen those kind of flows since 1996.

Ah, going back to challenges that you’ve faced, and accomplishments, can you, uh, name any more, you know, in this twenty-year or so period you’ve been involved, what other challenges did you face in articulating, um, hydropower interests and, and accomplishments you may have–?

00:37:56 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:38:17

I think probably one of the biggest challenges is trying to (pause) trying to do a better job of really educating what this federal hydropower resource really is, and what it isn’t. And who the customers are, and who they aren’t. Um (pause) and also (long pause) you know, I, as I indicated, CREDA has spent a big part of our limited budget bringing in, trying to bring in science expertise. But we aren’t the federal scientists. And (pause) I think that’s just, we’ve kind of learned that’s just the reality. You know, they, the USGS science folks and Reclamation science folks and other science folks, they may listen, and, “Well, thank you for your input,” but we aren’t the federal scientists. So, if I had to do it all over again, I’m not sure I would have, I would have recommended, um (pause)–

Spending that money?

00:39:20 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:39:20

Having, spending that much money. We spent (pause) a lot of money. The ma–biggest part of my budget has been environmental stuff.

To try to position you to be a more informed advocate for your interests–

00:39:31 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:39:34

Right! Right. And, you know, to try to understand, um, the other, the other science, because like I said, we hired a biologist and a geomorphologist. We didn’t hire hydropower expertise.

Right. Beause you had–

00:39:48 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:39:49

Because we thought we had it with the utilities (laughter). But one of the accomplishments, um, I would say–probably one of the biggest accomplishments, was being able to develop (pause) and submit what was a viable alternative in the LTEMP EIS. And it was Alternative B. And that was, that was an alternative that we wrote up, we had science behind it. Um, again, I’m–I’m biased, of course. But if Alternative B had been selected, every resource in LTEMP would have still benefited. And not–

Did any elements of Alternative B get selected in the final preferred alternative?

00:40:32 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:40:38

Well (pause) a concept, um, the monthly volume concept, and the fluctuating flow factor, was a concept that we, we supported from the [Colorado River Basin] States’ alternative, the RTCD [Resource-Targeted Condition-Dependent], uh, that was Alternative C I think, or D. Um, the States’ alternative was developed by utilizing a lot of science that this program has used. You know, you name it, um, all the fish guys and the sediment g–they, they drew from them, and developed an alternative that would have only had a little negative impact on hydropower. A little. Uh, you know, in a perfect world, I would like to have seen that alternative go forward, because the proponents of that alternative went and met with all the stakeholders, tried to incorporate their concerns, met with the fishermen, the tribes, everyone. And I think that was a really good community alternative. (Pause.) But Interior brought in–in an alternative, and then made some compromises on the fluctuating flow factor. And (pause) just to give you numbers. So, the States proposed tens and twelves. Ten times the monthly volume for a fluctuating flow factor in the peak months. Twelve, and then ten. The Interior alternative proposed sevens. Flat seven. So the f–the volume and the fluctuations that [unintelligible] would have been much less. So the Preferred Alternative compromised between those numbers.

In between the two.

00:42:22 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:42:23

Yeah. And the CREDA– the B alternative, the only, really, real difference was, we would have had tens and twelves during the peak and the other months. Otherwise it wasn’t a lot, a–one other difference. The Alternative B restricted HFEs to no more than one every other year. So that was basically the difference in the alternatives.


00:42:47 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:42:48

But that was, I think that was one of our, our really good accomplishments, I think, that, it kind of became a bookend. You know, I have to wonder what, what our preferred alternative would have looked like but for that experiment, or that alternative. But you know, just being able to articulate the science and write it up and have it be a viable alternative was a good accomplishment for us.

What’s the relationship between HFEs and hydropower interests? Are HFEs not a good thing for hydropower, or can hydropower utilize the HFEs effectively?

00:43:14 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:43:28

Uh, unless there’s an HFE that hasn’t been designed yet (pause) there will never be an HFE that benefits hydropower. Now, there will be different HFEs that you can reduce the negative impact. Um, and so I think that was really the reason we pro–started promoting Project N [“Project N: Hydropower Monitoring and Research,” a component of GCMRC Triennial Budget and Work Plan for Fiscal Years 2018-2020]. And that was, when you’re doing any experiments, consider the effects on hydropower. Because there could be some win-wins here.


00:43:57 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:43:58

Um, an HFE, and that–I’m encouraged by looking at spring HFEs within power plant. Because where the–where the damage, or where the, the negative effect is, is bypass (pause).

Yeah, that’s–

00:44:11 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:44:11

If you’re bypassing water, that’s–that’s the negative effect. And so they, they aver–they estimate the way HFEs have been done, it’s about a million and a half to two million a year–I mean, a million and a half to two million dollar effect (pause) or impact to ev–to hydropower, with every HFE. That’s primarily because, bypass. You’re not generating. So, if we can start looking at some HFEs that can be done within power plant, you don’t bypass, maybe you can do them more frequently.

Do you know why they can’t do those high flow events through the turbines, instead of using a bypass?

00:44:39 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:44:51

They can (pause).

Is th–

00:44:53 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:44:53

But I, but (pause) you know, it may be one of those, “it’s not enough.” You aren’t getting enough sediment up. And you aren’t going enough or–a long enough push-up. You know, so when you bypass, you’re getting a bigger flush.


00:45:10 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:45:11

So, but what, what I’m, what I’ve been saying is, “Well then, why don’t you look at one that doesn’t kill hydro by bypassing?” Do it within power plant. Maybe you can do them more frequently, and not have the significant impacts, that two million at a whack. Or maybe you can, you know, let’s look at some designs where you can fluctuate more leading up to it. Because you’re going to get an HFE to push that sediment up. We get some fluctuations leading up to it, so we get a little more flexibility. And then you do it within power plant, so you don’t bypass and lose, lose the generation. So I’m–I’m encouraged with this new, um, what do they call it? The FLAHG? Flow ad hoc group. There’s, they’re beginning to start a flow ad hoc group [P.H.: Uh-huh] to look at springtime HFEs, and HFEs that could maybe be within power plant.

Adaptive management in action.

00:46:10 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:46:12

Exactly! (Laughs.) Exactly. It’s kind of like (pause) you know, when I–well. When I had my child, way back in those days, and I was full-time working, my husband’s full-time working and, and someone said to me, “You know, you can’t do it all. You can’t have it all.” Well, but maybe it’s good enough to have parts of–so I kind of look at HFEs like that. You know, do you have to do a 96 or 120 hour one every time you do it? Or can you be satisfied (pause)? The system is so (pause) the system is going to ebb and flow. So, your, you know, this, uh, hue and cry about all the sediment is going to be pushed out down to [Lake] Mead, and we’re going to lose all the beaches. That–the monitoring, since we started doing HFEs, is not showing that. You know, you get a big benefit, then it erodes away. So maybe you would do a littler one, then you erode. Then you do have more frequent littler one. But don’t try to have it all. It’s a balance, right?

Well, to be involved, as long as you’ve been involved, you have to not only care about the resource that you’re advocating for, but you have to really be committed to a collaborative process. And, I wonder if you could talk just a little bit about what, what you see as the central character of this collaborative process, how it’s evolved over time (pause) you must think it’s been worthwhile, to have been involved since 1999.

00:47:22 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:47:54

Yeah, I, I do. And you know, it may have its warts, and it gets picked at from time to time in publications. People write about it and say it’s failed. Um, but I would say back to them, “What’s the alternative?” (Pause.) You know, you look at (pause) you look at EIS processes, and you look at some of the big ones, like the first EIS, Glen Canyon [Environmental Studies], was over a hundred million dollars.


00:48:22 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:48:23

And so, did (pause) was that better than doing an EA [Environmental Assessment] or an EIS, and still having the same type of public outreach? Did you get a better proje–product, or did you get just a lot more model-running? So I would say, for collaboration (long pause) it’s been, I think, not enough for some people. Um, we heard from the tribes today that, or from the Park Service, I guess, Jan [Balsom], that no matter what projects the tribes would bring up, they would be pushed down in the whole budget thing. So, they feel like (pause) and I understand, I try to understand, their perspective. Um, but they feel like their voices aren’t, maybe, heard enough (pause). But what, what is an alternative? Um, in probably about 2011, it was the same time that the Desired Future Conditions process went forward. Um, there was a comment made at an AMWG meeting from a high-ranking Interior person that said, “Why don’t we just do away with this thing, and let Reclamation operate the dam, let the Park Service manage their park resources, and let USGS do the science? We don’t need any of this.” Because I’m sure it’s probably a pain for the administration that has to put up with these stakeholders that at times forget we’re an Advisory Committee, [we] sometimes feel like we could do a better job than they do. But what’s the alternative? The law says you are going to consult with these entities. So, I haven’t yet heard a better, um, a better option. At times I’ve heard we don’t have enough academia in the room. You know, I don’t know what stops (pause). Do you remember Joe Feller?


00:50:36 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:50:37

Joe Feller used to bring his ASU [Arizona State University] class in, now and again, to some of these meetings. And Joe Feller and I used to go around and around about the def–

He was a law professor.

00:50:45 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:50:46

Yes, he was, at ASU. And um, Joe Feller and I really had some, some very, very interesting debates about his interpretation versus mine, of the Colorado River Storage Project Act. We would never agree, but we knew that we just didn’t ever agree. But Feller, rather than just standing back and saying, “You guys don’t have any academia,” he would bring his class, he would (pause) he–anyway. You know, there–so, I would just say, “Hey, if somebody has a better idea, bring it.”

A number of our interviewees have mentioned that without this program, there would be a lot more conflict and a lot more litigation.

00:51:21 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:51:28

Litigation (speaking simultaneously)! No kidding. I’m glad you mentioned that, because we (pause) well, there have really been two cases, I th–well the one, the recovery goal case, wasn’t on dam operations, so we have to set that aside. But, that was a, a case that was filed by the Grand Canyon Trust about the recovery goals for the endangered fish. So it had effects, it had implications, and of course, we felt like we had to intervene, to get in there, you know, um, and that case was resolved. But the, the later Trust case that came about, um (pause) that had six claims, maybe, and some of them, um (pause) would directly, if they were successful, were really (pause) my take on that litigation was, they wanted a certain type of operation and didn’t get it administratively, so let’s try the courts. And that’s my take on it. And also, but looking at the process, because they also wanted additional NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act review] for every Annual Operating Plan [AOP]. They wanted NEPA to have to be done for every AOP. And that would have drawn out the process. But (pause) but yeah, that, that was, um, intense for a little while. And all of us had to intervene, so, you know, we’re spending all of our limited money and, um, we briefed (pause) I’ll send you that. We did a very short brief on hydropower, and the purpose. And I think it–I think it (pause) I think it was quite, I would call that an accomplishment too, because to have a District Court pick up that theme, in our brief, on the hydropower purpose, I think was a pretty good accomplishment. But yeah, without this (pause) we would be probably like the Pacific Northwest is, with judges running the river. Now I–my counterparts over there, it’s just continual litigation and judges determining BiOps [Biological Opinions] and all kinds of stuff. So is that what, is that what this program, or these stakeholders, would really like to see? I don’t think so.

Yeah. So, so you, like virtually every other person we’ve interviewed–

00:53:45 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:53:51

And I haven’t read any of the interviews that I–I am sorry to say, but–

Everybody agrees that the program has been valuable and ought to be continued, it sounds like you’re–

00:52:55 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:54:01


In the same boat.

00:54:02 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:54:04


Even people who are critical and disappointed say this is better than the alternative, that it’s been good at building relationships and trust, that we are improving decision-making based on science the way we hope, in a rational program, we would do. Um, nobody that we’ve interviewed–

00:54:04 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:54:26

No, that’s good–

Has said, “Let’s throw it out,” it’s, or “It’s done.”

00:54:27 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:54:28

(Speaking simultaneously) That’s pretty interesting. Because you guys probably have some pretty diverse–

We try to get a lot of different voices.

00:54:32 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:54:35

Well yeah, that’s kind of good to hear–

(Speaking simultaneously) Yes, that’s one of our surprises.

00:54:35 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:54:38

Well that–then I feel like that’s an accomplishment, that I put in twenty-one years into this and all for, not for naught. Right? Interesting.

So, um, if it is continued in the future, where would you like to see it go? What kind of improvements in either the process or the outcomes would you like to see? (Long pause before answering.)

00:54:46 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:55:04

I would like to see some more definition on metrics. Because, you know, I think the program now has a–we have, kind of, what our desired–we have our, our (pause) our universe of resources, as big as it is, but it’s still manageable. But I would like to see, from the various stakeholders that are representing interests, “What’s your utopia for your resource?” I could tell you what it is for hydropower, that’s–we’re pretty easy. And, but the metrics, and I think, I think, um, Reclamation is really trying to start at that. How do we get at the metrics? It’s, it was the ph–it was originally going to be called Phase Two of the DFCs. That’s what Anne Castle called it.

The DFCs?

00:55:47 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:55:48

Desired Future Conditions.

Oh, yes.

00:55:49 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:55:50

And Phase Two would have been the metrics.

And we never got to Phase Two? We’d never have a formal document with metrics (speaking simultaneously)?

00:55:53 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:55:56

They–she anticipated LTEMP would be it. [P.H.: uh-huh.] And it really wasn’t. Um, so–

So doing that would be a good step forward.

00:56:03 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:56:05

Yeah. And I think, I think that’s what they’re, they’re starting. Because they, we talked about it at AMWG (pause) one year ago, and that was really kind of a need, because if you don’t have a goal, or a metric–well, the metric’s really not a goal, is it? A metric is how you measure it.

(Speaking simultaneously) It’s a way of measuring progress.

00:56:24 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:56:25

But if you don’t have a finite, almost like a physical goal, then (pause) it would be wonderful if we had unlimited dollars, we could do science on, you know, the color of this stuff. But it–it’ll help us focus the science on where are the gaps? What do we not know yet? What do we know? I’ve heard the Park Service say, many times, in media, newspapers (pause) we know enef–we know enough, we just need to operate the right way. So, there’s been a lot of science in some areas, not so much in others. So, what are the gaps? And do we need to know–do we need to do science on things if there isn’t a logical connection to where we want to be? No.

So, um, if I’m catching your meaning, are you suggesting that if we had metrics about the goals we’re heading towards, we can not only measure whether we’re making progress or not [L.J.: uh-huh], but we will also be able to determine whether some of the decisions we make about operations are achieving the desired effects–

00:57:12 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:57:37


If we know what it is that we’re seeking out [L.J.: Exactly], if we can measure it.

00:57:38 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:57:43

And that’s where it gets you back to the adaptive management. We can keep operating all day in a certain way, but is it good or not good? What–what is good? How do you define good?


00:57:55 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:57:56

(Pause.) It’s a, it really is a challenge, and for some, some resources are easier than others. We have recovery goals for endangered fish. Right? So we know we can do fish counts. Um, what I don’t know, and I would love recreation guys or Park Service guys to tell me, what is your–what is your desire for camping beaches? Is it bigger beaches? Is it–or–is it more frequent, more beaches? Is it quantity? Is it quality? What is it? I seriously am interested.

And that’s never been quantified, to your knowledge?

00:58:39 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:58:41

No. No. And I, I would love to know that.

There are some things that would be difficult to quantify, like, um, uh, satisfaction on the part of a recreationist–

00:58:46 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:58:55


On a river trip in Grand Canyon.

00:58:55 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:58:57

Exactly, because when you do, um, when you do a survey, uh, probably the majority of people that raft the canyon, it’s their first time. They don’t have anything to compare it to. And (pause) you know how survey questions are structured. How, how would anyone not say it was a wonderful experience? Unless they, if it’s your second or third time, and this time the (pause) the flows were way up or, uh, the weather was bad. What are you going to do about that? Or–

There’s camelthorn everywhere.

00:59:34 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:59:36

Yeah, exactly!

I poked my foot! (laughs).

00:59:37 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:59:39

Exactly. The last time I went on the AMWG river trip was twenty years ago this year.

Ah. There wasn’t that much camelthorn twenty years ago.

00:59:45 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:59:47

I don’t even know what camelthorn is, so–

Yeah. I just went down the Grand Canyon in July for eighteen days and it was everywhere. I was shocked.

00:59:49 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 00:59:58

So where did that c–is that a non-native species?

It’s a non-native and invasive species.

01:00:01 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:00:02

(Speaking simultaneously) Okay. Where did it come from?

Good question. I don’t know. I just know that–

01:00:04 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:00:06

(Speaking simultaneously) Because I, I mean, my touchpoint is tamarisk, you know, tamarisk was always like the, the big bad thing. But–

Right (pause). Yeah, now it’s providing shade and (laughter).

01:00:13 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:00:18

That’s right!

(Speaking simultaneously) It has more to offer than camelthorn!

01:00:18 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:00:21

And it provides housing for Southwestern willow flycatcher, right?

(Speaking simultaneously) Flycatcher. Right, yeah.

01:00:24 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:00:27

So it was kind of like my comment today about Life Cycle Impact Assessment, you know. Every, every resource or, I guess, you could look at all these river–downstream resources. Every resource has its good and its bad. It has pros and cons. And you know, it wasn’t all that long ago, because it was when Jack Schmidt was, was here. We started asking, “What about vegetation?” Don’t just say that dam operations are doing in the beaches, or are good or bad for the beaches. That’s not the only thing that affects the, the experience. What about vegetation? And that’s really when they kind of started looking at, uh, now it’s called an experiment, but I call it a management action, vegetation removal. And what about, what about the effects of campers on beaches? I don’t know. Did they, do they affect the sand on beaches? They’ve got to. They’ve got to have some impact. So–

Do you think we’re looking at enough resources? Should we, um, is our focus too narrow? Is it just right? Is it too broad? What do you think, and how has it changed over time?

01:01:28 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:01:39

I think for, for many years, and it, that was partly a function I–my opinion, was because of the capability and the expertise of the folks who were running the center [GCMRC]. It was all sediment, all the time (laughter). There were some who used to call it “the all-sediment channel” (laughter). And there was–you look at the budgets, and the budgets were really heavily weighted to the physical resources. Then, for a while, some voices came in saying, “But wait a minute, what about the biology?” We have this endangered chub. We got to do a lot more on that, because it’s regulatory and it’s, you know, and–look what’s transpired. Bug flows. Twenty years ago, no one would have thought about that. So again, I think we are doing, we are adaptively managing. Um, and we’re learning. I think, um, in terms of a balance of resources, I’d like to see more on the biology. Um, because I think the stuff that Bill Pine and the Florida scientists did is fascinating. And–

What was that focused on?

01:02:42 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:02:43

That was the steady flow experiment, the five-year steady flow experiment. Because it turned thinking on, on the head. People thought, chub are all using these backwaters, so we have to do HFEs in order to create backwaters. Well they weren’t, and it didn’t take, you know, a, a hundred million-dollar experiment, or a steady flow experiment that cost thirty million dollars, to find that out. It was really just a lot of time spent in the field by people looking at (pause) looking at the resources. So (pause).

Uh, fisheries people that we’ve talked to have also told us that there were some surprises there too, that at first they thought the trout were, um, doing all this predation. And it turned out that, um, maybe the brown trout, yes. But the main trout is rainbow trout, and they don’t eat that many chub, and, took a long time for them to figure it out, but they–you know, they had a hypothesis, they did some research, they found out that they were a little bit wrong and they revised their hypothesis.

01:03:14 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:03:40

Yeah. That’s adaptively managing.

That’s adaptive management. And, and, it–it has led to changes in management and cha–and, sort of–well, I suppose, can you talk a little bit about how you’ve seen, so (pause) what we’re adaptively managing, most of the time, are dam operations, which always, as you’ve pointed out, always affects hydropower. Can you talk a little bit more about how some of our learning over time in this program, um, has been applied to dam operations in ways that you think are beneficial, or not?

01:03:42 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:04:19

Well, I–I could comment on how I think it’s been applied to more non-dam solutions. Because, uh, translocations [P.H.: Right.] of fish into the tributaries. Um, no long–and, looking at (pause) let me think. Temperature, temperature is a hard one. Um, because several years ago, we had a, we had a concept that we were really proposing a Temperature Control Device. And, you know, that idea kind of went by the wayside, but that would have been a non-operation–it’s operational, but it’s not flow related. [P.H.: Right.] Um, looking at (pause) vegetation management. So maybe you can do some things to help camping beaches where you don’t have to just do a big old HFE. [P.H.: Right.] So–

Is there resistance to coming up with solutions to some of these ecological problems that don’t involve altering dam operations? Are there people saying, “Our whole objective is to tell Reclamation or Interior how to alter dam operations?” Is–

01:05:15 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:05:34

I think there’s a lot of that, because, in a way, it’s the easy way. It’s the easy way. [P.H.: uh-huh.] It’s, you can go turn switches and operate the dam. But you know, I think, if people look back at the Grand Canyon Protection Act, it is dam operations and other management actions. And so, I w–I would really like to see some of these other management actions, like the vegetation management. I’m really glad to hear that they actually got out there and started doing some of that. [P.H.: uh-huh.] And, whether it is called an experiment, because then it can be funded.

(Laughs.) How is– would you explain that, please?

01:06:06 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:06:08

Do you want me to explain that?


01:06:09 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:06:12

(Pause.) When the concept of um, maybe doing manual vegetation removal and stuff came about (pause) um, somebody was, someone was crafty and said, “If we call it an experiment, we can use power revenues to fund it through this program.” If it’s not an experiment, it’s a management action and, um, another source of funding would have to be used.

Through appropriations or an agency budget–(speaking simultaneously)

01:06:40 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:06:44

Park Service funding–yeah.


01:06:44 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:06:44

That’s why it’s called–(speaking simultaneously)

So a lot of stuff is called experimental now. Well, that’s adaptive (laughter).

01:06:45 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:06:52

It’s adaptively naming things! Right? (Laughter.) So yeah. So I’m really waiting for the, for this experiment to be written up and say, “Okay, you take what you learn from an experiment. Then what do you do? How do you translate it into a management action?” (Pause.)

Well, um, we’re nearing the end of my list of questions. My next one is, um, what advice would you give to new people coming on to the Adaptive Management Program? Um, one of the things that we’re producing in this project is a orientation packet for new members. [L.J.: Okay] And what, what do you think should go into that orientation packet? What kinds of information are really critical for somebody who’s new? And what advice would you give to somebody if you were sitting here with somebody who’s just coming on? What would you say to them?

01:07:14 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:07:50

Where do you start? You know, this is really putting me on the spot, because I’m in the process of trying to write an orientation manual for my organization [P.H.: Ahhhh], as we speak. So I’ve really been struggling–

Thinking about this.

01:08:02 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:08:03

Yeah. I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

I would love for you to share that with me when you get it completed (speaking simultaneously).

01:08:07 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:08:08

When I get it (laughs) when I get it done, yeah. Um (pause) I would, I would, maybe, you know (pause) say, maybe from the Bible– not a biblical person, but, “In the beginning, there was.” So, where did this program come from? Start with that. And, because I think if, if people don’t really understand where the program came from, why is it here? These are the laws, or the documents, that created it. This is why we’re here. [P.H.: Mm-hmm.] From that (pause) you know, you can, you can send them a, an important tool that I keep being reminded is that Wiki. Because I, I always kind of forget to look, because I think we can find a lot of things there, but that’s more of a tool than a, um (pause). You know, we had (pause) it may, over the next year it may work itself out, if the (pause) small “g” guidance documents are going to be re-looked at or refreshed, because there was a lot of work put in over many years for the strategic science plan. Um, what were some of these other, the, the research and monitoring plan. You know, there was a thinking, a lot of thinking about a planning document. And we’ve kind of gotten away from that. And I think now, though, Reclamation is going to re-look at some of those. Are they still relevant? Do they still, do they need to be changed to reflect LTEMP?

Leslie James 01:09:52

But those, those were kind of the guidance and the framework from the program. Here’s what we’re doing, um, here’s a science plan. I think we seriously need a science plan that was supposed to come out of LTEMP, and I don’t think we have a good science plan implementing LTEMP. A science plan (pause) so, that doesn’t help answer your question, because we don’t have that to give to someone to say, “Here’s our plan to implement LTEMP.” A science plan, in my view, is (pause) the hypotheses–you know, here, again, your metrics or your goals and objectives. These are the hypotheses we’re going to look at. These are the, um, this is how we’re going to about–go about doing it, here’s what the science is going to look like. Here’s, you know, a period of time. We don’t have something like that to pick up. We have some experiments that were identified in LTEMP, but we don’t have a comprehensive science plan for this program.


01:10:55 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:10:55

So back to–back to your question, I would, you know, if someone, someone really needs to sit down and read a lot of, a lot of stuff. And those fundamental, the strategic science plan, the monitoring and research plan, and then the triennial work plan and budget, because, that’s evolved over time, so that’s really, really pretty good. Because it talks about what each of the program elements are intended to do, and what they’re looking at, and here are the dollars associated. So, that’s a good, you know, that’s a good beginning foundation.

Mm-hmm. What about, um, ones, if you were going to provide advice to somebody joining the team, there’s a–there are relationships, there’s ways of behaving that are productive and not productive in a setting like this. What would you say about how somebody should approach their task as a representative of (pause) as a stakeholder? (Long pause)

01:11:32 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:12:03

Hmm. I could probably be accused of–of doing some of the things, really, the wrong way (laughter) in these meetings. Um (pause) but with age comes wisdom, right?

Mm, we hope (laughs).

01:12:16 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:12:17

We hope. (Long pause.) Um, really trying to listen (pause). You know, I–I’ll look around the table and I would multitask as badly as everyone else around there, but (pause) um (pause) try to really listen to what people are saying, and–we’ve had a pretty big turnover, um, lately.

Always, or recently?

01:12:42 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:12:43

No, recently. Because I think, for quite a while, the same reps were there for a long time [P.H.: Mm-hmm]. And it’s, it’s been a function of agency changes, but also, um, just retirements. Aging workforce [P.H.: Mm-hmm]. And, when you only meet three times, two times a year then once on a webinar, it’s very hard to develop the relationships, and–you know, I would say the relationships I have with most of these folks, in large part is because I see them in other forums. [P.H.: Ahh.] Not just here. So the state folks, I see in other forums [P.H.: Mm-hmm]. That’s probably why I know them better, you know. But the, the tribal folks (pause) starting with the river trip I went on in 1999, that’s where I, that’s where I established my best relationships with–

That was the first river trip, I believe.

01:13:40 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:13:42

That was the first river trip–

Jan Balsom, I think, helped organize that, or–no? (Long pause)

01:13:43 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:13:50

Mark Schaefer [P.H.: Mark Schaefer]. Okay. Mark Schaefer, okay. That was the, the DOI [Department of Interior] person who took the vote on whether to leave it, or, leave it under Reclamation or move it. Mark Schaefer was the lead on that river trip. [P.H.: Ahhh.] And the, the purpose, really, of the river trip, was to establish a vision and mission for this program.

Mary Orton was, uh–

01:14:11 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:14:13

W–from American Rivers.

Yeah, right. And she played a role in helping to–she was on the vision and mission boat, I think, when we did our interview with her (laughter).

01:14:15 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:14:25

That was a trip [unintelligible]–

You were on that river trip, huh? (Speaking simultaneously)

01:14:25 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:14:26

Yeah. I was on that trip.

That was famous. We’re going to write about that in our administrative history.

01:14:27 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:14:30

Now, I had to come–I was only a half-timer, because I had to come up halfway, up Phantom, because I had other commitments. But that was a trip that I, I really got to know Arden [Kucate]. Um (pause) Brenda Dry. Brenda Dry was with Hualapai–Southern Paiute. And, so she’s not here anymore, but that’s–when Charley [Bulletts] mentioned Leslie and Brenda, or Leslie’s in Brenda’s flip charts, it was from that river trip. And so, and then from there, Dongoske, Mike Yeatts–so that’s how I got to know them the best, and then I would continue to talk with them in–trying to educate about why CRSP power is important to you guys [P.H.: Mm-hmm]. And so I, um–TWG meetings, I go to a TWG meeting, invite them for lunch. And, you know, Zuni invited me to come out and talk to the Zuni leader–leaders about hydropower and all that. And this has been a little while, but you just, you have to, you have to really work hard at it. [P.H.: Mm-hmm.] Because again, with the changing, changing personnel, I was thinking about that today, probably on that 1999 river trip, the only one that was on it that is still sitting around this table was Arden, maybe.

Arden who?

01:15:54 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:15:55

Kucate. From Zuni.

From Zuni?

01:15:57 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:15:58

And I just found out he went on this river trip last month because he came in and you know, we had a big hug and he said, “Why weren’t you on the river trip?” I went, “You were on there? I would’ve”–I would’ve brought, we have a cardboard bat that we made, a bat signal, and I still have that cardboard from a wine box (laughs). But–

So it’s about building relationships and that takes a lot of extra time.

01:16:19 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:16:23


And it’s hard work, but, it pays off.

01:16:23 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:16:26

Yeah. Yeah. You know, like I said, Kurt Dongoske, I never would have thought to hire him. Kurt used to work for Hopi [P.H.: Mm-hm], when I first met him, and then that relationship terminated. So CREDA–we, I hired him, I think for maybe six years, to advise us on all of this cultural stuff. So he did a great job for us, and–he helped me develop that relationship with the tribes. [P.H.: Ahh.] And then, then he went to work for Zuni. So, and (pause) um, yeah, I think it’s very hard to do it sitting in a meeting twice a year, you can’t do it. You just can’t. And I don’t know what the solution is. Like David Brown said today, asking us to come for a three-day meeting is a big time commitment. And it really is, when you’re sitting there trying to absorb all this, you’re not building relationships. You know, luckily, back in those days, we didn’t have social media either.


01:17:29 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:17:30

We had to pick up the phone and call each other (laughter). So, I’m so–I’m aging myself here (laughter). But, you know, the more (long pause)– Now here is something Anne Castle did. When Anne Castle first came on, she went, she came to Phoenix, she went around and met with each AMWG member separately. I had never met her before (pause). And I had never seen that done. That, that would be a really good piece of advice for whoever the Secretary’s Designee is, at least from a (pause) administration to stakeholder. But she–I still remember, I had forgotten that. She came to my office, and we sat down and talked about, you know, CREDA and the program and–because she was new, and she had never met me. And–

Would that be a good strategy for any stakeholder [L.J.: Yeah], to try to do something like that?

01:18:24 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:18:30

Yeah. You know, the other things that helped develop those relationships, now, that Desired Future Condition process. Because it for–if, if you didn’t want to have an opinion, then you didn’t participate. But if you wanted to help guide where that was going (pause) you went and you beated your–beat your head against the wall, and you argued with people, and we got to a–we got done with the, I think, a really important document. That was the first time I could–I knew of, in this program, that there was a consensus document that, in that kind of detail of magnitude, that went up to the Secretary.

And it occurs to me, when you’re talking about Desired Future Conditions, you’re really focused on values [L.J.: Mm-hmm], which is a way to really get to know somebody and establishes a–a relationship, in a sense, when you’re not just talking about data.

01:19:09 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:19:25

Exactly. And that was really what structured decision-making was trying to do. But I don’t think it was the right tool for something this complicated. I think it could be a real good tool like, if you’re going to go build a road, and you have alternatives, and you want to–or build a transmission line [P.H.: Mm-hmm], and you have different routes [P.H.: Mm-hmm], and you can kind of really define impacts. But it was a, I think, I would be interested to know whether the USGS expert believed that that was a good use of that kind of a tool [P.H.: Hmm]. Because I think it was overwhelming.

Overwhelmingly beneficial?

01:20:01 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:20:03

No–(speaking simultaneously)

Overwhelmingly, too much.

01:20:03 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:20:04

Overwhelmingly–it was too much. It was too much stuff.

Yeah (pause). All right. Well, is there anything else that you’d like to add that we didn’t cover, or any closing thoughts?

01:20:07 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:20:16

(Pause.) No. Not that I can think of. Not that I can think of.

Well, I’m very grateful–

01:20:22 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:20:23

You know I’m never shy of words, right?

(Laughs.) I’m very grateful that you took the time at the end of a long and difficult day. You’re–it was very generous of you to agree to do this.

01:20:25 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:20:33

Well, thank you, and I–again, I apologize for being, for playing hard to get (laughter).

Life is busy.

01:20:40 Paul Hirt
Leslie James 01:20:41

Yeah. Yeah. It is.

All right.

End of interview.

01:20:43 Paul Hirt

No results found

Leslie James

Flagstaff, AZ


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.


Leslie James began her involvement with the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program in 1999. For over twenty years, she has represented hydropower interests in the Adaptive Management Work Group (AMWG). James has been Executive Director of the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association (CREDA) since 1998, and worked for Salt River Project (SRP) from 1978 to 1998. She served on the City of Phoenix Environmental Quality Commission for nine years. James holds degrees in Political Science and Paralegal from Northern Arizona University.

James, Leslie Oral History Interview 8-21-2019

File size:
73.95 MB
File type:
File date:
Nov 12, 2019
Download Audio File
Last 30 days: 920 page views
Since listed: 471 page views

Suggested Bibliographic Citation

James, Leslie. ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW. Transcript of recorded Interview conducted by Paul Hirt, Arizona State University, and Jennifer Sweeney, Four East Historical Research, LLC, on 21 Aug 2019, at Flagstaff, AZ. Edited by Paul Hirt and Jennifer Sweeney.
Citation copied to clipboard