December 4, 2017 |Camp Verde, AZ|02:44:47

Potochnik, Andre Oral History Interview


This is Paul Hirt and Jennifer Sweeney of Arizona State University recording an interview on December 4, 2017 with Andre Potochnik in Camp Verde, Arizona. Andre, thank you for coming and speaking with us today. I really appreciate it.

00:00:01 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:00:21

You’re welcome.

Can you start out by telling us your name, the positions that you held in the Adaptive Management Program, and the years that you participated in the program?

00:00:22 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:00:31

Uh, yes. My name is Andre Potochnik and uh, I um, was involved in the Adaptive Management Program for Glen Canyon Dam since its inception, the Adaptive Management Program’s inception, and prior to that, actually, I can go into that as well. Um, there was some lead-up to the beginning of the program that had to do with the uh transition to adaptive management. And so, that would, would have been starting in, I think my first appointment might have been in ’97? 1997? Something like that. I could be a little bit off on that, on the numbers. But, yeah,
the Record of Decision [ROD] on Glen Canyon Dam’s, um,
Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] was signed in October of 1996, in Phoenix. Secretary of the Interior was there, we had a ceremony and, uh, Bruce Babbitt signed it and we had a nice little, um, confab of a lot of the players that were involved in the environmental studies program, Glen Canyon Environmental Studies [GCES] program, which had preceded the Adaptive Management Program. And, uh, so there were a number of people there. I got a chance to chat with Bruce Babbitt and some others. And, uh, that was really the official launch of the program, uh, once that Record of Decision was signed. Because that basically started everything that was stipulated in the Grand Canyon Protection Act [GCPA] of 1992. One of those things was the, that there would be an EIS on the dam, and that there would be a long-term monitoring program that would continue, uh, into the future. And that long-term monitoring program took the form of the Adaptive Management Program. And it was, uh, the concept being that (pause) despite all the studies that had been done during Glen Canyon Environmental Studies phase one and phase two [GCES I and GCES II], there were still a lot of uncertainties with regard to the complexity of the, of the ecosystem and the changes, changes that had–are still going on, or were still going on, and are still going on today, with regard to the nature of the resources and how they interact with one another and the influences that, um (pause) that conspire in some ways, unknown ways, uh, to (pause) have an adaptive–require an Adaptive Management Program, an adaptive management approach to the management of Glen Canyon Dam. So that was the concept of long-term monitoring from the [Grand Canyon] Protection Act, which was established as the Adaptive Management Program.

Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:03:16

At that point, um, I, I was, uh, working for Grand Canyon River Guides as a, um, on the–a member of the board, and I was an officer, president and so on, vice president. And I had been involved as sort of Grand Canyon River Guides’ primary liaison, one of the primary people, uh, with regard to Glen Canyon envir–um, dam issues. And, um, the Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, chose, when selecting the different organizations that would represent the stakeholders on the committee, he chose Grand Canyon River Guides, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) in Flagstaff, Arizona, as one of the two representatives of non- governmental organizations that would represent recreation use of the Grand Canyon. So it, so I, I was in a position to take, be appointed by Grand Canyon River Guides to represent Grand Canyon River Guides on the committee. And that’s what happened. And uh, so I was appointed to the Adaptive Management Work Group and since I was–


00:04:30 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:04:31

Go ahead–

What year was that, that you were appointed? ’96?

00:04:31 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:04:35

Ooh, um, I think it was ’96. Yeah. 1996.

After the Record of Decision?

00:04:39 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:04:41


OK. And you served for how many years?

00:04:42 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:04:44

Until 2010. (Pause.) So, it would have been fourteen years, I suppose. Something like that. (Pause.) And initially, I was also, um, I appointed myself to the Technical Work Group [TWG] because I was the only one that was around at Grand Canyon River Guides that wanted to do this kind of stuff, go to meetings in Phoenix for God sakes, river guides don’t like doing that so much. And so I had a propensity for it or an, and an interest in it, and so initially, I was on the Technical Work Group as well. So I would go–I was the AMWG [Adaptive Management Work Group] and TWG representative–by the way, AMWG is Adaptive Management Work Group and TWG is the acronym for the Technical Work Group that we use. Uh, while I was on those, those committees, the, I also served on the Strategic Planning Subcommittee for the Adaptive Management Program, and developed the strategic plan for the program. I, um, was a co-chairman of the Public Outreach Subcommittee for the Adaptive Management Program. And I, uh, pri–those are the two primary subcommittee appointments that I had. There may have been others that don’t come to mind right now, but I might also mention that, prior to the Adaptive Management Work Group, um, when Glen Canyon Environmental Studies was being completed and finished up, that was a Bureau of Reclamation program that, that ran the science leading uh for the EIS process. There was a need, a recognized need, that there be a transition to the Adaptive Management Work Group, because the infrastructure and the people and the players in the environmental studies program needed to either come across and be integrated into the Adaptive Management Program somehow, or that transition needed to be done, um, comfortably. And so, what was established was an informal group called the Transition Work Group, and that was, it existed for about two years. I think it was 1995 and ’96, um, when that was–and that was a (pause) more of an informal, it was not a Federal Advisory Committee per se, but it was comprised of the players, the stakeholders that were going to become the Adaptive Management Work Group. And (pause) what it was tasked with was to try to understand, um, what had been done with Glen Canyon Environmental Studies, and take all that body of knowledge and experience and move it into the Adaptive Management Program. Which proved to be challenging.


00:07:40 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 00:07:41

(Pause.) Well, because the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies was headed by a fellow named Dave Wegner. And you may know the name.

We interviewed him.

00:07:50 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:07:51

Oh, you did? Okay. Yeah. Dave was, um, you know, a real champion of the program and did a tremendous job for a lot of years running these scientific studies, um, for the Bureau of Reclamation out of Flagstaff, Arizona. And he did not, for various reasons, decide to stay on with the program, with the Adaptive Management Program, and he rather abruptly left, and left without any, uh, assistance in making that trans– transformation happen smoothly. So, what (pause) another person was appointed, um, Dave Garrett, um, and he was tasked with running the Transition Work Group and try to, um, to make–bring what he could from the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies program and make it, um, transition into the Adaptive Management Program as smoothly as possible. (Pause.) So it, it was a little bit rough, in the beginning, the Transition Work Group was, was pretty rough because we didn’t have the leadership of Dave Wegner and his institutional knowledge available to us. That made it, um, a lot of us were kind of new as stakeholders to this program and, um, it became challenging to, to kind of ferret out the information that had been developed by the environmental studies program, Glen Canyon environmental program, environmental studies program. So that was a (pause) a bit, um, challenging.

Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:09:30

So, what became apparent very quickly, as we went into the Adaptive Management Program, was that we needed clarity as to our purpose and our goals and, and our objectives and so on. Which, you know, spoke to the need for a strategic plan. Because the initial stab at, during the Transition Work Group, of putting together management objectives for the program was quite a hodgepodge. It was a, kind of a collective brain dump of everybody on the, stakeholders on the committee. And it, uh, it was, um, everybody basically said from, each stakeholder said, “Well, I want this to be studied. And I want that to be studied.” And so, we took all this brain dump of ideas to be studied and realized, you know, I took it back home and showed it to my–some of my people at Grand Canyon River Guides, and we were like, “This is crazy.” It’s, there was all levels of specificity and generality from, uh, that people wanted to know about, and wanted to have studied. And so we had to kind of pull that together. And I did that with the help of Kelly Burke, um, from the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, she was working with us there in Flagstaff and we, we uh, put together that document into a sort of a more readable semblance of order by specificity and generality. And from that, it became apparent that the Secretary decided, and when I say the Secretary, I refer to the Secretary of the Interior, um, he decided that we really needed to have a subcommittee that was directed specifically toward getting a strategic plan developed, and go through a process that had everybody involved. So, from that, the strategic planning subcommittee was appointed, and I was on it. There was, I think, six of us or seven, maybe seven of us on that committee. We had representatives from recreation, environmental, tribal, hydropower, uh, um, and Interior. So, we had a nice, really round–well-rounded representation of the various components of the stakeholder groups. And it was a long process, about a two-year process, (talking simultaneously) developing a strategic plan.

So that was around 1996 to 1997 or eight, is that the ballpark?

00:12:03 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:12:08

That would have been 1997 through 2000. Um.

Okay. (Pause.) Thank you.

00:12:13 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:12:18

Yeah, we kind of–it was pretty well, we had put (pause) I wrote a series of articles, that you’re certainly welcome to access and use, that outlined the development of that proc–that plan.


00:12:35 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:12:35

But I can give it to you just verbally now, very quickly. Um (pause) basically we decided–the Secretary said, “You guys need to go, you stakeholders need to go on a river trip together.” (Laughter.) And this was at, it happened at a party that we had in Flagstaff at one of the, I think it was maybe David Garrett’s house, and a lot of the stakeholders were there. The Secretary was there and the Secretary’s appointee for Water and Power [Water and Science] was there, Assistant Secretary. And uh, we just were talking about it over cocktails and I said, “How about we do a river trip?” You know, that would be one place where we can at least get started talking on an informal basis and not being so entrenched in our, in the room that, you know, our difficult way that things had been. There was a lot, there was a lot of mutual distrust initially. It wasn’t like one big happy family when we started. In fact, it was, it was a lot of like everybody’s (pause) positioning themselves, and trying to figure out what, where they stand, and so we, we hired a, they hired a facilitator to go on the river trip, Mary Orton. You may know her.

We interviewed her.

00:13:54 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:13:55

You did? Oh, great. Okay. Yeah, Mary’s great. She’s, she uh did a tremendous job on the river trip. We went on an eight-day motorized pontoon trip on the river and, um, developed a vision statement for the program, which was a short vision statement, but it’s very beautifully written and everybody was on board with it and nobody argued with the language, everybody said, “This sounds good to us. Let’s–” We came off that river trip with a vision, a common vision. Which, it’s a start. And, and um, and then also a (long pause) let’s step down from the vision plan, uh, the–what am I thinking of? Um (pause) the vision statement, followed by, well, we developed principles, um, that required a lot of hashing out in meetings after the river trip. Let me see, I, I’ve got it here somewhere. (Shuffles through documents. Long pause.)

While you’re looking, let me see if I have this correct. You’re in the transition between GCES, the environmental studies program, and a full-blown Adaptive Management Program, and, uh, you’re looking for a common vision and a common set of goals and objectives to guide the development of the Adaptive Management Program.

00:15:14 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:15:36



00:15:37 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:15:37

A vision statement, which is very brief, and then a mission statement, that was what I was kind of [speaking simultaneously; P.H.: Mission, vision and mission] stretching my brain for. Um, and so we have a mission state–vision, a mission statement. And um, and then there was a lot of discussion around, of course, all the language in there, because, a lot of nitpicking about, you know, what the meaning of “the” is, (chuckling) that sort of thing, um, to be facetious a bit. And then we realized that, you know, if we’re going to develop goals for the program, we have to, we had a bunch of (pause) preconceived ideas about how we wanted to look at the ecosystem, how we wanted to, um, guide our development of goals for the program. And that’s what we ended up calling the principles. We had these eight principles that we developed. And they were, basically, established the agreed-upon understanding of what we were doing and why we were doing it. And, um, and recognizing the limitations of what we could do. Once the principles were hashed out, and this was after the river trip, now. This is in a whole series of meetings over a period of two years. The principles developed, we went and developed the goals for the program. And there were, we developed twelve goals, as I recall. And, goals being, um (pause) directions we want the program to go toward with regard to different ecosystem components. Recognizing that a goal may not be achievable, necessarily, by definition, but it is a direction, a desired outcome that we needed to have the program move toward. For example, with endangered fish or, you know, sandbars or um, cultural resources, and there were, [unintelligible] twelve of those goals. That– once that was established, that took a couple of years (laughs) of meetings, each–we iterated back and forth with the main Adaptive Management Work Group, every time we as a subcommittee would develop the next stage of this thing, we would have to vet it with the entire Adaptive Management Work Group at a meeting, and the AMWG only met twice a year. So that’s why it took two years. So, and then we’d have to make sure everybody in AMWG, all twenty-six members, or – seven members, were okay with the language.

And so it was a really laborious process. But we did get the goals written and uh, and then (pause) then where the rubber meets the road are the Management Objectives [MOs], under each goal. Again–and now, Management Objectives, as you probably know, are achievable (pause) by definition. And so we got, we went from generality to specifics of the Management Objectives, and with the Management Objectives established, that took some time (laughs), it was recognized that we also needed to establish Information Needs. What we called INs. We had MOs, we had INs. And under each Management Objective, Information Needs. What do we need to know, what do we still need to learn, what do we need to study in order to make this management objective achieve–be achieved? And so, it got more lengthy, the document of course got more lengthy, because of all the Information Needs and Management Objectives, and we had to kind of hash that out as well. That–things started to slow down at that point with regard to developing the strategic plan, because that’s when, it’s those specifics that people, um, different members of the committee would be picky about, because some–many members of the committee had, were representing an organization that had money at stake, had funding and potential (pause) so that always kind of played in the background of these decisions. Who is going to get the money to study the endangered fish? Was it going to be Arizona Game and Fish [AZGFD], US Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS], you know, that sort of question. Um, and it was recognized early on in the program, too, that the environmental studies program, which had been headed up by Glen Canyon Environmental Studies, had been headed up by Bureau of Reclamation [USBR], that, because the Bureau of Reclamation was now, um, a stakeholder on this committee, it would not be appropriate for them to manage the gathering of “good science,” as we used to call it. Dave Wegner called it “good science.” That is, you know, um, science that is done, science, uh (pause) things that are studied scientifically, in a way that everybody trusts that the outcome of the product of the science is something that we can all work with informationally. So it was decided early on that the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center [GCMRC], who were doing the science, this was what replaced the GCES, was going to have to be under an outside organization such as the U.S. Geological Survey [USGS], which, which prides itself on being, on providing independent scientific studies that are not (pause) colored or slanted toward any particular stakeholder group. So GCMRC got moved to U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, it was a program of the USGS.

00:18:13 Paul Hirt

Was that after the transition, or during GCES?

00:21:20 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:21:24

It, it happened after the transition.


00:21:26 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:21:28

Because initially, during the Transition Work Group period, if I’m remembering correctly, it was still, Bureau of Reclamation was still running the GCMRC. And, but it became kind of quickly realized that, you know, hey, um, it should be really under a more independent group, scientifically oriented group. Reclamation is uh, not, they’re not, they don’t do science for science’s sake. USGS does science for science’s sake. And so–

Do you remember, if I can interrupt, do you remember any um particular, specific instances or controversies that led to that decision, or was it just generic, “We should have an independent third party agency manage, you know, the science?” Were there some studies that the Bureau of Reclamation didn’t want funded, or did want funded, that led to a controversy within the group that caused this to happen?

00:22:00 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:22:28

Well, you know, this gets back into the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies program run by the Bureau of Reclamation, and headed by Dave Wegner and (pause) you know, I’m sure you got better information already from people involved in GCES, like Dave, on this, but the perception at the time that this Adaptive Management Program started was that the environmental studies program run out of Flagstaff by Wegner was kind of biased, um, in some ways. I think some of the hydropower people in particular, the Basin states, Upper Basin states, were not happy with the direction that Dave Wegner had taken the studies. And so they were concerned that, uh (pause) Reclamation, for that reason, shouldn’t be the agency that does the science. And, even though Dave Wegner did not stay on with the program, there was sort of a history there that, that, um [unintelligible] there was some, I guess, some ill feelings around, that I don’t know too much about personally.

And it was, in your opinion, hydropower interests that were expressing the most amount of concern over the direction of the research program?

00:23:34 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:23:46

Yeah. Uh-huh. Yeah. Western Area Power Administration [WAPA] and CREDA, Colorado River Energy Distribution [Distributors] Association. And lesser so UAMPS, another hydropower consumer, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems. They were the three primary advocates for hydropower on this program and there is, uh, it was always kind of a battle with them, because they were the principal–the money was coming from hydropower revenues, although reimbursable from the federal treasury, still (pause) they, they were watching the dollars, and that was their principal concern in the program. Making sure this thing didn’t get out of control. And so there was concern that the program have a budgetary cap, for instance, and that was a big issue for the hydropower people and the Upper Basin states, because the Upper Basin states make–get a lot of money from the dam. The revenues from the dam go to projects in the Upper Basin states and, so it’s a gravy train for them, and they don’t want that gravy train, you know, interrupted, um, by a bunch of science on Glen Canyon Dam (chuckles).

Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:24:56

There’s a history there, of Glen Canyon Dam, and you probably know it, or are familiar with it, anyway, that it was a very controversial project when it was built, and it engendered a lot of public antipathy and, uh, so there’s a lot of people that didn’t like the dam, and, popularly. And this was, everybody kind of knew that. And so there was in, earl–there was that, uh, sort of background history. It had been a big environmental fight, um, to stop dams being built in Grand Canyon and in Echo Park and the Upper Basin, and, uh, those fights had been won by the environmental community. Stopped those dams. But the environmental community was not able to stop the building of Glen Canyon Dam, which there was a lot of lingering resentment about. And so it was, it’s not a beloved dam (laughs) from most people’s point of view. But from the Upper Basin states’ point of view, it’s, it’s their, their baby, you know, it’s how they, their storage pond, it’s their bank account, their water bank account. To make sure they make their downstream, um, flow requirements to the Lower Basin past Lees Ferry, and that’s why they wanted to build it in the first place. It doesn’t have any other purpose other than motor boating and uh, and, and so it, it, uh, they wanted to preserve the integrity of that.

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Andre Potochnik 00:26:25

So there was some tension around that. Especially since, right about that same time that this whole program started, the Sierra Club board of directors voted to, uh, that they–voted to, um (pause) to lobby for the removal of Glen Canyon Dam. And this was a big deal. Uh, well, I’m giving you this as background for the, kind of the socio-political context of when this adaptive management started. This was very concerning of course, because the Sierra Club had been, was able to lead the fight in the stopping of the building of dams prior to that. And if the Sierra Club could stop the dams from being built, then potentially they could remove a dam, if they get public behind it. So, there was the concern on the part of a lot of the stakeholders, the Upper Basin states and the hydropower people, that they wanted to protect their interests in Glen Canyon Dam and not have this kind of thing potentially happen. So I think that there was a real interest in having the Adaptive Management Program and then being involved in the Adaptive Management Program early on, those constituencies, because they thought, “Wow, if we could make adaptive management of the dam work, maybe we can stop talking about this dam decommissioning thing” that people were, was out there. And uh, the Sierra Club was pushing for.

Earlier in the interview, you said that there was some conflict and distrust among members of, uh, what would become the AMWG. Um, is it the same tension that you’re referring to now, that is, basically tension between environmental and scientific interests versus hydropower interests? Or was the tension much more complex than that?

00:27:46 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:28:14

(Pause.) I think it’s always been there, but I have not been in the program now for seven years, so I don’t really, I’ve not been following it for the last seven years. So I don’t know today what’s going on with this, this program at all.

No, but I’m referring back when, when you started in the program, the shift from GCES to the Adaptive Management Program, um, you said that there was tension and distrust between people at that time–

00:28:28 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:28:43


Which is why you brought Mary Orton in to try to bring people together. Was that tension and distrust basically the split between the hydropower interests and environmental interests?

00:28:43 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:53:00


Alright. Nothing much more complicated than that. That was the basic–

00:28:55 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:28:58


You know, side-taking. Okay.

00:28:59 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:29:02

Yeah. I would say that that’s pretty, you know, pretty much it.


00:29:05 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:29:06

There was a question of how the tribes, we were going to integrate the tribes into it, because they had not really been involved much before. And, um, the cultural resources issue in general. Um–

Where did they fit, in, in that sort of a social scenario?

00:29:20 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:29:25

That milieu. They, they, um (pause) in general, in the Adaptive Management Program, they tended to be quiet, very quiet. They didn’t (pause) speak out a lot, but when they did speak, you know, one of them would speak–there was one of them that was pretty outspoken, from Hualapai, but uh (pause) Clay Bravo. Yeah, he didn’t, he didn’t mince any words (laughs). But, but more, more often than not, they would, uh, being kind of out of their element in the top of a skyscraper in Phoenix, Arizona, in a windowless room, they didn’t really have a lot of comfort, I don’t think, around being there and functioning with Robert’s Rules of Order, you know, which was something that we all had to learn (laughs). But they were, that was pretty far afield from their, their manner of dealing with things. One of the great things about the river trip was that, it was, the tribal members on the river trip felt perfectly at home. And (pause) and there was this sort of egalitarian feel, like we’re all just these people on this boat going down this river. And so it was really wonderful, that river trip was great at breaking down a lot of the preconceptions or fears that people held toward one another. Uh, recognizing, getting to know each other as individuals, and we’re not bogeymen, you know, going to bite your head off or something. Because a lot of perc—a lot of those perceptions did exist . And, and so, I think it was because of that we were able to generate a strategic plan that everybody could (pause) could be on board with, um, including the tribes.

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Andre Potochnik 00:31:08

And it took a lot of back-and-forth, you know, there was the inherent questions right off the bat like, well, okay, environ– uh, you know, recreationally, you’ve got a representative like myself from–that represents downriver interests from below Lees Ferry, uh, principally concerned, ostensibly, with camping beaches in the Grand Canyon and that sort of thing as a primary concern. And then you’ve got the other recreation representative, a non-governmental organization, Trout Unlimited, that was interested in the blue-ribbon trout fishery upstream of Lees Ferry. And, um, so two, kind of, very different types of recreational concerns. Whitewater downstream, trout fishery upstream. And then the inherent conflict between trout and native fish. Trout being, uh, introduced non-native, and other non-natives in the system, and how we were going to deal with that. Because, uh, it was clear that, you know–and that still remains an issue. It has been an issue that ran through the whole program. You know, native versus non-native fish. And where are the societal values, how do you integrate those societal values when you have a conflict between the two? Perceived or, or real, in a lot of respects I think it was really real, that conflict. But, so, you know, there was, um (pause) those are the kind of things we dealt with in that early part of the program.

Thanks. That was very helpful. You mentioned Clay Bravo of the Hualapai, that he was very outspoken, and how long was he on the program? And would you recommend that we try to interview him?

00:32:43 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 00:32:55

Uh, how long did Clay stay on? I, he stayed on for a couple years anyway, a few years, I want to say. I’d have to go back to the records to see how long he was actually on the committee, but it was, uh, you know, it was refreshing for me. I mean it was because he didn’t (pause) he was outspoken, and so you knew where he stood. With other tribal members, they often didn’t–they didn’t say much, or say anything, almost, very little. So you didn’t really know, you know, where they came out on things, on different issues. Um, and so that was, that was uh (pause) yeah.

You mentioned that you served on an outreach committee or some kind of outreach–

00:33:39 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 00:33:42

Public outreach, yeah.

Public outreach? Can you tell me a little bit about that committee? Its work, and what you did?

00:33:43 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 00:33:50

Well, it was recognized early on that this is a very public place. Grand Canyon is really, really (pause) um, iconic national park and World Heritage Site and so on. And people were going to be paying attention a lot to what we were–this dam was, had a, had a lot of controversy around it. People are going to be paying attention, and they’re going to be wanting to know, “Okay, what’s going on this program? What are you guys doing?” There’s going to be public scrutiny. And what the Bureau of Reclamation, in particular, wanted to do, as the leader of the Adaptive Management Work Group, they wanted–and the operator of the dam, they wanted to make sure that we had a way of informing the public as to what went on in our meetings. What, uh, the directions we were going, what the discussions were about. And so, the Secretary recognized right off the bat, the program started, that this would be an important function of the program, that we would need to be transparent to the public. So the Adaptive Management Work Group said okay, let’s establish a public outreach subcommittee, and develop some functions that allow us to translate the complexities of what we do in this committee into understandable form that’s accurate and believable and, um (pause) and that is broadly accepted within the committee as being accurate and understandable to the public. So that’s what we sought to do as, we were basically a public education committee. So, we developed a website, and (pause) and did a lot of, um, translating to the public of what the, what the program was doing.

Did you hold public meetings and invite people to come and get updates on what was going on?

00:35:41 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 00:35:47

All the meetings were open to the public.

Okay. So you didn’t have anything extra specifically designed beyond the committee meetings themselves, designed to sort of invite interested people to come and ask questions and hear updates?

00:35:49 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:36:02

I don’t really remember actually doing that. Uh–

Did you print any materials that you distributed?

00:36:07 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:36:11

Yeah, we probably did. I’d have to go back and find that file in that big box of files I’ve got out there in the truck right now (laughter). It, uh, whatever we did, I’ve got a public outreach file, and it’s probably got something in it. Also I, you know, I have all this paper files out in my truck, and I just wanted to let you know that those were available to you, of course and–

hank you.

00:36:35 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:36:35

And uh, but a lot, I still have a lot of files that are just, uh, that are not in there. They’re on, on my computer at home, of different things that, activities that we did, things I generated, reports that I made back to Grand Canyon River Guides, I gave–I always gave an update report invoice–every invoice I submitted for my work. So, and in a way those invoices–and that, all those invoices that are, they’re not secret. I mean, they’re available too. I mean, they’re just my, “This is what happened,” you know, this is what we’ve been doing, this is what we’ve been confronting, the issues we’ve been doing, and–quick summary, you know, just executive summary, of, um, where the program’s been going. And I think that they would be very useful, um, to maybe help, you know (cough), because there’s a lot of detail in there that I don’t remember right off the top of my head right now, that necessarily (participant coughs)– A lot of them are in the old format, so Word that I don’t, I can’t even open anymore (laughter). I probably could if I messed around, but I just, I realized while I’m looking back at them in the last couple of days, I went, “God, I can’t even open these things anymore.” Word has, you know (pause) has changed. Anyway, there’s that, and there’s also the, um, articles that I wrote for the Boatman’s Quarterly Review, periodically, that are also insightful as to the progress of the program. Because that, you asked about public outreach. And, since the group I represent are the public, in a big–the river-running public. Those interested very, you know, the element of the public that’s very interested in that, and what’s going on with this program. It was important, I felt, that I let the public know, our public know, kind of, what was going on with the Adaptive Management Program.

Do you have a list of the articles that you wrote for Boatman’s Quarterly?

00:38:36 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:38:40

Yeah, I do. I [unintelligible].

We can just go look them up and, most of the Boatman’s Quarterlies are available digitally online.

00:38:42 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:38:48

Most of them, yeah.

Okay. So here it is.

00:38:49 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:38:50

Yeah. I did a quick search of Boatman’s Quarterly Reviews that has [sic] my name in it, and so this is what I came, I got. And I went through, and if there’s an “N” next to it, it’s not online yet. If there’s a “Y” then it is online. The “N”s I ran, I did–I printed out a bunch (participant coughs).

Excellent. Thank you. Can we keep this list here?

00:39:13 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:39:16


Okay, great.

00:39:16 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:39:16

That’s for you. You can keep all these printouts, too.


00:39:20 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:39:21

These are printouts from the books.

There are some of the “N”s here (laughs)?

00:39:24 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:39:27

I think I got most of them. There are a few in there that aren’t. I think I got most of them by the time I left home today. (Pause.) Here’s an example of a meeting report that I would submit with my invoice. To give you a sense of (pause) you know, that was one of the early ones that I did.

Wow. That’s a lot of detail.

00:39:46 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:39:48

Yeah. (Pause.) And here’s a, here’s the report. See, I was funded, my par–for going to meetings by the Grand Canyon Conservation Fund. Just like–

Can you explain the Grand Canyon Conservation Fund, where does the money come from? What does it do?

00:40:01 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:40:05

Yeah. Uh, what happened was, early on, it was recognized by the river outfitters, commercial river outfitters, who are, they make money taking people down the river, that our involvement in this committee was important, important for them to know about, important for, for us to get it right. And they were not the ones selected to be on a committee, the, this informal sort of non-governmental Grand Canyon River Guides [unintelligible] group, which I was representing, we were kind of their, their representative, you might say.

Their connection to the–

00:40:40 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:40:41

So the–what they developed was, uh, they got organized, the outfitters did, for the first time. Because, not because of this program so much as because of the revision of the River Management Plan in Grand Canyon, which directly influenced, involved them. But they got an umbrella organization called the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association, and what that Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association did was, they, they tried to get this fund started that would fund, um, environmental projects or issues having to do with protecting the river in the Grand Canyon. And so, and that became called the Grand Canyon Conservation Fund.

About what year was that organization established?

00:41:23 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 00:41:26

’97, I think?

Okay, so in the beginning when the A – M – P [Adaptive Management Program] is beginning.

00:41:28 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:41:32

Because yeah, the river management, Colorado River Management Plan, CRMP, which we call it, was being revisited at that time. And that was hugely controversial, you may know. Um, because there were a lot- -that’s a whole ‘nother topic (laughter). But that’s what–

Let’s get into that eventually–

00:41:50 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:41:51

That’s what got the outfitters organized, and then they had this conservation fund. And what they decided to do, which was pretty clever, they said, “Well, we’re just, how we’ll fund this conser–GC [Grand Canyon] Conservation Fund is that we’ll, um, ask our clientele, when they sign up for one of our river trips, that, if they would like to donate one dollar per day of their river trip to this conservation fund.” That would be a pool of money used to fund, for instance, my involvement, our involvement, in the Adaptive Management Program. There were other things they funded as well. But it funded me to go to meetings, basically. And uh, so, it sounds like a dollar a day, doesn’t sound like very much, but when you talk about 120,000 user days and you get broad-based involvement by all the outfitters, you’re talking about a significant chunk of change being generated every year. 120,000 dollars, I don’t know, something like that. So it, it wasn’t that much because not all the outfitters got involved in it right away. They had to be kind of coerced into it by their fellows. But, but eventually, most of them did buy into the program. And they found that most of their clientele were happy, you know, after they spent five thousand dollars on a river trip, to put in an additional fifteen dollars for the conservation fund? No sweat (laughs). So it was easy, a way to generate money. And it was, uh, so Grand Canyon River Guides would, in turn, request money from them each year to fund our involvement in the program. And that’s why I kept these invoices formalized, and reports to the conservation fund committee. Here’s one of my very first reports to the Grand Canyon Conservation Fund. Uh, initially I addressed it to them, later I just addressed it to Lynn Hamilton as the Executive Director at GCRG [Grand Canyon River Guides], and she would convey it to them. But that gives you a flavor, a sense of, kind of, what–how I would report on what I was doing.

Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:43:55

I say–I should say we were doing, because I only served on both the TWG and the AMWG for the first couple of years. The Transition Work Group, and then the TWG and AMWG, I did all the meetings. But I was rapidly reaching, personally, a burnout, um, meeting burnout, and I realized that I needed help. And that’s when I got Matt Kaplinski involved, and Matt became my colleague on the committee, and he was my TWG appointee. So I appointed him to be the Technical Work Group representative for me. And he started handling all the kind of heavy lifting, you might say, that happened in the TWG. Because the TWG is where the rubber hit the road, really, in this program. Whatever the TWG did and recommended to the AMWG, the AMWG would generally go, “Hmm, okay. Make it so.” And so there wasn’t a lot of– because the AMWG is mostly composed of pretty high, higher-up-the- administrative-ladder people. So, for instance, you know, on the AMWG representing Grand Canyon National Park was the Superintendent. So, I sat shoulder to shoulder with the Superintendent, you know, we had the same vote on the committee, right next to the, you know, Cultural Preservation Officer for the Hopi Tribe. And, so, the Western Regional Director for the Bureau of Reclamation, you know. Western Director of Western Area Power Administration. I mean, these guys are high up in their organizations. Um, but you had this, but (pause) so the, not necessarily scientifically trained at all. And probably not, in most cases. There were more administrators, at least than there used to be, and supervisory positions, and so on. The Technical Work Group, where each one of us appointed a representative on the Technical Work Group, which mirrored the Adaptive Management Work Group, was, presumably, somebody who was more technically oriented, they could understand the science that was being developed, they could understand how to interpret that material, make recommendations to the AMWG, their AMWG member, and then the AMWG could discuss it at their meetings and make recommendations and turn to the Secretary of the Interior, who is the ultimate operator of the dam. The Watermaster of the Colorado. And, so, that’s how the chain of command went–I, I, uh, you probably know all that already though, right? I mean, do you know the structure of the program?

Yes. Although it changes over time, and I was going to ask you, is, has the, um, AMWG always been bigger than the TWG, or vice versa? Have the numbers–

00:46:15 Paul Hirt

Same size.

00:46:23 Paul Hirt

Same size. It’s one person–

00:46:24 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:46:24

Yes, it’s a mirror committee.

Okay. And–all right.

00:46:27 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:46:28

Well, almost. Um, for instance, the AMWG does not have–the US Geological Survey, um, GCMRC, Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research, does not have a member on the AMWG, a voting member. They have a member on the Technical Work Group. Or at least, a representative, who can be there to help the Technical Work Group understand what the science is that’s being done. So almost a reflection, a mirror reflection of the AMWG, the TWG is, but there may be some differences there. Early on in the program, when it first started, uh, one of the Upper Basin representatives, Wayne Cook, I don’t know if you interviewed Wayne, um–

Not yet. Would you recommend that we do?

00:47:11 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:47:14

I’m sure–if he’s around still, I don’t–you got Cliff Barrett, didn’t you?


00:47:18 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:47:18

He’s, I’m surprised he’s still around. Yeah, Cliff was, he was one of the other Upper Basin guys, and, and uh (pause). So a lot of times, if all the Upper Basin states didn’t show up at a meeting, you know, some that– Wyoming didn’t show up, or maybe New Mexico didn’t show up or something, um, Wayne would go, like, he would just take all their name cards and put them right in front of him, he says, “I’m the representative of the Upper Basin!” He would just take, he–because he actually did have some kind of function in that regard, with regard to the Upper Basin states. He was kind of their representative.

Who did he work for?

00:47:51 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:47:52

Um, Colorado River Commission, I think it was. Um (pause) boy, you know, there was, the Upper Basin states, and there are four of them, had their own little (pause)–


00:48:05 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:48:05

Conversation that they always had going on, because they have a mutual interest in, in the reservoir and reservoir operations. Uh, so Wayne, you know, sometimes there would be a meeting like that where not everybody would show, be at the meeting and, uh, Wayne didn’t hesitate to represent anybody who wasn’t there (laughter) on the Upper Basin, uh, the Upper Basin states. So yeah, he didn’t [unintelligible] that. He’s a power broker. And he was, he, he used to run Glen Canyon Dam. I mean, he was, he was in the revolving door, working for Western Area Power Administration, working for the Upper Basin states, working for Bureau of Reclamation at different phases of the career. So we had several of those kind of people that had, were– done–worked in different capacities in the Upper Basin, for instance. Um, and Wayne Cook was a good example of that. Cliff Barrett is, I think, did some of that multi-faceted work. But, uh, and yeah. So, um (pause) what, where was I going with that? (Pause.)

Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:49:16

Sometimes the committees were, there, it was exact mirror, TWG and the AMWG, and, or very nearly so. And that’s how, uh–the whole idea was that the TWG would convey to the AMWG, who presumably knew what their constituency cared about, and because they’re in a supervisory position. You know, the superintendent knows what his park needs, the concerns of his park. The head of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area knows what their park needs. Andre Potochnik knows what the recreational downriver whitewater river runners need. You know, so we would get, we would give directives to the TWG, say, “We need you to study this, to reach these certain management objectives,” and the TWG would go like, “Okay,” and they would go and hash out the information needs for the different, write the Requests for Proposals and things like that that were necessary to farm out to the scientific community to have competitive, uh, presumably, competition for those RFPs, Requests for Proposals to, to, uh, to get the work done. The scientific work done. And that was largely under the venue of GCMRC. GCMRC had many of its scientists in-house that would do a lot of the work, but there were other agencies and, um, universities that were engaged as well. Arizona State University being one, um, other universities as well, Utah State University. Jack Schmidt up there and, uh–

He’s on our interview list.

00:50:54 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:50:55

Good. Yeah. Because he really knows a lot (pause) about GCES particularly. Um, anyway–

Can I bring you back [A.P.: Yeah, yeah please] to something you mentioned a little it earlier before we lose track of it?

00:51:06 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:51:09

Yeah, rein me in!

Um, you mentioned the Colorado River Management Plan was being revised sometime in the late 1990s, and it was very controversial. Can you tell us, um, when did they start making these Colorado River management plans–?

00:51:11 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:51:24

Um, okay–

And for what purpose, and why controversial, and what was going on in the late 1990s in that revision?

00:51:24 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:51:30

Okay. The relationship between Grand Canyon National Park and the river outfitters is, um, governed by the river management plan that, that the Grand Canyon develops. And so the Colorado–

Is this is a National Park Service document?

00:51:45 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:51:47

Mm hmm.


00:51:47 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:51:48

Colorado River Management Plan. And it is, it was designed by the park to be revisited every ten years. At which time the park, as part of that, would reevaluate the outfitters and their performance, using park criteria, to determine whether to renew those concessionaires’ permits or not, and to govern how those permits were, were um, applied. Because it was clear from the parks–to the Park Service, when the river management plan first started in 1972, that there needed to be regulation of the river outfitters, because it was getting, growing fast, and the park had no control of it prior to that. And this was a re- visitation of that original plan. The first big one. It doesn’t exactly happen every ten years, because there’s administrative delays, and things happen. But, uh, this was being revisited, uh, maybe for the second time, uh, since the institution of the original river outfitters in 1972, I believe it was. And so, the big issues that had emerged in that first seventeen years of commercial river running, fifteen years of commercial river running in Grand Canyon in the seventies and eighties, was that (pause) the big change was that private river trips had increased in demand and number in the Grand Canyon. And they had, traditionally, a very small allotment from the Park Service management plan. Originally, when it first started, they had 8 percent of the use and commercial had 92 percent of the use, if I’m remembering right. And the, the rapid growth of people outfitting their own river trips throughout the seventies and eighties, and the concurrent development of all the material, materials that you need to run a river trip, boats, and rafts, and oars, and equipment, you know, was exploding industry, the recreational river industry. And the private boaters were put on a waiting list to get a private trip in the Grand Canyon. And it is widely known as one of the most sought-after river experiences in the world. They were, that waiting list was getting longer and longer, and so the private boaters got organized, and they decided to advocate for themselves to get a bigger share of the pie. And they fought for a fifty- fifty [allotment percentage]. Instead of ninety-two to eight, they wanted it to be fifty-fifty. And so, the park didn’t want it to get that big, because the park’s concerned about protecting the resource, and the park is trying to keep the numbers of total use down. So the threat to the commercial outfitters from the private outfit–private groups was that they would take away commercial use and give it to private use, and this really scared the commercial outfitters. That’s why they got organized. And, and uh (pause) one of the primary reasons. So, it was private versus commercial. It was probably the biggest issue.

Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:54:59

The other big issue was wilderness or no wilderness. Motors [P.H.: Motors] or no motors. And the wilderness advocates had a very good point to make that, that it was a, um, designated as a, um, potential wilderness area. And, according to the Wilderness Act it was, um, potential wilderness is to be managed as wilderness until such time as Congress decides, uh, as to make it wilderness or not. So yeah, there was this huge, “Motors are not allowed in wildernesses,” but there was this huge motorized rafting industry in the Grand Canyon. So, the park is going like, “Well, these, the wilderness advocates have a really good point, you know, they don’t want to hear motors in the wilderness. This is a proposed wilderness area, so we have to manage it as such.” So, they had to do a lot of juggling with the motor versus no motor controversy. That, uh, that was two of the big controversies. Operation of the Glen Canyon Dam was kind of off to the side of that. The Adaptive Management Program was not directly going to impact–

Not directly involved in–

00:56:07 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:56:09

Uh, in the river management plan per se. Unless you’re talking about science, science river trips, research trips, which had grown in abundance and, with the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies, and then the Adaptive Management Program. So, we started seeing more science trips on the river. And that was dictated by the Grand Canyon Protection Act, that there would be this long-term monitoring program. And so that was by law, something the park had integrated into how they were going to manage that component of river use. The tribes started coming out and saying, “What about us? We have traditional use of this region for generations.” And so there had to be that, um, balance, that, thing also taken care of. The park, had to play the, play with the, um, tri–the concerns of the tribes. And integrate those concerns, as best as possible. And I can tell you about how they did that eventually. But, um, and, that sort of gets into where I was–got involved in doing science down there. So at the time, same time I’m the AMWG and the TWG representative, I’ve also got, I’m also a co-in–principal investigator on a science project that directly influences the program.
So arguably, you know, conflict of interest, perhaps. But there was a lot of that, um, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who sat on the committee as a member of the AMWG, were getting most of the lion’s share of the funds, fighting with Arizona Game and Fish over who got to study the fish and, you know, whose jurisdiction are those native, you know, those endangered native fish, how are we going to split that pie, piece of the pie? Because that was a big chunk of the funding, was going toward endangered fish. It was a big concern of the committee. Endangered Species Act, as you would know, is a very powerful piece of legislation, and there was a threatened species down there, you’ve got to do something about it, if there’s endangered, especially. And uh, so the humpback chub was a big, big deal in the program. We spent a lot of money on the chub. And uh, in some ways–and who got who got to do the research, you know. The US Fish and Wildlife service has their scientists, fish scientists. Arizona Game and Fish has theirs.

ASU [Arizona State University] had theirs.

00:58:22 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:58:22

Arizona, Arizona had theirs, of course.

That was, uh, Minckley.

00:58:26 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:58:27

Minckley? Yeah.

Wendell Minckley.

00:58:28 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:58:29

Yeah. And uh, so you had three different entities, at least. Arizona Game and Fish claim that they have jurisdiction over the bed of the river, because that–the bed of the river is not the water of the river. So, the bed underneath the river is Arizona Game and Fish jurisdiction. They stood by that and, “Oh, there’s fish above our bed of the river, then we get a piece of the pie, and we’re going to study those fish.” US Fish and Wildlife Service says, “Whoa, whoa, we’re charged with Endangered Species Act, you know, we’ve got to, that’s our job. And so, you can’t take that away from us, you know.” And then Minckley’s, yeah, his clout and his history of development of studying fishes, and he’s got a lot of academic clout and history with doing that, so they had to work with that. GCMRC, meanwhile, is developing their own in-house fish people that are trying to manage all these other fish scientists, and figuring out how to outfit the trips for them. Uh, so it was a, it was, the fish issue was a big one.

Did they ever figure out a way to divide up research responsibilities? Did, you know, like one agency got one fish and another agency got a different fish or a different kind of research?

00:59:36 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 00:59:47

Yeah, they figured it out. Yeah, they, they kind of just figured it out. And it kind of changed a little bit more back and forth over the years. But uh, you know, like, you know, I’d have to go back and look now at how it actually happened. There are people that know a lot more about this than I do, at–my memory’s not that great about this, but, because I wasn’t directly a fish scientist, my research was on, um, archaeologic sites and, along the river that were influenced by the dam.

So you have training as a geologist.

01:00:20 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:00:22


But you were doing archaeological research.

01:00:23 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:00:25

Geoarchaeologic research.

(1:00:26) Geoarchaeology. Can you explain?

01:00:27 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:00:28

Looking at the interface between geology, geomorphology, really, and archaeology.

How do the two interface? What’s the connection?

01:00:33 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:00:36

Oh. Okay (laughs). Um (pause) it was recognized by Park Service–to give you a little background. [Anne] Trinkle Jones, a Park Service archaeologist, in 1983, when the high flows from Glen Canyon Dam were, um, eroding beaches really severely, very high flows, out of control dam. She was doing surveys of archaeologic sites and found a circumstance, situation, where the actual archaeologic sites were eroding away as a result of the uncontrolled releases from Glen Canyon Dam.

During that year of flooding. That was the El Nino year.

01:01:11 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:01:13

In 1983. And from that the Park said, “Hey, the dam is washing away archaeologic sites that we ought to protect. We are mandated to protect the archaeologic, all–preserve and protect. So we do. So, the question then became, “Is that really true? And how is that happening?” And this became a potentially big deal, because–

Tribes would get involved in that, wouldn’t they?

01:01:39 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:01:41

Tribes would get involved. The, you know, National Historic Preservation Act, or acts of Congress that were passed that had to do with protecting these things. Just like the Endangered Species Act, protected fish, and snails, and so– and then the question became, “Well, is that really happening?” So, we were commissioned to answer that question. How is–or is Glen Canyon Dam, the operations of Glen Canyon Dam, affecting the erosion of archaeologic sites? And if so, how? And (pause) if it is, then please develop a quantitative predictive geomorphic model for us to understand how that process works–we at the park can understand how that works. So what we were commissioned with was the question–answering the question, “If? If so, how?” And then develop a model. That’s what we did in two years. (Pause.) A hundred and nineteen sites (laughs).

Did you do any of that research with uh, with tribal, um, representa– archaeological representatives? (Participant coughs)

01:02:45 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:02:52

No, we did it in conjunction with the Park Service, though, the park archaeologists. Um, the park archaeologists (pause) directed where they wanted us to study. They said they had done a complete survey of the entire river corridor. Jan, uh, Helen Fairley had done that with her team, previous years, during the E-S–environmental studies program. They knew where all the sites were along the river where there was any kind of archaeologic feature or material. They’re saying something like 435 of them are along the river–so there’s a lot of them. The Park Service–the park archaeologists, uh, at least the lead, she kind of (pause) directed us. She said, “Okay, this is the region we want you to study. This is the region, and we want you to study it.” Principally, we were focused on gully erosion, caused by runoff from the slopes running through the archaeologic sites and cutting gullies, and removing the archaeologic sites. So that was our primary concern, uh, and we were trying to understand the processes of gully erosion, if they were, um, a constant, or they were changing over time due to climate variation, if possible, that’s a question that we had. Um, how does the um, gully process of runoff, gullies, interface with the river processes? Those are two different geomorphic systems, the interface where the people used to live in, in, a thousand years ago, and, five hundred years ago. And so, we studied, principally, that interface. And the basic conclusion that we came up with was that yes, the dam, the presence of the dam and the operation of the dam, is causing the exacerbation of the erosion of archaeologic sites. And we explained how that was, why that occ–was occurring. And um, and then we developed a model, a predictive model, a quantitative model for, a geomorphic model for it, and gave it to the park and said, “Here’s how you can rate the varia–relative vulnerabilities of your, your known cultural sites to gully erosion.” You take, measure these parameters, put them into this equation, it’ll give you a number. And that number will be on a scale of one to a hundred– zero to a hundred, and give us vulnerability.

And did that lead to, uh, any, uh, decisions on altering dam operations as the adaptive management plan is sort of designed to do?

01:05:14 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:05:23

It did.

Did it?

01:05:23 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:05:24

It did, yeah. Well (pause) to make the connection between erosion of archaeologic sites and the dam operations, was huge. Because now all of a sudden, “Oh. We have to do something about that.” Because until that connection was made scientifically, um, it was speculation.

Was that the first time that there was a scientifically, empirically documented connection between dam operations and damage to a valued resource downstream?

01:05:47 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:06:00

Uh, no, there was, uh, Rich Hereford did the, a lot of the, uh (pause) he did a couple of really important studies, several, several mapping studies, geomorphology mapping studies, in critically archaeologically rich areas down there. And he did that for US Geological Survey, and he made beautiful maps. So he–we had his maps to work with, which were fantastic and a very detailed. Um, and one of the conclusions of one of his reports, which was just an open file report, USGS open file report. I shouldn’t say just, but not mainstream report, but one of the conclusions was that, that, um, he hypothesized that there was this linkage between gully erosion and the operations of Glen Canyon Dam and (pause) and then we had to go out and test that hypothesis. That was what our job was. We had Kate [Kathryn] Thompson, my co– cooperator on the, on the project. Kate had worked with Hereford on his stuff previously, so she was the one, sort of the heir apparent that Hereford–Hereford didn’t want anything to do with–he was done with all this politic crap. But, uh, yeah, and so he stepped away from it. He said, “You guys want to do it, go ahead.” You know, and so Kate said, “Hey, Andre, I need a partner. There’s an RFP on this.” We went through SWCA, which is a local environmental consulting group that did quite a bit of research down there. Steve Carothers’ group. And uh–

He was at the University of Arizona, right? (Participant coughs)

01:07:35 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:07:38

No. He had his own environmental, uh, uh, he was the Curator of Biology at the Museum of Northern Arizona in the seventies. He did a lot of the groundwork on the whole ecosystem down there, river ecosystem. Carothers is a great resource.

Is he still around?

01:07:51 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:07:52

I think so. I haven’t seen him for quite a long time, but he’s in Flagstaff. But he started SWCA [stands for “Steven W. Carothers & Associates” but is the full name of the company] and uh, and SWCA got, earned a lot of the, applied for a lot of the RFP, to the RFPs for this program, and they were doing fish research as well, but with their own fish scientists. And so that’s a fourth group on fish. But he said, Carothers went to Kate and said, “Hey Kate, you know, you worked with Hereford on this geoarcheology (cough)–geomorphology project along the river. Would you like to be a principal investigator? We’ll house you, you can work under SWCA and we’ll do the, we’ll handle your, your, um, the management of your, if you, if you win it.” Kate said, “Yeah, I’d like to, but I’d like, need a partner.” So we were friends. She said, “Hey, Andre, do you want to be my partner on this?” And I said, “Sure.” And uh, so we, uh, we put in a request, we put in for that proposal and got it. And did it.

What kind of changes in dam operations, do you remember, may have resulted from that research?

01:09:00 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:09:08

Um (long pause) probably the most important one was the thing that I’m most proud of having accomplished in the program, that I fought for, for all those years that I was in it, and that’s to run artificial floods from the dam to rebuild the sandbars in the Grand Canyon. And what we were able to do in our study was show that, um, that by rebuilding sandbars in the Grand Canyon (pause) you stood a chance at mitigating the erosion of archaeologic sites by putting sand up high. And the connection we made was that, even though you can’t get the sandbars as high as they used to be back when the Indians lived there, because the dam prevents that high enough release pattern, you can to get the sand up high enough to where, and this is a critical piece, where the wind can blow the sand [P.H.: Right] and redistribute it into the archaeologically rich areas, and mitigate the gully erosion effect. Basically, what our studies showed was that the gully erosion, it’s always gone on. It’s always, you know, runoff (participant cough) from monsoon storms, particularly monsoon runoff storms, create these powerful flash, flash floods that course down across the pre-dam sandbars, where the archaeological sites are. It’s just that in the pre- dam era, you had annual flood that built, replenished the sandbars extensively up high, would counteract that gully erosion process. So there was this balance over time that preserved the archaeologic sites. Gully erosion was not able to out-compete the river, so to speak.


01:10:51 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:10:51

The river is a depositional river, and, um, in the post-dam era, the rivers operate at much lower levels. It’s clear water, very, what we call sentiment-hungry water, and the level to which the gullies want to seek the river level is a lower level for much of the year than it used to be. And, in fact, all of the year, where it was only part of the year, like, used to be only part of the year, and because you didn’t have that replenishing sand every year from the annual flood, you, uh, you had the loss of sand over time from the system. And the gully erosion process was winning the war, you might say, to put it in human terms. It was, um, dominating the river depositional process, and the only chance we had of potentially re-operating the dam to mitigate that was to run artificial floods from the dam. Sandbar-building floods, and we made that linkage, the additional linkage, that the sand–wind, which we had documented in our studies, the very ubiquitous presence of blowing sand down there. It was a very important process for redistributing sand in the pre-dam era, and could be in the post-dam era as well. So, um, give the wind something to work with, you guys. Uh, we, we might be able to slow this down.

Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:12:17

And then, also what came out of that was the concern that, because of the concern generated by our report, the Park Service said, “We need (pause) where there are these really vulnerable sites that are outlined by Potochnik and Thompson’s report, high-level vulnerable sites where we know there’s a lot of archaeology, there is a danger and the gullies are already starting to form there. We need to go and do, do data recovery on those sites.” And data recovery, if you’re not familiar with the term, a common term for it is “excavation.” So, and it’s generally understood in archaeology, by archaeologists, that when you go and you do data recovery at a site, you basically completely, um, take away the context of the site, and document what’s there, but you’ll never be able to recreate the context for that site perfectly. So you need to do the science right the first time, and very meticulously. That’s expensive. To have a [unintelligible] full of archaeologists down there doing this work. Park picked ten, or nine, or ten, particularly vulnerable sites down there where the archaeology was particularly rich, and they did data recovery on those sites. And they were able to get money from Interior, and the park put up some of the money. It was about a million-dollars a site, if I remember right. So it was about ten million-dollar deal, um, to get those done. And they did that over about a two-year period, and–

Two year–

01:13:49 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:13:49

It was fantastic, two-year (participant coughs) time period. It took them about two years to do that data recovery. And it was great. Uh, did I bring it with me? I know I got it with me in the car (pause) great, um (pause) let’s see, must be in the car.

And to your recollection, did they pick the ten most archaeologically rich sites, or the ten most risky sites subject to erosion and loss?

01:14:06 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:14:15

It was a combination of both those.

Both, okay.

01:14:17 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:14:19

Yeah. They’re–the ones that were high on our scale for vulnerability, you know, are ones that, of course, got their attention and uh, and so, and they already knew where that kind of– Yeah. So that’s how they decided where to do the data recovery.

Do you remember about when, uh, the first alteration of the dam’s operation was accomplished in order to try to rebuild some of that sediment? I know you had to do the studies first, then you probably had to advocate for change in operations. How long did it take? About when did you actually get to the first pulse flows?

01:14:36 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:15:00

The first pulse was 1996.


01:15:02 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:15:03

Yeah. They were–

They were already doing it.

01:15:03 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:15:04

Yeah. It was, it was proposed under Glen Canyon Environmental Studies that they do this. And it was proposed in the EIS on the dam that this is a–because the sediment scientists had proposed that this could be something that would be a tool that the dam could use, potentially, to rebuild sandbars in the Grand Canyon, that needed to be tried out. So that 1996 flood flow was a big scary experiment. No one knew if it was going to work or not. And it worked. And, and uh, and we learned a lot, the sediment scientists learned a lot. We all learned a lot. Then it became a question of advocating for it in the Adaptive Management Work Group. That was where it was like pulling teeth. Because we, you know, I was doing this–

Why was it like pulling teeth?

01:15:51 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:15:51

I was part of the archaeologic study that was going on, like, “Hey, we need to do this for archaeologic sites.” I was a recreational guy, “We need to do it for camping beaches. Our beaches are all disappearing.” And the fish people are going, like, “We need it for habitat, shoreline habitat for the fish rearing, native fish.” So, the three big things that are components of the ecosystem were, um, endangered fish, endangered archaeologic sites, and endangered camping beaches, a recreational resource, were all potentially benefited by a high flow event. And so, we finally got after we finished our cultural study, our archaeology– geoarchaeologic study we got, we were able to convince them–and Reclamation was all on board for this. They wanted to do it. Bureau of Reclamation, um, guys were, um, they were on our side, you might say, and it was, it was the Upper Basin states people didn’t want to establish this precedent of running water around the generators and wasting all that water that could have been generating money for their coffers. And uh, and that was what their, their fight was. And, along with them, Western Area Power Administration, they were kind of in cahoots. But uh, so the hydropower consumers and WAPA. But they, we finally got them to do it again in 2003. We ran the high flow, next–second High Flow Experiments [HFEs] in 2003. And uh, like I said, it was like pulling teeth to get it done, but we got it done and then, and then we–

Would you say that one was as successful as the 1996 pulse flood?

01:17:26 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:17:30

Yeah. It was. And it was, we recognized that it didn’t, we didn’t have to use as much water, we didn’t have to run it for as long. The first one was– it took seven, they ran it for seven days, and almost all of the sedimentation, all the building of the beaches happened in the first twenty, twenty-four hours. And that recognition, from the first one, was like, “We don’t have to run it for seven days, guys, you know, run it for two days, or a day and a half, and get the same benefit.” So we ran the 2003 experiment and then, then it was a few more years. That was–the Bush administration started, came in and, and things slowed down a lot.

Now it’s a regular occurrence?

01:18:08 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:18:10

Now, yeah. It’s not, not regular, it is contingent upon the conditions being right. That means that there’s sufficient sediment that’s been washed into the river channel bottom from the Paria River, big tributary right below the dam, brings a lot of sand in every year. And they, so they monitor, the sediment scientists monitor the Paria River very closely, very carefully to quantify the amount of sand that’s being delivered to the utmost upstream reach of the Grand Canyon. And once that river–and they determine that that sand is still, uh, sufficiently retained within the Colorado River system in the bed of the river by a certain date, September 30th, and there’s a million ac–a million metric tons still remaining (snaps fingers), that triggers a release from the dam. That’s what’s called the hydrologic trigger criteria. That–it’s the sedimentologic, geo-sedimentologic trigger criteria, really. And (pause) and so, once that was shown to work as a trigger criteria in the 2003 event, um (pause) then it was a couple more years before we were finally able to get the 2008 flood flow event.

Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:19:26

Once we got the 2008 flow event, it became protocol. And once it was adopted as protocol, because it worked again. “Hey, this is working, it’s solving the problem of the dam affecting these critical resources. So, let’s write it into the new EIS, the new preferred alternative.” So they did the new EIS and the dam, um, to replace the first one, because it was clear that the first one wasn’t working. We were losing resources, and that was violating the Grand Canyon Protection Act. I don’t know if you know the Grand Canyon Protection Act very well, but the critical language in their environmental language is, “The dam shall be operated in such a manner as to preserve, mitigate adverse impacts to, and improve the values for which Grand Canyon National Park was created,” including cultural, biologic, and recreational resources. So that’s the, the driving language in the Protection Act. It did a lot of, said a lot of other things too, but those were the things that really (pause) made it be the first part of the Law of the River that had to do with, uh, mitigating environmental problems, as opposed to simply redistributing water, power, that sort of thing. So that was an important act, and so that was the whole purpose of our program. That’s why it was part of– the Grand Canyon Protection Act said, “There will be an EIS on Glen Canyon Dam.” At first, I think it’s the first post-facto EIS done on any major federal project. Meaning, after it was built. Normally you would do an EIS before [P.H.: Before] something’s built. Well, they said, “No, we didn’t do it back then because NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) hadn’t been passed yet, and now NEPA says we should do that.” So that was part of the Protection Act, was that there would be an EIS done on the dam. It was also part of the Protection Act that the long-term monitoring program be established, uh, the Adaptive Management Program. And so, and then it said, the reason that, what we’re doing to protect the Grand Canyon is because it’s recognized that the dam is affecting the downstream environment. And that was, uh, that was novel. Um, no one had ever thought about dams affecting the downstream environment before (laughter). You know, people always thought about, you build a dam, it’s going to flood this whole region upstream, displace all these people, cover up all these archaeologic sites, you know, right? But nobody thought about, well, what’s it going to do downstream? And so, this was an important recognition that the downstream environmental impacts and, and by the way, that it’s
Grand Canyon on there and, you know, it’s an iconic feature on the landscape and so you’ve got to protect it. So that’s–the Protection Act was important for that reason. I’m not sure where I was going with that, but um, we were able to get the high flow, um, what used to be called Beach-Habitat Building Flows, BHBFs, they changed the nomenclature to call them High Flow Experiments now. HFEs.


01:22:27 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:22:28

So BHBFs became HFEs.

Sometime around what, 2008 or something?

01:22:31 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:22:33

It was right around then.

When they, with the third successful pulse flow, and they decided to operationalize this on a regular basis.

01:22:34 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:22:40

It was recognized that we weren’t, the program we had was failing. The adaptive management of the dam was failing. That the criteria for water releases that was dictated by the original Preferred Alternative, in 1997, the first EIS of the dam, that that criteria was not achieving the goals of the Protection Act. We weren’t conserving the chub. That was a big scare. When in the early 2000s, when the chub population is going like this, down. We’ve, we didn’t have any, nobody, Minckley wasn’t coming up with this data, he was holding it. I’m not going to go into that, but– people had data out there in the fish community, science communities, but they weren’t sharing it. It was like, you know, and we’re on the Adaptive Management Work Group, we’re going, “Hey, fish community, science community, what’s going on with the endangered chub?” And they’re [unintelligible] you know, being, you know, maybe just conservative scientists not willing to say. But finally they came up, in 19- -I think it was 2002, they presented it at–they showed us the long-term population trend of the adult chub in the Grand Canyon, and it was like (whistles in descending pitch) over the last ten years, and by their best estimates. I’m not sure how those fish scientists got their act together, and maybe Minckley was involved in getting to do it or something, but they got the data out there. And we all looked at that, and I remember it was a very pregnant moment at an AMWG meeting. We looked– we’re all looking at this thing projected up there to show us the long- term decline in numbers of adult chub over eight, ten years are going like leading up to where we are today, which is, like, two thousand adults left. You know, ten thousand adults to two thousand adults over eight years, and we’re like [gasp], you know. We’re failing. You know, we’re failing with the Endangered Species Act. And I, I said, I remember that moment in that meeting, I said, “Well, I, for one, on this committee, am not willing to stand by and be a member of this committee and watch the destruction of the chub in the Grand Canyon. Not when we can do something.” And everybody went [gasp], “I’m on board with that. I’m on board with that.” So, the whole committee, kind of went, “We’ve got to do something.” So it created a sense of urgency. “We’ve got to get rid of the non-native fish, if they’re causing the problem. We got to, you know, do whatever we can to create additional spawning populations.” Little Colorado was the only one known spawning population. So it’s, it just triggered this, um, massive amount of research and interest, on the part of the AMWG, and so that was good. That got things going.

Did the fish biologists at the time understand the cause of the decline?

01:25:24 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:25:29

(Pause.) Yeah, they had a pretty good idea.

Was it habitat, or competition, or both, or–?

01:25:31 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:25:34

It was both. Um, I–you know, everybody w– (pause) habitat was, is probably the big one, but, with introduction of non-native, competitive species, that’s the other big one. And that’s something we can do something about. The habitat issue, the, um, was one that was addressed by the Temperature Control Device that was planned for the dam, and I don’t know if you know much about that. Right from the word “Go” in the program, the idea was to build a temperature control device on the back side of the dam to regulate the temperature of water that would come through the dam.

Hmm, were they heating it up?

01:26:13 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:26:13

To try to emulate that, to try to emulate that, yeah, it would get warmer water from higher up on the reservoir to draw–it’s called a selective withdrawal structure.

They weren’t heating it. They were just drawing warm water from the top and mixing it with the colder water, okay.

01:26:22 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:26:27

Right, right, because there’s a thermal gradient in the reservoir that, warmest on top, coolest on the bottom. And where the penstocks are pulling water from, which is about midway up the reservoir, was a constant 48 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, and–

Not good for native warm, muddy water fish.

01:26:43 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:26:47

Not if those fish are used to spawning in warmer water. And that was why it was considered humpback chub could only spawn in the Little Colorado, because that was where they had a nice warm-water habitat that was always going to be there, and always the same, because the Blue Spring runs the same temperature year-round, and creates the perfect habitat for spawning chub. And so there was, they were successfully spawning there, and the fish scientists could tell us that. And they weren’t in the mainstem of the river. The river is colder than it was in the pre-dam era, and it didn’t have the high fluctuation of volume during the year, and it didn’t have the high range in temperature that it used to have throughout the year. So the conditions were totally artificial for the chub, now. There–it’s a perfect environment for trout, rainbow trout, cold water, clear water. Trout need to see to eat, you know, the chub don’t need to see to eat, and the chub can smell anything. They’ve really got good noses on them (laughter). But the trout have to see to eat. So the trout have clear water.

Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:27:47

So, there was this conflict. Well, how do we, what about the Temperature Control Device? Well, I don’t even know what happened to this. Well, selective withdrawal structure is what it [unintelligible] called, but, we tried to get that built in the first part of the program, but there was a lot of resistance. A lot of resistance, because nobody knew for sure, if you did something that you might be doing the wrong thing. “What if we build this big thing and it kills all the endangered fish?” You know, because nobody was really sure that if you really messed with the habitat that much, by changing the temperature, you know, uh, annual temperature fluctuation at the releases from the dam, that it wouldn’t encourage the growth of other non-natives that could do even better, and–or out-compete this, the trout. So the decision was made, let’s get rid of the non-natives. So that was when we start–we developed the, um, removal of trout program and–

I imagine the trout fishery representatives on the committee were a little concerned about that.

01:28:48 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:28:54

Oh yeah, yeah. Because even though the blue-ribbon trout fishery was upstream of Lees Ferry, that, that’s where they fished. They didn’t really care about the trout downstream of Lees Ferry.

That was okay.

01:29:02 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:29:03

They knew that, that those trout weren’t obeying the “Do not pass this”

Right. There’s no barrier.

01:29:08 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:29:11

“Do not pass the go [unintelligible]. You can’t go down there, trout.” And they were. And so that has spawned other studies on natal origins of trout, where they, where they, how much were they moving up and down the corridor? How much of them, are the trout spawning in place, a whole lot of research around that. And so that there was a lot of money pumped into the program for trout removal initially because it was like, “Oh crap, we’ve got to do something. We’ve got to reduce the competitive pressures,” because it was a good assumption. Everybody thought it was a good assumption that the non-natives were preying upon and at least outcompeting the trout, uh, the chub for the food supply, which was meager compared to the pre-dam era. The Glen Canyon Dam note, not only interrupts 90 percent of the sediment supply, the pre-dam sediment supply, it interrupts 90 percent, at least, of the organic drift of material coming down the river. It was the basis for the food chain in the, in the aquatic environment. So you need all that organic, and it was organic-deprived river. And it was sterile water, basically. It didn’t have the basis for all that organic basis for fish populations that had been dependent on it before the dam. And so, um, the, they decided, “Well, we’ve just got to get rid of the trout.” So they started fishing them out of there, basically trout destruction expeditions. Or the Arizona Game and Fish was, I think doing a lot of that. I think. Um, I don’t know if you know about that. They, they fish at night with electro-shockers. Go from eddy to eddy during the night hours and have this little boat that has a generator on it and they put the electrode in that [makes a zapping sound] zaps all the fish in the eddy. It had the fish float up to the surface, and then have a big light from the whole–

Scoop them out?

01:31:06 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:31:07

Scoop them out. And if there, originally when they were getting rid of the trout, they would weigh and measure all, all the fish. Do a fish census, and then would trash the trout basically, put them through the trout-omatic. You know, the bass-omatic from TV, late-night TV, trout- omatic, you know. And so they were going to turn them into fish meal, and then putting the chub back. But putting a pit tag in each of the chub. So all the chub down there have a pit tag inside, a little barcode inside, and they can just read this thing. It’s like a supermarket checkout. You’ve got to catch the fish to get to read the barcode. But they were developing techniques for pit tagging the chub. Pretty much all the chub have been caught down there at least once. Many of them several times.

This is all happening in the 2000s?

01:31:54 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:31:55

This is happening in the mid-2000s. And then the tribes said, “Wait a minute. We don’t–we can’t support this.” The Hopi tribe, in particular, came out and said [P.H.: Right], “We can’t support the killing of fish. Just a wanton wholesale slaughter of fish.” Because the Hopi believes that’s their descendants there, in the form of fish in the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is their holy place in the world. That’s where they came from, right, originated as a tribe. So, to them it was anathema, that we, there was this wholesale slaughter of fish down there. And we tried to get around that by saying, “Well, we’ll give all the fish meal to the Hualapai Indian tribe at the end of the trip,” when they do the, rotate out of Diamond Creek and they use them in their tribal gardens to grow, grow food for the fish meal. And so that sort of worked for a while, sort of placated the tribe, the tribe a little bit–the Hopi Tribe a little bit, but then it was just like, eeh [no]. So now they don’t kill them anymore. They measure, weigh them, monitor. But the slaughter of non-native fishes kind of ceased. And partly because the humpback chub numbers started coming back up. And it was like, “Oh, you know, getting rid of the non-natives is helping here, maybe.” You know, it’s actually– And so we started seeing the humpback chub numbers coming up and everybody’s like (exhalation of relief), “You know, um, whatever we’re doing, let’s keep doing it.” But I think, what I believe, and I think a lot of fish scientists might agree with me on this, is that a large reason that humpback chub started coming back up in health and abundance and numbers is because of the warm releases from the dam, because of the drought. Because the low levels of the lake, they didn’t have to build a selective withdrawal on the back side of the dam. The drought was doing it for them. It was bringing that warm surface water of Lake Powell down to the penstock level and water, warmer water was going through the Grand Canyon, a more conducive environment for habitat for the native fish. And that, I think, is largely responsible for the comeback, the diminishment of the trout population. Because trout need cold water and the encouragement of the chub to populate the mainstem, not just the Little Colorado, they come out into the mainstem and utilize the food resources in the mainstem of the river. So, that seems to be the reason, inadvertently through the drought, created the habitat conditions, better habitat conditions for the native fish. And there was this, then the park did removal of trout from Bright Angel Creek, you may know about that. They systematically went up the entire creek. They put a weir at the mouth and (pause) fished all the trout out of Bright Angel Creek, because it was a source, spawning source, for new trout coming into the mainstem, especially the brown trout, which are the most voracious predators of the, uh, of the chub. Rainbows aren’t so bad, but the browns who were, who were also spawning up in Bright Angel Creek, are voracious, piscivorous, as they say, fish. So it, it seems as though the population, last I checked anyway, populations have stabilized with the chub and as long as we stay in this drought, we’ll have water temperatures necessary to kind of keep things happy there.

Silver lining on that cloud.

01:35:14 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:35:15

Yeah! (Laughter.) Well, that was, you know, dodged a bullet by mistake. I mean, because of nature, you know. By the way, one of the big things that changed this program was the drought. You know, the operation of Glen Canyon Dam, was the drought.

Let’s hold that thought.

01:35:30 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:35:30

It started in 2000.

Let’s take a break and um, and come back to that because that’s the next–so what, let’s go ahead and turn that off. PAUSE IN RECORDING

01:35:33 Paul Hirt

Okay. When we, uh, took the break, we were just about to talk a little bit about what you think, uh, over the, over the long-term of the program, what you think may have been the most significant changes that occurred during the time that you participated, and the most significant events that altered the course or direction of the program. Can you talk a little bit about what some of those would be, in your experience.

01:35:42 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:36:07

Okay. Some of these, I’m just going to reiterate what I’ve already talked about a little bit, just because I–make it in a more brief form, perhaps. Significant changes during my tenure to the AMP (pause) one was, I mentioned earlier, U.S. Geological Survey becomes the Science Center, uh, replacing Bureau of Reclamation as the science arm.

Why would you say that was significant?

01:36:31 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:36:35

To develop trust between stakeholders that there was not going to be any biased science. That this is–and U.S. Geological Survey typi–always does, always has taken this all very seriously as being independent and of any, uh, staying out of the policy questions and just doing the science. So there’s always been in the program this very clear demarcation between the science, scientists, and doing the work that is all run through GCMRC. So even if it’s a university doing science, it comes–that’s routed, this–the results of that science is–that RFP is routed through GCMRC. So GCMRC could keep tabs as the, the independent science arbiter in the program.


01:37:26 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:37:26

To make sure that if you–we realized early on that we didn’t all have agreement on what the–good information was, about–coming out of the program. We weren’t going to be able to make decisions or policy recommendations, because we’d just be fighting over what, “Well I don’t believe that, well you–what I believe is this,” you know, it could be one of those games and we would never, we would fail completely without good science. Sound science that everybody could trust was accurate. That was really important. And BOR [Bureau of Reclamation] had history, through Glen Canyon Environmental Studies, of, at least in some people’s eyes, of having a bias in the way they did the science. So that was really important. Um, the (pause) and along with it, the Transition Work Group moving from GCES to the AMP was a really, um, a challenging time, because we were inventing adaptive management. It was a new idea. Using stakeholder group to, um, use the best available information scientifically generated, to put together policy recommendations collectively as stakeholders to, to the decision makers. And, and that (pause) it was an adaptive process. Knowing, going into it, we weren’t going to solve all the problems. Probably not. We might make some progress on problems, but there were always going to be new challenges. And so, it was never going to be done (laughs), probably, you know. We would hopefully make progress, but there was no endgame. So, that whole concept of adaptive management, applying the adaptive management process to a complex ecosystem with [a] complex group of stakeholders. You add complexity of ecosystems and multiple elements of an ecosystem, including cultural resources, recreational use, aquatic habitat, terrestrial habitat. And you put that with a bunch of stakeholders who all have a different desire to see certain things come out in a certain way. And you absolutely have to have accurate information. If you’re going to have, um, productive, useful discussions that can lead to useful policy recommendations. And even then it’s going to be tough. Um, so that was a, that was a big deal. Learning about adaptive management and what we were doing with adaptive management.

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Andre Potochnik 01:40:03

The AMWG river trip leading to the Strategic Plan was absolutely critical in that regard. Establishing trust from that river trip. We went from being a bunch of people who didn’t know, looked at each other askance in the room, to a bunch of people, “Oh yeah. Hey Leslie, how you doing?” you know, that kind of thing at meetings. And that goodwill went for a good time after that river trip. It, there was a level of comfort that was established between the stakeholders from that informal river trip, um, that really continued for quite a while after the trip. It slowly (pause) we sort of lost the magic (short laugh) over time, and people got more re-entrenched in their positions, especially as new members came in and replaced old members of our particular constituency. They didn’t have, necessarily have that same bonding experience, so they, you know, they come in with their own predilections and, you know, anticipations and so on. So, um, but it was important to start off that way and to get a good strategic plan built, for that reason.

Do you think another river trip could have the same effect, serve the same purpose, or was that a one-off?

01:41:08 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:41:15

No, I think it could. Yeah. But the only reason that river trip happened to us because the Secretary of Interior said, “You guys are going to go on a river trip (laughter). You don’t have a choice.”

Secretary Ryan Zinke is not likely to tell everybody to do that today, is he?

01:41:25 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:41:30

And that’s where, it’s important–the, whoever’s in the White House, it kind of comes from the White House, because the White House appoints the Interior Secretary. The Interior Secretary appoints the rest of the Assistant Secretaries. The Water and Science Secretary is the one that’s in charge of the Adaptive Management Program. And that is a trickle-down effect of policy that comes from that, in that regard. Bruce Babbitt as Interior Secretary was really interested in this program, getting it started, making sure it worked, so he threw himself and his associa–Assistant Secretary into it, saying “Okay you guys, let’s get together, let’s do this. Let’s do this river trip.” You know. But when the Bush administration came in, there was this sort of laissez-faire kind of approach from Interior where it’s like, they just kind of let us kind of wander in the woods on our own, without much direction from above, without any kind of like, you know– you’ve got to know that the people that are making the policy, if you’re on the committee, you’ve got to know that they care. That they’re going to do something about it. Otherwise, all the work we do on committee, on the committees, maybe go to, go to nothing. You know, or just, or we don’t get any direction, you know, from Interior. And so it’s important that top, top- down influence is important in a committee like this. And likewise, it’s really important to Interior to get feedback from all the stakeholders. Because as you know, inside the Beltway community, they don’t know what’s going on outside that. Those people don’t get out. They don’t know what’s going on in the Everglades or in the Columbia River Basin or the Grand Canyon and those big adaptive management, problematic, uh, programs. And so they rely on the Federal Advisory Committees to do that, to provide–and that’s why that Act was passed, so the executive department, executive branch of the government needs to have that kind of input. But it works both ways. During the Bush administration, it was more laissez-faire. “Oh, you guys figure it out. You know, we’ll, you know, let us know when you come up with something.” (Laughter.) You know, more like that. And so we didn’t get a lot of direct interest from the Interior, Interior Secretary herself.

Did you get support when you would make recommendations during those years?

01:43:51 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:43:55

Pretty good. Um, it seems like it didn’t, it was just, you just didn’t know. (Pause.) The Assistant Secretary for Water and Science under the Interior Secretary was involved, in the Bush administration, Bennett Raley, he was good. He was very invested in the program. So. So I’m not saying the Bush administration was out, out there, totally. And we did have some support. We just didn’t know if Gale Norton herself was going to, did care. You know, she never showed up or never, you know, she was a non-entity. We have the Secretary’s designee, who is in charge of running the program, and the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science appoints the Secretary’s designee, but above that it was just, we didn’t know. But when Obama got in, all of a sudden we have much more interested in the program again. The Assistant Secretary of Water and Science, Anne, um [Anne Castle] (pause) Anne–what’s her name? she came in, was very hands-on and she wanted to do things, put her definite involvement in the program, show that she was invested in talking to all the stakeholders. She came and visited all the stakeholders in their communities where they lived, including myself and, um, she traveled to meet us and spend time with us and hear about our concerns, you know, that goes a long ways when you get that kind of feedback. And so that was good.

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Andre Potochnik 01:45:25

Um, then the adoption of the High Flow Experiments as a protocol, um operating protocol in the, in the new EIS on the dam. That, that to me, was really important. And, um, significant events, uh, the Sierra Club board voting to remove the dam was huge. That really colored the whole beginning of the program (pause). It Inspired people to make the program, want to, want to make that program work because, the alternative was, if we fail, you know, the dam-removing people might take over, you know, if we fail at our task of protecting the Grand Canyon. So there was a real impetus on the part of people to be doing the right thing, initially. The [World] Trade [Center] towers coming down had a pretty big influence–

How so?

01:46:21 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:46:22

In that it really took the wind out of the sails of the Sierra Club, removing the dam, because all of a sudden Glen Canyon Dam got included as one of the top ten infrastructural elements of the United States that had to be protected from terrorist attacks. So, forget about removing the dam, Sierra Club (short laugh). It’s one of the top ten, so it got prioritized. And so, basically that took the wind out of the sails of the people who wanted to remove the dam. In that regard, the Trade towers has, um, had a strong effect on– used to be able to visit the inside of the dam. I’ve taken, I’ve taken, gone through all the dam, tours of the, [unintelligible] I think they have a control–I’ve been invited in, a long time ago, invited into the control room of the dam. Me and my students. I mean, you can’t get near the control room today. Even if you’re a member of the AMWG, vetted by the Secretary’s office as a non-terrorist. You can’t. I can still go as a member of the committee, I would still go on these really cool journeys inside the dam. There’s all these passageways and weird, weird little windows, and you can peer out onto really cool stuff. Go inside the wall. And, I got to do all that, but they wouldn’t let me near the control room. Nobody gets to go near the control room. It’s just this really funny little feature. It’s inside the dam, it’s right in the heart of the dam, down there just by itself, and it’s got its own walls around it, it’s surrounded by concrete hallways and stuff. And it’s all 1960s technology. If you ever see–these dials–

Like the Starship Enterprise (laughter).

01:47:58 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:47:02

Yeah. Oh not even, no. Yeah, the original Star Trek.


01:48:05 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:48:05

The Starship Enterprise.


01:48:07 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:48:08

Yeah like more like, um, but, what’s the name? (Pause.) But anyway, it’s pretty cool–

Let me ask you something on that before you leave that topic. It’s, um, I think it’s very interesting that you mentioned, uh, that, you know, the twin towers attack on 9/11 [2001], changing significantly the whole concept that maybe Glen Canyon Dam should be decommissioned and, uh, and the river flow around it. What do you think of the fact that the former Commissioner of Reclamation, Dan Beard, has published a book a few years ago, calling for the removal of Glen Canyon Dam? Is that, um–seems odd, if it’s been identified as one of our top ten critical infrastructure, that the Commissioner of Reclamation would actually come out saying that, but, broader than that little conundrum, what, what do you think about his proposal?

01:48:16 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:49:05

Well, what’s my, I mean–Dan Beard’s welcome to his own opinion, and he has his reasons for saying what he says and he’s got some very good reasons, and I think that there are very good reasons, logical reasons, to not have two giant reservoirs on the Colorado River system. Um, it’s an inefficient use of water, for one. It’s wasting a lot of water, through evaporation and seepage. I mean you, in–especially in this period of drought. And uh, you know, the argument that, why keep two reser– giant reservoirs half full, when you can just have one fully, totally full. And uh, it, uh, so there’s a real logic to that, in a period of drought. You don’t, for water conservation. And uh, and there’s a real lot of societal value placed on the beauty of Glen Canyon Dam. Glen Canyon. Not dam, but the Glen Canyon itself, and the, and the river that flowed through it, and a lot of people very interested in, um, restoring that, bringing that back. And I think it’s restorable, personally. I think it can, if the river–if there was no dam there, or the water was allowed to pass through the dam site, and it became a natural flowing river again, it is very likely that there would be, um, it would come back fairly quickly. Even that bathtub ring will shed off pretty quickly. I’ve seen it peel off–


01:50:36 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:50:36

Just, it’s the–yeah. Just, you know, it’s the bathtub ring, you know, it’s that calcium carbonate coating, on the sandstone. People like, “Oh, that’s there forever now,” and it–it sheets off. Because it’s just a thin coating on the sandstone, the sandstone is loosely cemented, and I’ve watched it sheet off. So–I think, you know, springs are coming back, for instance, and now that we have lower reservoir levels, a lot of, a lot of spring habitats in the side canyons of Glen Canyon are coming back because of the lower reservoir levels.

So they’re not flooded anymore. They’re exposed. And so the spring vegetation is–

01:51:10 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:51:15

Is coming back–


01:51:16 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:51:16

Yeah, returning quickly. And a lot of those springs may be, um, water that was seeped into the wall, now seeping back out again. Um, but, uh, nonetheless, there they are. Um, so there, there is public sentiment, support–still strong out there, supporting the, uh (pause) the return of an innate, a natural environment there in the reser–where the reservoir is today. Um, it really put a, another big effect of–does that sort of cover that?

Mm-hmm, yes. Thank you.

01:51:48 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:51:50

I knew Dan Beard, you know, he was part of the program (pause) Glen Canyon Dam, under Babbitt, and so I got a chance to meet him and talk to him informally a little bit. And uh, so I got a sense of why he thinks he–I haven’t read his book, but I got a sense of why he thinks he does what he does. Uh (pause) a lot of people ask me that question, what, would you like to have Glen Canyon Dam decommissioned? And, my answer to that at one time would have been, “Yes.” Um (pause) it still is that, um, if it’s–if it’s conceivable or feasible to do and still, uh, adequately distribute water as it’s being utilized today from the river, in a way that’s fair and even. That was the other big thing that happened with the drought, um, the drought being one of big influences on the operation of Glen Canyon Dam, starting in the year 2000, and then the Trade towers the next year (laughs). Uh, we didn’t–it took a few years before everybody realized we were in a drought. It took–year 2002? Twenty-five percent of normal runoff from the Rockies. The reservoir was [whistles in declining pitch]. By spring of 2005, the reservoir, Lake Powell, had gone from 99 percent capacity full, rim-full, in 1999, or roughly 90 perc–90 percent full. It was all the way up, to, in five years it went to 33 percent capacity. The lowest it had ever been since the filling of the reservoir. Made everybody go, “Whoa,” especially the [Colorado River] Basin state people, going like, “We got to, what are we going to do? We’re in a drought.” And, initially, people are going like, “Ah, it’ll end next year. Ah, it’ll end next year.” And when it doesn’t, and it keeps- -and then, that was when the Basin states started their own process, negotiating with the federal government on how to redistribute water in, uh how to share the shortages, not just share the surpluses, which was always what they had thought about before (laughter). “How do we share the surpluses?” And so now they’re going like, “Well, how do we share the shortages, guys?” And so, that was when that criteria was developed for balancing water between the two reservoirs, Upper Basin and Lower Basin reservoirs. So that nobody gets cut too short. Nobody–

Was that part of the 2007 shortage sharing agreement?

01:54:18 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:54:21

Mm hmm. Shortage criteria.


01:54:22 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:54:24

That was it. But that was not–adaptive management didn’t get brought into that process at all. The Adaptive Management Program, we didn’t get any say there. The Basin States were negotiating that in Vegas by the, with the federal government, Interior. And figuring that out, and, as much as some of us asked to be involved in it, asked to be able to give input into that process, we were not allowed to, or we weren’t invited into that work. So we continued on being Adaptive Management Work Group, working with low reservoir levels. And, initially, the High Flow Experiments, um, from the dam were anticipated to only occur in high- water years, when there was a big surplus of water coming down anyway, the Basin states said, “Yeah, we might let you do it then,” you know, when it wasn’t going to mean sweat off their back. But now we’re going into drought and (pause) and that extra water going around the turbines, uh, not going through the turbines matters even more to them. And that’s part of the reason that it took so long to get the High Flow protocol established, because we were in the drought and the Bas- -Upper Basin states didn’t want to release that water. Around the turbines. Even though it’s really– relatively small amount of water. I think they always looked at it as the camel with the nose under the tent, you know, you give them that, they’ll want more of this, and–same with the budget, they didn’t want it–they wanted to cap the budget right away as soon as the flood program started, so that the budget wouldn’t get out of control, because they imagined all these scientists would want to just keep studying things, and it would just balloon. And so they were able to get a cap, a budgetary cap put on the program, and it was a totally artificial cap. It was just whatever the budget happened to be the year before the Adaptive Management Program started, that became the budget, yearly–annual budget from then on. Because the Basin states and the, uh, hydropower people were going, like, “We’ve got to cap it.”

Do you remember about when that cap was adopted?

01:56:13 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:56:16

Right away (laughs).

So like 1996 or ’97?

01:56:17 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:56:20

Uh, ’98, yeah. Yeah. It was one of the first big discussions.

And has that changed over time, to your knowledge? Did they ever up it?

01:56:24 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:56:29

Yeah, cost of living increases, you mean? (Laughs.)


01:56:30 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:56:32

Um, it has, it has grown a little bit.

Does it change by administration? I could imagine one administration would try to strangle the budget, and another one would try to, you know, build it up. Does that happen?

01:56:35 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:56:43

Uh, no, because as, as Randy Peterson from Reclamation said, “Andre”– when I was arguing, “Hey, I think we should open up the cap on this budget,” because we were really–I was making the argument in the front, in front of the committee that, we really don’t know what it’s going to cost to do this problem. Let’s not just artificially put a cap on it. Let’s start the program and start doing the science and see where it naturally falls as a budget, and–but, uh (pause) hydropower people won that argument [unintelligible]. And Randy Peterson was telling me one day, he says, “You know, Andre, this thing about, I know you want to get, open that budget cap up on the program,” he says, “but one good thing about that budget cap is that they’re never going to cut it.” It can’t go up and it can’t go down. So, it’s a guarantee that you’ll get that much money anyway, every year.

That is a benefit.

01:57:37 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 01:57:38

It was, it was an institutionalized amount and, so, they weren’t going to remove the money. And, hydropower people, they can get away with that. So (pause) so, and you make do with what you’ve got. You know, you’ve got an eight million-dollar budget, that’s what you do. And, every year we had the big budget arguments that, you know, that was a big part of what we argued about. So, where are we going to spend the money and (pause) so, that was, as the, as the AMWG, that was a big part of our discussion, anyway. Um, the long term drought was a big deal. 33 percent of capacity in 2005. That, um, induced the warmer water releases from the dam, which improved the habitat for the native fish. And, it also, um, caused a great deal of concern about, uh (pause) the quality of water coming out of the dam. Because there was one year–the reservoir has a, does not overturn every year. It’s not like lakes that overturn, um, seasonally, you know, where the cold water, it’s cold enough on the top in the wintertime that you put, all of a sudden the cold water sinks and the bottom water comes up. So it doesn’t do that, because it’s in a desert, temperatures aren’t great enough to make that happen, the reservoir is too big for that to happen. But what it does do, is it stratifies. The reservoir is stratified, such that right at the bottom of the reservoir is a, the bottommost layer, is an anoxic environment, [unintelligible]. There’s no oxygen down there, in the water. So no fish can live in that water. And if, if that oxygen–and we had a situation where it happened one year, the um, the reservoir was low, there was this big anoxic pool down there, dead pool down at the bottom of the reservoir, a big influx of cold water came in from a fairly–relatively large runoff event, and the w–reservoir levels are already down, the penstocks are drawing water from pretty low, from a, pretty well, from closer to the anoxic deadpool than it used to be, and this big push of cold water came running all the way down the reservoir, shoved that anoxic water up to the penstocks. And all of a sudden Reclamation realized that they were about to feed (pause) death water into the Grand Canyon, which would kill the trout fishery for sure downstream of the dam. And they were like, “Aah!” And they, uh, they caught it pretty quick, and they introduced water somehow, I can’t remember how they did it. They got water, oxygen-rich water, fed in to the outlet. I’m not sure, I can’t remember how they did that now, but they were able to prevent the destruction of the trout fishery. But it was nip and tuck. It was one of those things where that’s an, that’s an outcome of the drought, you know, reservoir levels are low, and there’s an anoxic body of water down there, and the conditions–and you learn a lot from something like that, you know.

Was that in 2005, when you said the reservoir was [unintelligible].

02:00:40 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:00:42

I think it was ’05 when that happened, when that 33 percent of capacity, spring runoff event. The reservoir was all the way down to 33 percent, and then, the runoff year for 2005 came in pretty strong. And it shoved that anoxic water down to the penstocks.

I think I heard today it was about 56 percent, uh, do you have that kind of anoxic problem at a half-full reservoir, or only when you get down to, say, a third full? Do you know?

02:00:58 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:01:11

I don’t know where that level is today. It happens because, um, organic decomposition of the sediment, the organic materials at the bottom of the reservoir use up the oxygen. Aerobic bacteria using up all of the available oxygen, and basically make a dead pool down there. Nothing can live in it. That needs oxygen, anyway. So, there are the stratifications of the reservoir that you had to pay attention to. The other big thing that I’ll mention is sedimentation in the reservoir. Um, this is something that, one of my frustrations in this program, I was never able to Reclamation to do anything about. As much as I got to know those guys really well, worked closely with them, we were friends (pause) I would bring up the Duke University study. Uh, this guy from Duke University, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, studied the sedimentation of the reservoir in, during those early years of the drought, from 2000 to 2010 or eight, something like that, [unintelligible]. He, he used a multi-beamed sonar array to study the contours of the bottom of the reservoir. Learned a lot of interesting stuff, what’s happening down there, by the way. They done the underwater landslides, for instance. Also determined that, indeed, trib– turbidite flows [def: the sedimentary deposit of a turbidity flow],
density currents of sediment-rich water, were traveling all down, all the way down the length of the reservoir, and coming up against the base of the dam. Which had been observed at Hoover Dam, at Lake Mead, in the ‘40s and ‘50s. That these–that’s how we discovered turbidity currents in geology. It’s because that reservoir–nobody could figure out, in Lake Mead, why the sediment was coming all the way down to the dam and getting close to the penstocks. How could that happen? You know, the sediment comes in a hundred and twenty miles up there. How could it get all the way down to the dam? Well, there’s these density currents, when sedimentary delta calves off and sediment gets in, churned, churned up with the water, cool water, and slides down along the bottom, and it flows all the way down the length of the reservoir. So sedimentation is occurring behind Lake–behind Glen Canyon Dam as well, and he was able to document that, and document that–actually, he was able to actually see a turbidity current go by him when he was doing his traverse up the San Juan River arm. He actually got photographs of it, so he knows it happens, and and he was able to measure the amount of–rate of sedimentation behind the dam. It’s very slow, but it’s creeping up the backside of the dam. And here’s the thing that I’ve been trying, was trying to get Reclamation to think about, or at least address, and that’s–when that sediment gets up to the intakes for the bypass tubes, which are the four jet tubes that shoot water out the base of the dam and enable us to do a High Flow Experiment, right now they’re pulling clear water out of the reservoir, but if that sediment– once it does and it’s, it’s inexorable, it will get there, um, sedimentation is not stopping in the reservoir, you can’t stop it. And, and once it gets there, the question is going to be a decision that has to be made. Do you let them fill in with sediment and never use the bypass tubes again? Or do you use the bypass tubes as a means of moving sediment through the dam? Thereby keeping them clear. And if you do that, and you spurt muddy water, I mean muddy, clay-rich water out of– that’s the finest sedimentary particles, behind the dam, into the tr–blue-ribbon trout fishery downstream, guess what happens to the blue ribbon trout fishery? (Pause.) Yeah, and, and in the–

Humpback Chub will probably be fine, but not the trout.

02:04:52 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:04:57



02:04:57 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:04:58

And so, and then, but then you go, “Oh, but maybe we have more sediment, so we can build more beaches.” That would be good, maybe, for the sandbars in the Grand Canyon.


02:05:07 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:05:08

There’s trade-offs always, yeah. But, there’s going to–if they let them fill it, it’s just sediment in, then you lose that fundamental capacity of the dam to move water through it. Because there’s only three ways to get water through that dam, besides leakage (laughs). One is the bypass tubes, and that’s the lowest down on the back side of the dam. Midway up the back side is the penstocks, for the turbines. Drops water through the turbines. And then the spillway is all the way up at the top. Which are, haven’t been used.

Since 1983, probably (laughs).

02:05:40 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:05:42

Well actually they did a–they ran them in ’84.

Eighty-four. Yeah, they had two years of high flows.

02:05:44 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:05:49

Yeah. Well, when they reengineered them, they had to test them. In ’84. So, they did a, a modest test to make sure that they wouldn’t, cavitation wouldn’t destroy the linings in–again, and (pause) they didn’t do much of a test—but anyway. So, you’ve got, those are your three mechanisms getting water through the dam. If you’re relying wholly on the penstocks and if you lose capacity to move sediment out around the dam through the bypass tubes, then that spells the ultimate destruction of your penstocks. Because you can’t move sediment down through the turbines, it will destroy the turbines.

Um, do you have any sense of, uh, when that day will come? I mean, there’s always estimates of how long a reservoir will function until it’s filled with sediment.

02:06:25 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:06:34

It’ll be within the next–I’m, and just a thumbnail estimation, based upon the Duke study and, uh, the rates of sedimentation due to low water levels of the reservoir. (Pause.) As long as we’re in this drought, continue to be in this drought and reservoir levels are low, and sediment continues to calve off from the deltaic regions and move down as turbidity currents to the dam, we’ll still get an increased rate of sedimentation gets to the base of the dam, higher than it would have been if the reservoir levels were high. Full. That was one of the outcomes of the Duke study, determined that this drought, drought levels of the reservoir, were inducing the turbidity currents going all the way to the dam. And, um, it would probably be on the order of a hundred years (pause) or less before the, uh (pause) this, the bypass tubes get clogged. Or start to get clogged. I would guess. Maybe even less than that. (Pause.) But I would have to look at the studies, and then we would have to have that researcher come back and do a return study. Reclamation has never sponsored the study themselves. They did, originally, in 1986, but they did it. They had their researcher do a series of cross-sectional, just a single line, a center line, not multi-beam array, but just a beep-beep-beep-beep across the reservoir, put profiles of sediment, what the bottom of the reservoir looked like across several cross-sections, and then extrapolate between those and say, like, uh– and that was when the Reclamation study came out with, “Well, it will [unintelligible] the reservoir will take seven hundred years to fill up with sediment all the way.”

That was their conclusion in the ’80s?

02:08:10 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:08:13

Eighty-six. But the thing that I keep saying to Reclamation: long before you fill up the river–reservoir with sediment, you’re going to have a reservoir half-full of sediment (short laugh) and, or a quarter full of sediment, and you reduce the capacity of storage of water. Each time you reduce the volume of the reservoir. Each time you reduce the volume of the reservoir, it becomes less capable of handling an incoming annual flood (pause) and you have a chance of it going through, over the spillways again. (Pause.) And so you’re going to lose the capacity of the reservoir to be effective, progressively over time. Long before it fills with mud. It becomes less useful.

So you were, um, you were listing off the key events that led to significant changes, did you get through all of those? Are there a few more you want to mention?

02:09:02 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:09:14

Uh, yeah. The (pause) the failure of the Adaptive Management Program. The perceived failure of the program happened in the mid-2000s, uh, a Grand Canyon Trust representative who I worked very closely with throughout the length of the program, another guy you should talk to, Rick Johnson, if you haven’t. Um (long pause) he, all of a sudden, he
just, yeah, he was very involved just like I was. We worked hand in,
hand in glove for lot of years. Um (pause) the Grand Canyon Trust decided to come out with the opinion that the Adaptive Management Program had failed. We were failing with regard to restoring the habitat for the chub, and bringing the numbers back sufficiently, we were failing with regard to the archaeologic sites, and we were failing with regard to sandbars in the Grand Canyon for the recreational river runners. That came when, um, in 2008 I think it was, when the USGS scientists, sediment scientists published a paper in the GSA Today journal, cover, a cover article. Question is, “Is there enough sand?,” question mark. And, it addressed the question of, over the long-term existence of Glen Canyon Dam, can we ever get enough sand to come into the Paria River, or other tributaries, to ever create a sustainable amount of sand in the sandbars of the Grand Canyon? Or, are all we–are we on a losing streak here, that’s not going to end? And their, their question was really aimed at saying, no, we aren’t going to be able to, there’s not enough sand coming into the Paria just–for the long-term sustainability of sandbar habitat in the Grand Canyon. And that’s a big deal. Because the sandbar habitat’s critical for a lot of resources. And, um, that was when the Trust came out with, “It’s failing, we’ve got to do a new EIS on the dam.” You know, have to completely re–what we did–how we decided back in 1997, the Secretary decided to run the dam based upon the first EIS isn’t working. That preferred alternative is not a preferred–we have to re- look at it and figure it out what else we can do.

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Andre Potochnik 02:11:30

So that was when the second EIS on the dam was done. That started with the Obama administration. 2008. It became known as the LTEMP. Long-Term Experimental and Management Program. Plan. And, so that, that was what was developed. And the preferred alternative came out of that, we went through the whole EIS vetting process again, da-da-da- da-da, public meetings, public scoping, and uh, a new operational plan that included High Flow Experiments as a protocol, um, was adopted. I was disappointed that they continued to fluctuate, the daily fluctuations from the dam. Um, high flows during the day and low at night, because those do erode the beaches in the Grand Canyon. I’m convinced of that. And one of the reasons I know that is because I’ve worked down there for forty-four years, and I’m a sediment scientist, I’m a geologist, and I’m a good observer, and I read the papers (short laugh) and um, I started our own citizen science program to monitor the beaches in the Grand Canyon. You know about that? The Adopt-a-Beach program?

I’ve heard of it, but nobody’s talked about it yet, in this, interviews.

02:12:43 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:12:47

I could probably w–since it’s my baby, I guess I should talk about it (laughs). 1996 flood that, from the dam, the first High Flow Experiment, we knew it was coming. We got–Reclamation was on board, everybody was–nobody was going to stop it. And I sat down with Tom Moody, my colleague at GCMRC, and I said, “Tom, how are we going to know, independently, those of us who care most about the sandbars in the Grand Canyon, who use them on a daily basis, and have been around for a while and been watching them, how are we going to be able to monitor whether this flood flow works or not, and what the effects of this thing–I mean, from our own independent observation?” So we sat down one day and invented the Adopt-a-Beach program. Whereby we identified forty-four critical campsites in the Grand Canyon that are either in high demand, highly erodible, or, um, in three critical reaches where they’re most in need. The beaches are most in demand. And, we said, “Okay, that’s our data set. Now let’s get boatmen to adopt them and re–do re-photography.” So we established photographic– photography, repeat photography sites at each of these forty-four, and have been running that program ever since.

The photographs from the, those, uh, repeat photography pictures, I believe are available on a website that we’ve looked at.

02:14:04 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:14:12

Oh yeah?

You can see the change over time in those beaches–

02:14:12 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:14:14

Oh, cool.

I think it’s a USGS website.

02:14:15 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:14:18

It is, yeah. We finally got them to accept it as a data source. It was– even though not particularly scientific (pause) it took them a while to get over that, but, they said, “No, actually there is pretty good data set here [P.H.: Yeah]. Maybe we should put it in our bag of tricks here.” And–

It’s remarkable, uh, just–

02:14:35 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:14:37

Yes, to–

To look at the changes over time.

02:14:36 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:14:39

For a long time sediment scientists were pooh-poohing it, you know, ehh “The systematics are all wrong [unintelligible], we can do it better.” And, you know, but, you know, it was just a citizen science program [P.H.: Right], a citizen monitoring program, that’s all it is. It’s not claiming to be a scientific project or a–it’s just people, lots of eyes, lots of eyes and cameras, looking at the same thing over and over again. So, they did accept it, and now it’s part of their data set, which is good. So I’m, I’m proud of that program, and I work, I still, still adopt beaches every year, and do my photography, a couple beaches a year.

Are there other citizen science programs going on to support research?

02:15:19 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:15:22

Yeah, there is a really good one developed a few years ago by the, um, aquatic biologist at the GCMRC, Ted Kennedy, who realized that, since the food base for the fish are–a big part of the food base are these midge flies that hatch by the gazillions every so often down there and, and then they become fish food. Um, a critical understanding of the food source, the food base for the aquatic ecosystem, is knowing when the midge flies, um, hatch, where, and what’s inducing them to hatch, how many are there. So Ted Kennedy came up with this really simple thing to–for river runners to take down on river trips with them, which is like a little light trap you put out at night, and it’s a way of sampling the bug population, and it’s systematic, and it’s used the same way every time by everybody, and he was able to get people really interested in that, river runners, who were like, “I’ll help, I’ll help.” And uh, and so, apparently it was a very successful program. I’m not sure if it’s still actively going on or not, haven’t heard about it for a couple of years but, but it was touted by GCMRC as a great citizen science effort. Because, you know, how do you, if you’re a– if you’re an aquatic biologist, you might get down the river once a year or twice. Okay. How many days in the year are there? Three hundred and sixty-five. If you spent thirty of them on the river, that’s one-tenth of the year that you’re actually down there observing. I mean, how else do you get a handle on, observationally, what’s going on down there? You can’t be everywhere in the river’s ecosystem at once, if you’re a scientist, but you can have lots of eyes and ears up and down, distributed up and down the river ecosystem at any given moment, throughout the season, and you can get a broader database, set, down there. A more accurate database. So, utilizing the presence of a lot of river runners down there, who are interested in contributing, I think was important. An important thing. And uh, yeah.

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Andre Potochnik 02:17:30

Um, what else? Is there enough sand? So the new EIS on the dam, um (pause) I think I’ve already got, gone over my accomplishments in the program I’m most proud of are the High Flow Experiments. Being, having those be tied to an understanding of how they affect the archaeologic resources as well as the, um, fish habitat, as well as the recreational habitat being an essential part of the landscape element of the river ecosystem. Sandbars. You can’t discount them, they matter too much. Getting that, and then connecting that to the High Flow Experiments being an operational way to restore those sandbars on a long-term basis. I’m proud of the–working on a strategic plan, and getting that broad-based buy-in by all the stakeholders. That was a lot of work but, um, a lot of discussions, but we got that done. Um, proud of the public outreach stuff that we did, to try to convey to the public that, what’s been going on. Because the public is very interested in this place. Um, I’ve, I’ve given a lot of talks over the years to different groups. To their annual river guides training seminar, uh, write articles for the Boatman’s Quarterly Review. You’ve got a bunch of those, and a much more in here (sound of leafing through files). But, uh, so, that outreach effort, for me personally, through my own organization and through, uh, giving invited talks to groups. You know, one time, an example would be a whole bunch of medical doctors were having a conference in Sedona and they wanted a keynote speaker, and they knew about the dam, and they knew about the issues, and they called me up, said, “Will you give us a talk?” Sure. I went down there, the educated public, you know, the people who are pretty–well-educated, understand the importance of the Grand Canyon and science, and so those kinds of groups. Um, guiding groups, other guide–hiking guide groups in the Grand Canyon, who were interested in the river. Because they, they see the river, but they don’t know much about what’s going on with the river. Unlike river runners, have a better sense of it. [P.H.: Right.] Uh, what else?

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Andre Potochnik 02:19:49

Yeah, so I’ve, I’ve been able to do quite a bit of outreach along with the outreach program of the Adaptive Management Program. Um (pause) yeah, I think that, uh (pause) one of the challenges of not getting the program to really understand that if we want to protect the endangered fish down there and to really be obvious [unintelligible], this is really an obvious thing that there was just a lot of denial about, and that’s that, if you’re going to protect and bring back an endangered species, you’ve got to bring back its habitat. The habitat that it evolved to become successful in. And, there was a very strong reluctance, reticence, to talk about that habitat, and how we might be able to change that. Either through a selective withdrawal structure on the dam, or the reintroduction of sediment, somehow, into the system, or, you know, ha–being able to control, um, High Flow Experiments. All those sort of things that try to emulate the, what Rick Johnson used to call the range of natural [P.H.: variability] variability, RNV. And, uh, Rick was a big, um, pusher of RNV and I was too. But, uh, most of the people on the pro–on the committee just wanted to figure out how to protect the chub. And not have to worry about changing the habitat too much. Because that I think was perhaps a little too intractable of a problem for a lot of them to think about. Um, yeah. So, we’ve still got the daily fluctuations, unfortunately. Um (pause) in this new EIS, so that water goes up and down every day. It’s more of an irritation than compared to what it used to be, for river running. It used to be a real problem in the ‘80s, ‘70s and ‘80s, because there was absolutely no regulation of the dam. They would just completely follow the load on–electrical load on the system. And the river would go way up and way down, and we could never predict how much.

And you would be down there–and this is one of the reasons that we as a river-running community were so incensed at the dam. And we hated the dam, because we felt like we were pawns on the end of a yo-yo string. You know, you’re just like, there’s some big guy up there with– and you’re the yo-yo and he’d go (waves his arms like a yo-yo), you know, and you have to adjust to this all the time. You wake up in the middle of the night, the kitchen’s flooded, you’ve got to move the kitchen. Water comes up unexpectedly, you know. I mean, it was a lot of problems with that. The boats would get stranded, water drops, way out, just way up there, the boats are way up there, got to get them in the water somehow. Just a lot of problems, and, back when it was completely unregulated. And the first EIS on the dam really solved a lot of those problems. Because the first preferred alternative back in ’97 was the Modified Low Fluctuating [Flow] alternative, which really f– severely restricted, very specifically restricted, the rate at which water would go up and down each day, and how much. So, once that happened, and once Reclamation started delivering regular monthly predictions of how much water to expect, for us, who were planning a river trip, we can work around that. We can work around predictability. We can work around knowledge. What we couldn’t work around in the pre-dam, pre-EIS era, was complete variability. We used to try to predict how much flow was going to come to us based upon the weather in Phoenix, when we were on the river (laughter). Call up the warehouse [river company headquarters]: “What’s the weather in Phoenix?” Because we knew that that would control, the temperature, the amount of electricity demand on the system, air conditioners, if it was hot day in Phoenix in summertime we knew you were going to get a bunch of water coming downstream. If a big cloud cover came in and everybody shut off their air conditioners for a few days, they would shut the water down on us, and you could actually almost, sort of, generally predict it. I mean, that’s how good we got at watching the relationship between weather and river flows, because we had no other way of knowing in, uh, in those early years. So, we became water hawks. Those of us in the dories, anyway, who rode dories in the Canyon. What else? Uh (pause).

02:21:55 Paul Hirt

Any surprises, anything that happened that really surprised you?

02:24:11 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:24:16

Well, the drought, um, the, uh (pause) Trade [World Trade Center] towers, of course. That’s sort of peripheral, but, still (pause) I can’t think of anything else that comes to mind, anyway.

Well, let’s, let’s go to the, sort of, overall judgment about the value of the program. Do you, do you think it’s been, you know, thirty years of, of effort and evolution, um, should it be continued? And has it been worth the time and effort and money?

02:24:36 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:24:55

Oh, I think absolutely it should. It’s a (pause) it’s a resource and a very high, high visibility, um, place that a lot of people care about and will always care about. And that’s not going to go away. Grand Canyon’s going to be there. People are always going to want to know, “That dam, what is it doing now?” And, and um, I still get it from people, people–I thought this issue of dam decommissioning was kind of, like, sidelined and, and out of the picture, the last ten years or so. It’s still out there. People still ask me, “What about removing that dam? Are you still talking about moving that dam?” So it’s still in the collective consciousness and, and vocabulary of the public, that this dam is not a good thing, necessarily, and there’s a move to get rid of it, and maybe there’s some good reasons to do that. People always want to know, “What do you think?” You know? “Do you think it should be removed?” And uh, so I don’t think that’s going away. Um, there will always be that lingering resentment that people felt after having Glen Canyon Dam taken away from them, and not being able to have said anything about it. Back before, um, they drowned “the place that no one knew.” As the, that Sierra Club book goes.

So what do you think are the most important values of the program over time? Has it been, you know, the adaptive management itself, or has it been the public engagement? Has it been that getting all of the players together to talk to each other and do the–is the scientific research the main accomplishment of the program? What do you think?

02:26:10 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:26:31

Well, I think all of those things, I can’t pick one of those things and say that’s, there’s just this one thing that’s the big important thing. I mean, that the public are involved collectively as stakeholders in a program that values good scientifically-generated information to make decisions is, is a hallmark of a civilized country, and a democracy. And um, I think it’s a great example of democracy in action. And, uh, so I think it’s– adaptive management as a process is something that we’re going to have to apply more and more of as time–as we go on, to difficult, challenging, complex, intractable problems having to do with our, our interface with the environment. Um (pause). Yeah, so, as an example of that, I think this, the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program has been a, has been a great program. I was really disappointed when the Grand Canyon Trust came out with the opinion that it had failed. Because I took that a little bit personally, because I felt like we had accomplished an awful lot, and it may not be perfect, but we were move–moving along still. But, I also understand why the impetus, the Trust, the Trust had to do that as an environmental organization with, to satisfy their funders and their stakeholders in their own organization. They had to grandstand a little bit to, to continue the funding for their organization, they had to make a statement, and they had to start a lawsuit. They sued the Bureau of Reclamation for failing to do adaptive management–[unintelligible] to apply, apply adaptive management to the river ecosystem. That was one of the reasons that I–that was when I started getting disenchanted with the program. That was when, you know, I thought, “My time here is done.” I said, you know, I can’t be a part–because the Trust, Grand Canyon Trust, was always my ally. We were allies–our ally. We were, always worked hand in glove, like I said, all those years. And then to (pause) for them to reject the, the outcome of the program and process in the program was, to me, was, you know, like, okay, if this is going to be a lawsuit now, we’re just going to court, what’s the use of having an Adaptive Management Program? This is going to be some–decided by the lawyers now? So I was just like, you know. I was–that, plus the fact that I was burning out on meetings and (laughter) and plus the fact that we had gotten the High Flow Experiment protocol instituted, which (sighs as if relieved), that was really big.

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Andre Potochnik 02:29:10

And, um, and I realized one day, at a meeting, and the WAPA representative started talking about the dam, he talked, still was talking about it purely in terms of dollars and cents. How much money it makes, and how that’s–and he clearly that was (pause) his whole stake in the program. And he had no stake, really, interest, in the environment. And I was like, “After all this time, you don’t have–you’re still that disconnected from what we’re trying to do here, you can only think about it in terms of dollars and cents.” So, I got a little bit, um (pause) tired of that. It was time for me to move on, and so I went to my organization and said, “Hey, is there anybody else in this organization wants to do my job? I’m not going to be here forever.” And, and that’s just fact. And so they went about finding somebody to replace me.

Who was that?

02:30:06 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:30:08

Uh, Sam (pause) Sam-Sam-Sam, um (pause) think I’m losing my brain. [Probably Sam Jansen.] See if–oh, it’s not in here.

Is that other person still representing Grand Canyon River Guides?

02:30:20 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:30:24

Uh, he’s not doing it, adaptive–he’s not the AMWG guy anymore. Dave Brown is.

Dave Brown.

02:30:28 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:30:29

I think his name’s Dave Brown. Sam did it for a few years, Sam and Jerry.

Jeri Ledbetter?

02:30:33 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 02:30:34

No, uh, Jerry (long pause) gosh, why am I not thinking of his name? [Probably Jerry Cox.]

It’s okay. I will look it up.

02:30:44 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:30:47

It’s always listed in the front of the Boatman’s Quarterly Review. It’s always just right on the inside cover. This box. It always says who’s the TWG representative and AMWG representative. It’s not in this early version, but in all the versions these days it’s always listed who that, who that person, the people doing the Adaptive Management Work Group are. So it’s continuing. We fund it, continues to be funded. And, by the Grand Canyon Conservation Fund, which I think is renamed now, which is something else, but it’s still that source of funding. You know, by the way, I got the source of funding, originally, got them interested in funding it because I had been doing the work for free, at no funding, for three years, four years, and I was just like, “I can’t keep doing all these meetings.” And (pause) I had taken a wealthy guy down the river and ran into him in Santa Fe, and went out and had a drink, and I told him all the stuff I had been doing, and he has–runs a big family foundation, and he says, “How much do you need?” And–


02:31:46 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:31:47

And I said, “Well” (pause) he says, “Send me an invoice, then, of all the work you’ve done for the last year for, in this program, sounds like it’s really worthwhile.” So I did. And he funded it. And then they–all the river outfitters are going, “Wait a minute. Who’s funding them?” You know, “No, we’ll–we’ll do it.” (Laughter.) They want that monetary control, right? they didn’t want to have him, they don’t want some outside [unintelligible, coughing]. So, that got the impetus for them to start funding it. Even though that was, that grant was only a one-year grant from my friend. It, uh–

Got the ball rolling.

02:32:20 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:32:20

It got The ball rolling. Yeah. And I always advocated that it was a, it was a, I still wasn’t getting paid enough.

No. It’s a labor of love.

02:32:27 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:32:29


Probably for most people in, involved in AMWG and TWG.

02:32:30 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:32:34

Well, most of them work for big organizations and they uh, you know (pause) they have positions–

It’s part of their job.

02:32:41 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:32:41

It’s part of their job. Right.

So if somebody was going to ask you to come up with a way of identifying the weaknesses in the program and how to strengthen it, would you, what would you suggest, in terms of the places where the program could perform better or accomplish more? Do you have any recommendations? (Long pause)

02:32:41 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:33:14

Yeah–well um (long pause.) It has, I don’t know, uh, if some stakeholders need to be just removed from the committee, because they really aren’t there for the spirit of the [Grand Canyon] Protection Act. They’re there to–and this was always the case, they were there to put the brakes on, to get in the way, to obfuscate–

To protect the interests of the organization and–

02:33:39 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:33:42

Just to get–make it a do-nothing program. I can get you–one character that I still resent, I mean, he just, um (pause) I don’t like to name people negatively, but, I mean he was from Western Area Power Administration, with it for years, and he was, he was the epitome of obfuscation. He knew exactly how to do it, and he was real loudmouth. Dominated the conversation, you know, kind of like some people we hear about in the news these days (laughter). And, they’ve always got to be the one talking in the room, and they’re always figuring out ways to slow things down, you know, and not get things done. You know what I mean? [P.H.: Mm-hmm] There were people who had worked (pause) and, if you could have leadership of the committee that could weed those kind of people out, or go over their heads to their superiors and say, “Hey, this person’s not a team player,” you know, “Got to put somebody else in there.” Um–

But the stakeholders identify their rep. So to accomplish that, you’re saying you would need a leader who could speak to the stakeholder groups and say, “The person you’ve identified and selected as your representative is–“

02:34:41 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:34:57

Yeah. Secretary of the Interior can do that. “I’m not getting good advice from your person,” you know, “on this committee. You need to get somebody in there who’s a team player.” Sure. I mean, you (pause) I wasn’t guaranteed a job there. And if (pause) if, uh, George W. Bush had wanted me out of there, he could have sent me packing anytime he wanted, you know. Or his Interior Secretary. But uh, yeah, we were reappointed on a four-year term, we had to be reappointed every four years.

Every four years? That’s a good opportunity to, uh, to change personnel when, when it’s needed.

02:35:33 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:35:42


How about the science? Is there any, is there any science that you wish could have been done but wasn’t, for whatever reason?

02:35:42 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:35:54

Um (long pause) yeah, I think they need to look at the reservoir. I mean, there needs to be–

In the sediment, you mean?

02:36:02 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:36:02

Sedimentation of the reservoir, the stratification of the water bodies in the reservoir. That is, we learned that that’s a big–can be a big influence, on the quality of water that goes through the Grand Canyon. And we’ve got to understand how that’s changing over time. We’ve got to be monitoring that. And it was always a–like, like pulling teeth, with hydropower people and the Basin state people, to just try to, for people like myself, I always, in the beginning of the program (pause) we were always saying that, you know, we need to expand this geographic scope of this, because we have this reservoir upstream that’s clearly influencing what happens downstream. We’ve got to know what’s going on out there. And we’ve got to know what’s going up the sides of the river canyon, bottom of the Grand Canyon, and not just where the water goes up and down each day. We’ve got to know what’s going on with the archaeologic resources up higher, that are not directly influenced. That was a big, big (pause) topic of discussion. Every time we sought to kind of make the geographic scope of the program broader and (pause) broader context, we were always getting thwarted. “Oh no, got to keep it only,” you know, “really restricted.” So, geographic scope was always a big debate in the early part of the program. (Laughs.) If you ask the Hopi Tribe, they say, “Well, where do you think the boundaries should be?” So we, we thought it should be the 300,000 cubic feet per second line, because that’s the largest known flood that the Colorado River has ever had in the history of watching the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. So we figured, if that’s the biggest potential flood of the pre-dam river, then that’s potentially the height that we should go to up the flanks of the canyon sides, to include everything within that. Including cultural resources. And the hydropower people and the Basin states were going, “No, just down here, it’s got to be restricted just to the 20,000 cubic feet per–25,000 cubic feet per second.” And then eventually, they finally said, “Yeah, okay, with a flood flow, maybe up to 45,000.” We were like, “No, up to the 300,000,” because that’s where all the archaeologic sites are. And the Hopi came in and said, “No. Rim to rim.” (Laughter.) They said, “It’s got to be the whole Grand Canyon.” And they’re like–

Did they win the argument?

02:38:16 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:38:18

They got their point across [P.H.: Uh-huh]. And, I think that, I–

Everything’s connected,

02:38:21 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:38:22

But we, the–yeah. And like, with our study of the geoarchaeology in the Grand Canyon, we did the, um (pause) the unthinkable violation of the Upper Basin states’ protocol that geographic scope of all science on–in the program be restricted to, up to the 25,000 cubic feet per second level in the Grand Canyon, only low–below the dam. And we said, “We can’t study the effects of what the pre-dam river did, because nobody did any studies of it in Grand Canyon on the archaeologic sites. The only thing–way we can do that is we go to a (pause) control section of another river somewhere, where we can study the processes there, where a river uncontrolled by dams interact with archaeologic sites, and use that as a basis for understanding how the dam is affecting archaeologic sites in the Grand Canyon. And so we just, we just got–we just went up to Cataract Canyon and did a whole study up there, because there is largely controlled by dams and they get a large annual floods, sedimentation is largely, like, a very close emulation to what Grand Canyon was like before the dam. But, uh, we just did it. Um, I got away with it, because I was on the committee and no one was going to tell me I couldn’t (laughter) go spend money that was only supposed to be spent in Grand Canyon, go up to Cataract Canyon and spend it. But, uh, yeah, we did the first ever, ever study on the river terraces on the Colorado River in Cataract Canyon. It wasn’t huge, but we got there and did a pretty good job with it. So (pause) we kept pushing the boundaries over there.

So, um, if, if somebody came to you and said, we want you to give a, we want you to put together, uh, advice for new members of the AMWG and the TWG, um, who are coming on to the program. What, what would you say, what would you like to say to people who are coming on new and fresh? What would be your best advice for somebody who’s just getting started with this program?

02:39:58 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:40:28

Um (pause) do your homework. Read the papers. Be involved in the, uh, don’t be afraid to speak out at meetings. Uh, realize that you’re as important as everybody else in the room, and what you say matters as much as everyone else. Learn Robert’s Rules of Order. Um, it’s a powerful tool. If you don’t know it, you don’t know how, how to advocate for a motion, make a motion. You know you’re going to be at a loss. So, those are the kinds of things uh (pause). Try to keep the meetings moving. And don’t let people dominate the move–a meeting with unnecessary obfuscation. Call attention to it. Because that’s ultimately one of the things that really burnt me out. Is just the amount of time. I mean, two days of sitting on your butt, all day long, in a skyscraper in Phoenix. Windowless room (laughter). And so, yeah. Um, I don’t know what else I would say. That it’s a valuable program, it’s worth doing. If you care about the resources that you’re (pause) that you’re dealing with. And uh, yeah. Don’t be afraid to stand up and make yourself heard. It was a really interesting—I, I enjoyed it a lot, because it was egalitarian. And I was just as powerful, my votes counted the same as the superintendent of the Grand Canyon, kind of the same as, like I said earlier, the head of the Department of Water Resources of the state of California or, you know, you know, and, Jerry. I knew Jerry really well, you know, you get to know these people and–and one of the neat things about it is, if you can establish, uh, cordial relationships with people and keep talking informally or formally with them, people see you as a person and not as a threat, or a, an organization, but rather as someone that they can discuss things with, and you’re not going to bite. You know, you’re not out to get them. Um, so the cooperative nature of things, and the presumption that you’re not in (pause) in a position of, um, win and lose but rather in, you know, I think we’re, the only way you’re going to get anything forward is to give and take a little bit, cooperate with each other. (Pause.) Yeah, and, yeah, it’s a labor of love.

I think that’s a great place to end the interview.

02:43:18 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:43:22


Thank you so much for your time and, and all of the work that you’ve put into this over the many years and–

02:43:23 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:43:30

You’re welcome.

And I’m–going to be very grateful to borrow some of your files, and we’ll be happy to return them. But uh, it’s nice when somebody keeps good track, because you can, like you were saying earlier, you can go back and ground truth recollections and, uh, sort of–that written record is particularly important to us historians, because that’s what we base our work on, is the written record.

02:43:30 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 02:43:56

Yeah. And you know, I hope you really want to look at those paper files, because if you don’t, that’s–I won’t be offended. If that’s something you go like, “I don’t really want to look at all these paper files.” But if it’s something that is, is of interest to you–

That’s what we historians live and breathe on, is the archival records–

02:44:10 Paul Hirt
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Andre Potochnik 02:44:13

You might have to wear a dust mask (laughter) because they haven’t been disturbed in a while. And they were how I just kind of kept the organizational scheme going over time, it’s not perfectly well-organized. Because there’s so much cross-disciplinary stuff that goes on. It’s hard to put everything in a neat category, you know, but they’re all there. You’ll see the files, already marked with you know, categories, as I gave you the schema for. That little piece of paper is in there too and uh, showing you what’s kind of, the order of things that are in there. And it’s not everything, but it—

End of interview.

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Andre Potochnik

Camp Verde, AZ


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


Andre Potochnik was involved with the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (GCDAMP) as a stakeholder representative from the program's 1996 inception until 2010. He participated on behalf of Grand Canyon River Guides (GCRG), one of the two stakeholding organizations that represented recreational interests. He was instrumental in the formulation of the GCDAMP mission, vision and strategic plan. Potochnik is a geologist specializing in sediment science. He has been a river guide with Grand Canyon Dories since 1973, work that is a major component of his environmental advocacy.

Potochnik, Andre Oral History Interview Transcript 12-04-2017

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Potochnik, Andre Oral History Interview 12-04-2017

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Potochnik, Andre. ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW. Transcript of recorded Interview conducted by Paul Hirt, Arizona State University, and Jennifer Sweeney, Four East Historical Research, LLC, on 4 Dec 2017, at Camp Verde, Arizona. Edited by Paul Hirt and Jennifer Sweeney.
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