August 4, 2017 |Tucson, AZ|02:15:57

Wegner, David Oral History Interview


So this is an oral history interview with Dave Wegner in Tucson, Arizona on August 4, 2017. And uh, thanks for coming to meet with us today [D.W.: You bet]. Really appreciate it. And if you could just start, we were having a little chat about your background in public lands and policy and uh, if you would just sort of go back to that conversation and fill us in about, you know, your experiences, where you used to work and how you originally got involved in the program.

00:00:01 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:00:29

Well, I think to put it in context, I should start kind of at the beginning.


00:00:34 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:00:35

Um, first off, my name is Dave Wegner. It’s W-e-g-n-e-r. Um, I was recruited to come work in Duchesne, Utah in 1974, for the Utah Division of Wildlife, specifically to work on the Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] for the Central Utah Project. [P.H.: Ahh.] Um, that project was to take water out of the Green River system, essentially, on that side of the Colorado River Basin, and capture it all and ship it over to the Wasatch front. So, my job was looking at the aquatic ecology and the limnology, the water chemistry of the rivers, of the lakes, and of the water, the reservoirs that the Bureau [U.S. Bureau of Reclamation] was intending to build or had already built. Um, from ’74 to ’75 and a half, I worked for Utah–State of Utah, and then the Bureau of Reclamation hired me as an engineering technician. One of my degrees is in engineering. And they wanted me to work on helping build the dams that the central Utah Project was building as part of that overall endeavor. I worked for, as an engineer, for two years, and then decided I was going to further my education, it was time to do it then, because I was going to get sucked into working forever if I don’t go back to school when I had to, or needed to. Went to Colorado State University where I got a degree in, it’s called river engineering, but it was geomorphology-related, how to rebuild rivers. Specifically, because the Bureau wanted me to look at, how do, how can we restructure rivers below dams after we build dams. Because they just were having terrible luck with, um, fish species, and biology, and all kinds of things. So, while I was at–going to Colorado State University and wor–and living in Fort Collins, I worked full time for the [U.S.] Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS].
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.

What years were that?

00:02:49 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:02:51

That would have been ’77 (pause) probably the end of ’77 through–no, it had to be–it had to be, like, November of ’77 to January of 1980. I got my master’s degree there, and then the Bureau recruited me to come back to work for them in Salt Lake City at the regional office, where I was, worked on the regional water quality staff, looking specifically at setting up the reservoir monitoring program for all the reservoirs in the Upper Colorado River Basin. So that’s what I did. That’s when I started working on Lake Powell, Flaming Gorge, the dam, the dams and reservoirs on the Gunnison system, Fontenelle Reservoir in Wyoming. So I got to know the watershed of the Upper Colorado River Basin intimately, and that was great. Um, along or about 1982, the middle, that would, probably in the Fall of ’82, um, we had a particularly sensitive Secretary of Interior by the name of Jim Watt, who was having chronic foot-in-mouth disease over his proclamations that he wanted to put additional generators on Glen Canyon Dam. Um, he wanted to do that without doing NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act environmental assessments]. He wanted to do it without having to worry about the Endangered Species Act [ESA] because that’s how it had always been done. Keep in mind, the Glen Canyon Dam was authorized by Congress on April 11th, 1956. Never had any NEPA compliance. Didn’t have to. There wasn’t a law then. Never had any ESA compliance, Clean Water Act, because those laws didn’t exist. So, this time around, Mr. Watt said, “Well, we’re just going to put generators at, on Glen Canyon, on the outlet works of Glen Canyon Dam, so we can increase–this was right after the energy crisis of the mid- to late seventies, when we needed more energy. The United States was looking to get out from underneath the, the yoke of foreign oil, et cetera, et cetera. And they were going to develop energy everywhere.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:04:59

[In] 1977, the Department of Energy–in fact, today is the anniversary of the Department of Energy going into business. Department of Energy took all the Bureau of Reclamation power marketing, r–jobs that we used to have in the Bureau, and those were all transferred to the Department of Energy, and that’s when Western Area Power Administration [WAPA] became the player that they are now is, you know, whatever how many years ago it is from today, when the Department of Energy was authorized. But to make matters worse, the Department of Energy and, who was populated now by a bunch of old Bureau guys had said, “Well, we’ve always just, we don’t need these, this environmental stuff. We’ll just go do it.” Well, they come to find out they had a particularly sensitive meeting in Page, Arizona for the environmental community, now knowing that the National Environmental Policy Act was in place, and they had rights to open, transparent process, that they called them out. And some, another particularly sensitive person from the Bureau of Reclamation stood up and said, “The Bureau buildeth, the Bureau can taketh away.” And that blew up. Coming back all around to Congressman George Miller. Who at that point was climbing up the ranks at, in the House of Representatives. Um, he became, he was very–still is, heavily involved in public land issues, especially Western public land and water issues. Had, had had run-ins with the Bureau of Reclamation in the past, and he said, “You can’t do that.” And so the, either Congress was going to implement some sort of requirement on the Bureau, at Glen Canyon Dam, or they were going to get sued by the environmental community. And, at that point, Secretary Watt basically decided, “Well, I’ve got to give myself some cover to protect this process. I still want to put these generators on there. I want–let’s just do the minimal amount of environmental compliance we have to.” Which is an Environmental Assessment [EA]. And so the Environmental Assessment was initiated on December 8, 1982. Part of that was that they had, they were initiating what’s called the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies [GCES]. So that’s where that came from. At that point I was, I had already been working at, at Lake Powell, on water quality stuff for the–through the regional office. I had already started working below Glen Canyon Dam when I was with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Fort Collins, looking at trying to figure out what’s the minimum flow, used to call it the minimum instream flow, that we needed–the Bureau needed to release from the dam to support the trout fishery that the Bureau, the Fish and Wildlife Service and Arizona Game and Fish [Department] [AZGFD] had initiated after the closure of Glen Canyon Dam. Um, so I was, at least as I was told, there were several folks in the regional office who were contacted by Washington and said, “We need to do some environmental studies below the dam to give us cover. We’re going to do the minimum amount possible, select somebody from the region who will go down there and initiate that.” Two engineers, two–and, before me, had turned it down, because they said, “That’s a no-end job, it’s not going to go anywhere, you know, and plus you’re going to have to move to Page or some god-awful place, and who wants to go there?”

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:08:29

Um, so I was asked, um, by the Regional Environmental Office, Harold Sersland at the time, if I would consider taking this position. And Cliff Barrett was Regional Director. Bill Plummer had been Regional Director, Cliff had come in and, they basically, as Cliff later told me, they wanted to put somebody down there who they knew would never get anything done. And so, being a biologist-scientist, they knew that, you know, engineers are God, in the Bureau of Reclamation. They’ve always been God, they always will be God. Scientists are, you know, we’re so far down the totem pole, it doesn’t, we don’t even register. So, I got selected to take that position on, and, but I was to be a staff of one. I wouldn’t have any staff. I couldn’t even have an office, officially. Um, they were wanting to move me to Flagstaff, Arizona, because that’s where all the environmental conservation community was. They’re the ones who were raising all the holy ruckus. They wanted to have somebody out there that could take the heat for the Bureau through all that. So, make a long story short, I took that job on, I moved to Flagstaff. My office, I was able to con, then, Gene Shoemaker, who was alive, I don’t know if you know of Gene, but he was the man who discovered the she–the Shoemaker-Levy comet out there. And he’s, well he’s, he was the guy that brought, um, the program to Flag–the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey] to Flagstaff, to help train the astronauts out on Meteor Crater and those places, Sunset Crater and those areas. So Gene took a liking to me. Sue Kieffer was another scientist who took a shine to me. She gave me a corner of her lab in, at Flagstaff USGS, and that’s where GCES started. And it was me. A staff of one.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:10:17

So, and then from there, of course 1983 happened [high water el niño year], um, when we almost lost Glen Canyon dam. So that changed the whole perspective on the studies. They were gonna–the studies were to be focused on, initially, bio–these were the categories I was given: sediment transport and physical hydrology, biology, and recreation. Go out and figure what to do. There was, there was zero direct–zero, no direction. It was go figure out what to do. What do we need? Go talk to people. Just get out of here, get out of Salt Lake, go down there. Just make them see that the Bureau has somebody out there fumbling around on this stuff. It’ll give us cover to do what Mr. Watt–by this time Mr. Watt had been like, oh, he had put foot in mouth one too many times with Nancy Reagan, and he was gone. Uh, Don Hodel, who came from the power marketing arena, became the new Secretary of Interior, and for some reason he kind of wanted to find out about issues in the West. And so, we chatted a lot about dams and things like that. He, at that point, had been previously involved with the Columbia River dams. So he was already knowing the impact of dams, through BPA [Bonneville Power Administration] and through the power marketing administration up there, to look at what some of the issues. And that’s where if you, I know you want to get to adaptive management, if you want to talk about the genesis of adaptive management in this country, it’s the Pacific Northwest. That’s where it started. It started with the Northwest Forest Plan, and it started coming out of the writings of Kai Lee, and Carl Walters, and everybody that was looking at those issues in the Pacific Northwest with the Columbia River. Because the Columbia, because of the salmon, and the iconic-ness of the salmon, had, this issue was on their radar screen far sooner than it was down in the South with humpback chub or squawfish or something that people couldn’t eat and couldn’t keep. If they catch them, they had to let them go.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:12:24

So 1983, though, really changed the dynamic, because now the studies, from just looking at the very narrow band that we were told to look at, which was the change of operation from present operating to what would happen if we added a couple of more generators to the river outlet tubes. So it was a very narrow band. After 1983, the Bureau was in total chaos, and I was at the dam when all this was going on. So I’m, you know, could see–

Are you talking about the flood year?

00:12:57 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:12:58

The flood, the, ’83 was the big flood year, and when we, met–it was the Saturday, they had to go up to Page, to go buy the marine plywood to throw on the top of the dam. I was up at the dam on that day. So–and you could just feel the dam rumbling and, when you saw chunks of concrete the size of Volkswagens, the old Volkswagens, flying out the spillway, and when you lost the sweep on the spillways, and then when the water turn red, you knew that the spillway tunnels had been compromised. The Bureau shut them down, put plywood on this, on the ups–on the upstream side of the spillway gates so we could put the reservoir into surcharge, so there was actually more water in the reservoir than it’s designed to hold. But what came out of that is that, the discussion that emerged, and I remember having this very discussion with Cliff Barrett and, and uh, the Commissioner at that point, was, well we could, you can, you could shut down the studies, and just say we’ve got bigger things to do. Or, we could postpone the studies until the Bureau got through this state of emergency–in ’83, actually ’84 was a bigger year than ’83. It was just the Bureau thought ahead, in ’84, to release more water all during the year, rather than wait until May to start releasing water, um, which the dam was not designed as a flood control dam. It’s designed as a storage dam. So, it’s not built like the Columbia River Dam. So it’s a whole different engineering perspective. Or the third option was, is we could embrace this opportunity and look at the whole range of operational issues at Glen Canyon Dam, the flood, so we can take into account the flood, we could take into account low flows, we could take into account operational changes that the Bureau may wish to look at down the road. So that was where the studies changed from being a very small entity to being a, potentially, a much larger entity as part of this. And as a result of that, um, the Bureau wanted me to include and embrace bringing other agencies into the process. Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geologic [sic] Survey, other Bureau folks, Arizona Game and Fish, and a whole variety of other agencies that have issues associated with the operation and maintenance, Western Area Power, of Glen Canyon Dam.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:15:27

So, I still didn’t have a staff, but at least I had the opportunity to go out and get, um (pause) cooperating partners, shall we say. And so, out of that, we began to implement the studies. And I hired Arizona Game and Fish, whoever was necessary. The key thing to all of this, and included in the December 8, 1982 memorandum, was that this shall be paid for through power revenues, which took me off books. Which was critical. Because if I had to go through Congress every year to get an appropriations in the Bureau of Reclamation budget–I worked in the House of Representatives. I know how this goes down. And if somebody doesn’t like what you’re doing, they just don’t give you the money to do it. Having an option, an opportunity to use the checkbook of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Storage Project [CRSP] was the most critical thing we did. And you see that, and if you go up and talk to any of the folks who work on the Columbia, they’ll tell you the same thing. The fact that we have revenue, dedicated revenue to us, from the generation of hydroelectricity, so all of a sudden it makes the hydro piece of this a partner and so they want to be engaged, and you want them engaged, but it also gives you opportunity every year to get dollars that didn’t require me to go through appropriations.

Was that December 1982 decision an act of Congress or a decision by the Reclamation [unintelligible]?

00:16:50 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:16:54

It was a decision by the Secretary of Interior. [P.H.: Secretary of Interior.] I got a memo in there someplace from Jim Watt, that says–

And it’s never been rescinded? That’s amazing.

00:17:00 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:17:03

No. (Pause.) There’s times, I mean, I’ve–between you and me and the and the fence post, and the recorder (laughter), I ran into Jim Watt, gosh, where was–I was in the Salt Lake City Airport, I’m going to say ’96, ’97, somewhere in there, and we got to chatting. I went up and reintroduced myself, because the last time I had actually talked with him was, he was Secretary of Interior, I was in the Secretary’s office, and his direction to me was, “You’re going to go down there and do environmental studies in the Grand Canyon, but we’re never going to change the way we operate Glen Canyon Dam. This is the way we’ve done things. We’re always going to do it, because I’m,” and his statement was, “If I started opening up Glen Canyon Dam to environmental review, it means I’ve got to open up all the other dams to environmental review.” They didn’t want to do that. No Way. No how. Because all of a sudden, it would let a bunch of conservation types, the David Browers of the world, all of a sudden have a say in how the dam is managed and operated. So sitting in front of his fireplace and having his finger pointing at me, you know, come forward a few years, meeting him in the Salt Lake City airport and he said, “I just should’ve given you a brown bag full of money, and told you to go away,” (laughter) you know, instead of giving you the access to the, to the, um, power revenue checkbook. And, because it just, it changed the whole dynamic of how I looked at how we were going to do business. Um, keep in mind, there was, the Bureau and this time was going through a lot of grief, trying to get Glen Canyon repaired. Glen Canyon wasn’t the only dam that was negative, was having problems. So they were running around the region, literally looking for, looking at other dams, because this could happen again.

Had Teton Dam just failed a few years before?

00:18:47 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:18:49

Teton had, had collapsed in ’76. I was working for the Bureau in Duchesne when it went down, and I got sent to Saint Anthony, uh, Idaho to look at the devastation, and that, that put a crimp in, um, the Bureau’s gate, so to speak. But, um, Glen Canyon was even wor–because they, it was close. To going, to losing–I don’t know if you would have ever lost the whole dam, but it would have had a significant impact on a lot of the dam structure itself and resources downstream.

Everything downstream.

00:19:19 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:19:20

But the dam is, is a sieve, as it is, where it’s built. It’s built in sandstone that leaks and, there’s nothing you can do about that. At least Hoover Dam was built in granite, and it’s solid, it’s, it’s going to go over the top of Hoover and probably destroy the power plant down below, but the dam will stay. Glen Canyon, not so much. Because of, just the way it’s constructed and where it’s constructed. But that being said, we began the process in along about, I want to say ’86, ’87, um (pause) the Sec–the Assistant Secretary for, then, Water and Science–I don’t know if it was Water and Science but–well, I think that was the name then, called me up and said, um, “The Bureau is–the Department of Interior is going to dedicate a couple hundred thousand dollars to this new entity called the Water Science Technology Board of the National Academy of Sciences. We don’t have any clue of what we want them to do. Might you have some idea on how to use the Academy of Sciences?” (Pause.) And you know, I may be dumb, but I ain’t stupid. I jumped on that, and this was a brand new board that had been set up, they were looking at issues with the Bureau, the Corps [Army Corps of Engineers], EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], et cetera. And we had already, I had already felt that we (pause) our science needed to be bolstered up, a lot. Nothing against people from Arizona Game and Fish or from the Fish and Wildlife Service or the Bureau, but we were just making up science as we went (pause) in the Grand Canyon. And that’s not a good way to do science. We had to have a plan. We had to think about how we were approaching issues, how, if our studies were going to stand the credi–the test of credibility. Um, so it really gave me an opportunity, then, getting engaged in with the, with the Academy of Sciences to get a broader perspective on how science could be, should be, nec–was necessary to be done in the Grand Canyon. We got hammered by the Academy of Science. Oh God. We got hammered. Because we weren’t doing that good of science. I mean, it was agency science. It was not plan out hypotheses, do credible reviews and development, go out there, collect it in a credible manner, in a robust manner, go through peer review to make sure it was–and we, it took us a couple of years to come out of our first review from the Academy, and I’ve got one of the books in there, but it’s, um, I’m sure you’ve had access to all of those, but it made us better scientists.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:22:07

And so at this point, they had jerked me back to Salt Lake, ‘cause they didn’t like the fact that I was getting a little too close to the scientists, and they wanted me to be removed from the scientists. And, um, so that when, you know, I went back to Salt Lake for a while from Flagstaff, and then, congre–and then come back around to George Miller. Um, George Miller was now chairman of the Natural Resources Committee in the House of Representatives. He had taken over from Mo Udall, who has–had just rescinded–Mo was almost ready to pass away and George and, and his staff director–first it was George and his, um, subcommittee staff director, Dan Beard, who called me and said, “The chairman would like to know more about what’s going on in the Grand Canyon.” So that’s when I first started interacting more with Dan. I had known him before, I met him before, when he was part of the Carter administration earlier on, but I didn’t really work with him. Now I was starting to work with Dan, and then when Dan got elevated to staff director for the whole Natural Resources Committee, uh, Dan had considerable clout in being able to get George out in front on issues, and he wanted to make–get George Miller out in front on issues. So, um, we started having these discussions, and I get called back to Washington to brief them, probably once every quarter or every three or four months, to go back and just keep the Congressman and his folks informed of what was going on.

Is this still 1986, ’87?

00:23:46 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:23:48

In the early eighties.

Oh, early eighties.

00:23:49 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:23:49

Maybe the middle, middle to the–well, it was probably ’84, ’85, somewhere in there. Concurrent with this, and the reason–George had, George Miller had moved up to being a powerful person in the Natural Resources Committee. George was going after the Bureau big time in California over the water issues, and to this day, it’s still one of George’s pet peeves, on how the Bureau of Reclamation literally, and still does, subsidize Westlands Water District and all the big guys who own tremen–there are mega-millionaires out there who are getting subsidized federal power and making huge money over this, hand over fist. Plus, then, we subsidize them for crops on top of it. So they’re just–and George always, and it was always a burr under his saddle. And so, anything that involved the Bureau of Reclamation, what was the next thing after California? Well, and California had just gone through Kesterson Reservoir, the water quality issues [P.H.: Right] out there where Dave Houston, the then-regional director was, um, foot-in-mouth disease time, and got exposed on 60 Minutes for lying about water quality. And so George was after the Bureau. So George adopted me, more or less, because I was, you know, I was the next river over, I was the Colorado River. We were working on these issues and, we were proving the Bureau had been operating that dam without any consideration for downstream resources. Whether it’s the Grand Canyon beaches, whether it was archaeological resources, whether it was endangered fish, whether it was, you know, whatever was going on downstream, the Bureau could care less. The Bureau had also picked a fight with the National Park Service over impacts associated with the operation of the dam. And then, there was a, um, a superintendent by the name of Dick Marks. Dick Marks did not like the Bureau. Because the Bureau would never do what the Park Service wanted the Bureau to do in the Grand–in, with Glen Canyon Dam to help mitigate some of the impacts that were going on the Grand Canyon. And this was the years where they were fluctuating from highs of 34,000 to lows of 3,000 [cfs, cubic feet per second] at night. So you had these huge swings, and boats were getting hung up, and beaches were exposed and then cutting away. And, and at one point early on, the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies were to be located at Grand Canyon National Park. Dick Marks–

South Rim?

00:26:18 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:26:19

South Rim. He said, “Over my dead body, will I ever let a [sic] Bureau of Reclamation establish an office at Grand Canyon.” So that’s when I got pushed to Flagstaff. But, um, so all this was going on, and George didn’t like the Bureau, Park Service didn’t like the Bureau. The Bureau had this big study now going on in the Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon Dam issues, we had the flood where we almost lost the dam in ’83, it was costing three times what the Bureau estimated to fix the spillways. It was just, the Bureau was out of control. And George was going to use this leverage to help. So anyway, we’re down–I had been jerked back to Salt Lake, um, I think Rick Gold was Assistant Regional Director, I don’t know who was at that point but, um, we were on a river trip, downstream, with, and then, I think Jack Davis was Superintendent of the park. Um, I think Rick was on that, Rick Gold was on that trip, I think Ken Maxey from WAPA, and George Miller. And we were at–George was, you could, I could just see George getting more steamed and more steamed as we came downstream from Lees Ferry. He just didn’t like what the Bureau was saying they were going to do with the–with these studies, how, you know, we were going to roll this through and get a NEPA done real qui–no, we weren’t going to do a NEPA then. We’re just not going to include NEPA at all, and, and how I was going to remain in Salt Lake so they could keep control of me. And George, we were at Grapevine Beach, to this day I will remember this as long as I live, I brought George down a beverage, and he, I could just see that he, this was not, he was not happy. And he basically walked back up the beach after this beverage and sat down, looked in the eyes and said, “This is what’s going to happen. Congress is going to start more oversight on the Glen Canyon Studies. So. And he is moving back to Flagstaff. And if you don’t like that, I do have control over your appropriations, Bureau of Reclamation, and you’re going to start seeing a lot more, um, things get thrown your way that you’re not going to like.” And so at that point we all get down to Phantom. Um–

What year was this?

00:28:31 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:28:32

I would, I’m going to say this was ’86, maybe ’87, somewhere in there. Um, but being what it may, um, I moved back down to Flagstaff, for the second time, at that point, and I was allowed then to start building part of the staff, so we could get after this. Um, George, true to George’s word, kept this thing spun up in Washington. So much so that, by ’89, the Bureau and the Department were in a position where they are going to get Congress telling them how to operate Glen Canyon Dam again. They didn’t want that. And I got a phone call late at night from the commi–the Acting Commissioner of Reclamation. He was obviously, had had a beverage or two, and said, “Well, you’ve got your damn EIS,” and slammed the phone down. Um (pause) you know, being what it is, we had the EIS, we had the direction that we were going to do the Environmental Impact Statement, and, at this point you know, it was clear that the Bureau was going to throw any hurdle they could in this to not make it succeed. So, along with the National Academy of Sciences, I had–let me see if I can find it real quick (reaches for a box of documents), I had initiated a program where I brought together the representatives of the agencies, in what I called the Executive Review Committee. Because I could see that I was going to get screwed, and the studies we’re going to get screwed big time, if I didn’t have some folks who were above me who knew what we were doing. And the Academy of Science said, “You know, you really should have some sort of organizational direction to this.”

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:30:28

And this is where the Executive Review Committee, this ultimately became what emerges today as the Adaptive Management Committee. It was only a group of five, at that point, and it was only federal agencies plus Arizona Game and Fish, but I didn’t have, there was nothing, you know, adaptive management, I was writing on adaptive management at this point. I brought it up to these folks, gave them presentations on it, starting to educate them, because I could see this is where ultimately, even if we, this was pre-NEPA, even if we didn’t do NEPA, we had to come up with a better way to manage our patterns of operations at Glen Canyon Dam. So the Executive Review Committee became my forum. And we met quarterly either in Albuquerque or Phoenix or Salt Lake or wherever the, where it needed to go, um, to make sure– And the Department of Interior was involved. So the Secretary’s office was involved in the Executive Review Committee. And that was Pat Port out of San Francisco. Their Regional Office in San Francisco. So, at this point, and then we would go back to Washington periodically to give updates and reviews to the Secretary’s office, and to Congress, and to members of Congress so that, knowing that this was still kind of expanding. After we got implemented into, roped into doing the full NEPA compliance, that changed the whole perspective of the program, because at that point, science needed to support the NEPA. And NEPA, um, they learned from how I ran the studies that they didn’t want me to begin running the NEPA, too. They knew that they did not want that. But I still had enough control through the other processes. So they tried, a couple of folks, they brought in a guy from Washington, DC to do the NEPA. They, at that point, oh, I was moved back to Salt Lake again for this. And we actually set up this fellow, Steve, what was his last name? I’ll think of it here. Um, he was, his claim to fame is he was dating Senator Paul Laxalt’s daughter. So, he would have this–and I have a staff of one at this point, I had a secretary who was assigned to keep watch over me and watch over Steve. Um, they moved us out of the Bureau building, because they didn’t even want the NEPA in the Bureau of Reclamation building in Salt Lake City. We were moved to the Key Bank building, which is downtown Salt Lake, but it used to be the old ZCMI area [ZCMI Center Mall]. I think that, I think it’s all been, now, changed with–the Mormon Church bought all that and redeveloped it down there. But we were in the Key Bank building, so we are physically removed from the Bureau. Um, they didn’t want us even in the Regional Office, because we were doing this and NEPA on this sacred thing called Glen Canyon Dam. They knew that if we started NEPA, we were likely going to have to do some changes. They didn’t want to be in [unintelligible] be involved in that.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:33:32

So, then, Steve didn’t work out. I was actually called over to the Regional Director’s office and said, “We’ve got to fire this guy, because he’s not doing anything.” I mean, he showed up at ten, was that the health club from ten-thirty ’til two, took a lunch and left at three. So he was not a good–then they brought in somebody from the Bureau of Indian Affairs [BIA] to run it, and they brought in some folks from other agencies to try to run NEPA and it just completely cratered. Because they just, you know, they couldn’t work with the Bureau system and the Bureau does business a whole lot different than any other federal agency, and you’ve got to know the culture, and you’ve got to know what levers to pull to get things done in the Bureau. So this–and we still had the Academy of Sciences going on too, so I had that piece going on. We had the science going on, so we were still looking at, now that we were in the NEPA process, and because the science, then, the National Academy of Sciences had made a recommendation that I hire a senior-level scientist. So I did. I went out and hired somebody off the committee, off their committee, Duncan Patten [P.H.: Ahhh, yes] from ASU [Arizona State University]. And his little, he was in a little shopping center, um, west of main campus in Tempe. There was a little shopping center place. There was a health club there, and there was a restaurant. We would go get coffee and, and Paul, Paul (pause) I can’t think of his last name, was also, there was two or three people, um, that were part of Duncan’s environmental staff there. So, I hired Duncan to be the senior scientist. So Duncan and I began this whole process of really charting out what the Academy wanted to see as good science, what the Bureau wanted to see, needed to have, to do a NEPA compliance. Now the way the Bureau was hamstringing the NEPA process is they would just slowball it. So, we had three or four people who came in and they tried to run NEPA, and it just wasn’t going anywhere. Because the Bureau wasn’t going to throw any muscle behind this, and they kept bringing in people that couldn’t do the job, and–but meantime, the science was going on, and about 1991, 1990, ’91, Grand Canyon Trust and a couple of other organizations, and, was starting to get upset that this thing wasn’t moving faster than that. It started in ’89, the NEPA compliance was, it should be moving along, and it wasn’t.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:36:06

So, for a lot of reasons, um, and several, there was one big lawsuit. Oh, I should–this is a good point. Because it actually is one of the reasons the Bureau felt they had to do the NEPA. I want to say in the spring of ’88, maybe in the middle of ’88, um, a lawsuit was filed against Western Area Power Administration, because the WAPA was reinstituting power contracts for C-R–the Colorado River Storage Project. Every peri–periodically, you have to go out and issue new power contracts for the people who are buying your electricity. Um, a lawsuit was made against WAPA that these contracts impacted how the Bureau operated the dam. And for a lot of reasons, of course, the Bureau said, “No, we operate the dam any way we want to operate the dam, because we’re the Bureau.” WAPA said, “Well, we think we just tell the Bureau, we have a contract, and this is what you’ve got to do.” That’s what they got sued over, is that those power contracts were really important to driving how the operations of the dam really resulted in the, in the hour-by-hour issue. The Bureau said, “Well, we operate it on an annual basis, and on, you know, a monthly basis. That’s, that’s the parameters we give to WAPA. And then WAPA figures out the hourly by, minute-by-minute, day-by-day, based on what the power grid needs.” And it’s really those contracts that were driving this huge fluctuation that you saw at Glen Canyon Dam. Well, that’s another place where I got sideways with the Bureau, because I got called as a witness by the people who were suing the Bureau and WAPA. So here I am. I’m in a courtroom being deposed, and then in the courtroom in Salt Lake City Federal Court, basically asking, being asked by the judge, “Do the operations of Glen Canyon Dam have an impact on the downstream environment, physical, biological, recreation?” The data was clear. I mean, I can’t lie. Absolutely it does. And he said, “Well, can–” And I had, we had some videos that we had taken, and slides and such. So I gave this all– interesting little tangent to this. The lawyer for all of this, was Ty–

For the plaintiffs?

00:38:26 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:38:27

For the plaintiffs, was Ty Cobb, who is today just been announced as the President of the United States’ lawyer. That’s the Ty Cobb that’s representing Donald Trump right now. Got appointed, what, two, three weeks ago. Anyway, Ty and I became great friends, because he knew I had the answer, and–and he is the grandson of Ty Cobb, the baseball player, and he is pugnacious. He is, he will rip you a new one, and he’s very, very good at it and he’s, and, but we developed a real, a friendship. About the same time, Grand Canyon Trust had emerged, and Ed Norton was the Executive Director of Grand Canyon Trust. Bruce Babbitt was one of the founding members of Grand Canyon Trust. This was right before Mr. Clinton was elected president. So Bruce was involved in this, he was Governor of Arizona. He would come down to, I would run into him on weekends in the Grand Canyon, because he liked to go hike in the Grand Canyon, and he actually broke one of my cable cars in the Grand Canyon, which he’s never paid for by the way, but his Secret Service guys or his governor security guy, at that point. Um, anyway, it was, uh, so Bruce was, and the Grand Canyon Trust, were pushing this. You had this lawsuit with that–the plaintiffs won. And WAPA had to initiate NEPA compliance. Well, that was the death knell for Glen Canyon–for the Bureau, because they knew that if they were going to have to do NEPA compliance on operations, that they were going to get roped into doing NEPA compliance on Glen, on the whole operations of Glen. So that’s how the NEPA process really got structured, and why they didn’t want me to run it, because I was always, I was already on the outer side, because I had been called as a–


00:40:19 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:40:20

Yeah. And so, it was always an interesting–I was being cross-examined by a Department of Justice lawyer, while my lawyer was Ty Cobb. You know, it’s just, I don’t know how it all just worked out, but it did, for a lot of reasons. But, so the Executive Review Committee was, was trying to transition out knowing they’d have to go to a NEPA process, but they were still in–they were involved almost all the way through the thing. We had the National Academy of Sciences continuing to put out their reports, and then out of all of this, the Grand Canyon Protection Act [GCPA] was born. And it was, its genesis was on a beach in Grand Canyon, um, where Ed Norton–Ed Norton and I actually talked about the need to do the Grand Canyon Protection Act in the old Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Flagstaff, on Route 40 there. Um, one evening [unintelligible] talked ’til three in the morning. I had a lot of coffee that night over what the, what a Grand Canyon Protection Act might look like, and what did it need to include and how might that look. And of course, if it had been public that I was working with Grand Canyon Trust or any of these folks. But Ed and I had, we had a rela—you know. When you were a staff of–and you were on your own, and there was nobody literally to supervise me, um, I went out and did what I felt was right. I didn’t do it if it was the Bureau way or anything else, I just wanted to get the job done, and make sure that we were doing what was right for the Grand Canyon. And so, out of that, the Grand Canyon Protection Act was, was born. It took, took a couple of times to get it passed. It was finally passed in ’92 as part of a larger omnibus bill. But that is where the genesis of adaptive management, that then became embraced in the EIS, began. And if you go and look at the committee reports and everything that goes along with it, this concept–and keep in mind that I had been going back to Washington and doing briefings for folks, and I would always bring up, “We’ve got to do monitoring and science different after we get through this, folks.” Because we’re going to have a– we’re not going to know– we’re not gonna be able to know everything going into this. And I, at that point, had already started reading what they were doing in the Northwest and around the country on this concept, at that point, of adaptive management, how we might structure that.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:42:44

And along about ’87, I remember making a presentation to the Executive Review Committee about adaptive management. This is what they’re doing in the North– Pacific Northwest. This is what they’re trying to do, and these are the reasons why we– they are doing it there, and why we might want to consider it. So George wanted to make sure, George Miller, wanted to make sure it was captured in the Grand Canyon Protection Act, which it was. And um, and then it began to become a focal point in the NEPA document, the NEPA process, too. So along about– the reason this had to go is because in here, the other part that’s important of the Grand Canyon Protection Act, is it gave an endpoint to the NEPA process. It said, you will be done by the end of 1996. So, that being said, it gave us, now, a timeline. The Bureau couldn’t wiggle out of this. Even though they could make it look bad, they couldn’t get out of doing NEPA compliance by just slow-balling it, slow-walking it. So, the timeline was set. Duncan Patten had been hired as a senior scientist. Duncan and I met almost every week down at ASU on some issue or another because we were really trying to ramp up the studies to meet, now, the NEPA need. And that’s when we got into this idea of doing interim flows. We needed to have ten, eleven-day periods of certain flow regimes and have scientists spread out in the canyon to look at what different flow regime, different al–ultimately they became the elements of the alternatives that were in the EIS. So we did a whole, for a year and a half, we did various ramping rates, differences, highs, lows, seasonal, looking at seasonal pieces, and every ten days we up in a helicopter, flying the Grand Canyon, taking pictures as the flows dropped out to see what the beaches had done. See where backwaters were. See where different issues had come–had arisen with rapids. And, you know, we were–where the rapids were, or debris flows, or looking at the science and how all this was put together. So–

May I ask for some clarification on that? [D.W.: Sure.] So, um, who provided the authority to force the Bureau to do those flows that the scientists said we’d like to–it was the Grand Canyon Protection Act, it was part of the–

00:44:50 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:45:06

The Grand Canyon Protection Act gave the end point [P.H.: Uh-huh], and backing up from when you had to have a draft done, and then when you had to get the science done, we only had a couple of years to physically get the science that we needed. And Duncan and I both agreed the only way we’re going to do this, if they wanted us to look at a variety of alternatives, was to run a series of alternatives. So the authority came from the fact that the Bureau had to abide by the Grand Canyon Protection Act now–they were under a lawsuit at the other end that said you will do NEPA. So it wasn’t, if they knew that if they didn’t do NEPA, they were going to get sued, and now Congress was going to take even more control if they weren’t satisfied. So–

And a new administration is coming in right about that time, right?

00:45:50 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:45:53

And, lo and behold, who becomes Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation than Dan Beard (chuckling).

Staff person for George Miller.

00:45:58 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:46:00

xactly. He had been staff director for George’s Natural Resources Committee. So (pause) Dan went down to be Commissioner. He didn’t necessarily–he was offered the position of Assistant Secretary. He didn’t take that because, he said, “I want a position where I have some money, where I can do something with.” And Dan being Dan, um, he’s a go-getter. He is–he goes in and fixes things. He’s always been a fixer. But he’s good for about two to three years. Before then, he’s just, he gets tired of it, and he wants to move on to the next challenge. So, he told me he had two years probably in as Commissioner, and that, “Oh, by the way, you’re now working for me as Commissioner, even though your paycheck is, comes out of the Regional Office. You’re, you report to me.” So you want to know who the authority was? It was Dan Beard, the Commissioner. They said, “You–whatever you need, you got it.” And Bruce Babbitt, at that point, was Secretary of Interior. So Bruce was interested in this because of the Grand Canyon and, you know, his relationship with it. Secretary of Interior, Arizona boy, the Grand Canyon Protection Act was sponsored by not only George Miller, but John McCain. So Senator McCain and I became very good friends. Um, and his staff, we talked a lot. Senator Bill Bradley, um, who was in the Senate at that point, in the committee that was over on the Senate side for the same thing. Um, Tom Jensen, who worked for Senator Bradley, became very interested in the Grand Canyon, more because he liked to do river trips. Um, so we spent–I spent a lot of time (pause) I didn’t necessarily start out this way, but I ended up this way, cultivating the Beltway. So that they supported what we were doing. And that worked great for a while. But then you know, you get that phone call from your boss and friend Dan Beard one day and he said, “Well, I’m leaving. I’ve had enough. I don’t want to take any more of this,” because he was getting a lot of pushback from Babbitt on issues. More because the vice–at that point, Bill Clinton was Secretary [sic, President]. Um, Gore was Vice President.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:48:13

Gore had instituted a program called the Golden Hammer Award, where he was going to go up and clean up the government. You know, get rid of, there, were used to be the old Golden Fleece Award, that William Proxmire had [P.H.: Right]. Well, Al Gore had the Golden Hammer Award. And so he wanted people, and Dan Beard was his poster child. Because Dan went through and completely redid how the Bureau of Reclamation was managed, and created a whole lot of enemies in the Bureau. To this day, they’re, the Bureau is full of people who hate Dan Beard. Because he changed the way the Bureau did business. He got them out, you know, he closed the Yuma desal [desalting] plant, said we’re done with that white elephant. We’re not going to do–because it’s not cost effective. It’s not, it’s never going to be cost effective, it’s been a white elephant from day one, it’s going to always–he did things in California, and he took on the Colorado River issue. And there’s a lot of people in the Bureau who don’t still today– But I became, again, you know, I was working for Dan, so I was put on the outside and wasn’t necessarily engaged in a lot of the internal discussions that they were having in Washington. Um, the next Secretary, or the next Commissioner, wasn’t quite as engaged. He was from New Mexico but wasn’t as engaged in–Eluid Martinez was the, the next Commissioner who came on, replaced him, nice New Mex–guy from New Mexico. If I wanted a grandfather, he’d be it. Really nice guy, but just was not–purposely, he was not Dan Beard. And Bruce didn’t want somebody like a Dan Beard as Commissioner again. So, um, all of this, and so, adaptive management, and then the Bureau decided they were going to have the Denver office kind of be the point on the NEPA process, and that’s when Tim Randall and that crew started the physical writing of NEPA [the EIS] out of the Denver Technical Service–

Why did they move it from Salt Lake City? I presume it would have been–

00:49:57 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:50:01

Because they had, they, Salt Lake had failed miserably in, in this whole process–

In completing the EIS.

00:50:06 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:50:07

Yeah, and bringing people, in trying to hire people to write the EIS, they just could not get their proverbial act together. And for a lot of reasons it got, and Dan was one of them, it got moved to Denver. And Tim Randall and company picked it up and they did, they did a great job. I think the world–Tim worked for me in the Grand Canyon early on, so I’ve known Tim a long time, and we–

So we’re now in the mid-1990s?

00:50:26 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:50:28

Yeah, we’re in the mid, well, probably in ’93, ’94 era, in there.

How long was Dan Commissioner? From ’93 to–?

00:50:32 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:50:35

Well, let me see. When did Clinton come in? Ninety—[P.H.: ’93], ’93. He was two years. So he left in ’95 [P.H.: OK], right before we got to the real heavy part–lifting part. But it was all right, because he had gotten us through the piece we needed to have cover for. And we needed a lot of cover in those days, because people were not happy that we were playing around with flows, trying to do the science. The Academy of Science[s] kept pushing us to do more, issues associated with that. Congress was ge–becoming more engaged, and wanted to have a dialogue on this for diff–for a lot of reasons. And so, out of, and, and the studies had gotten some notoriety, because of what we were doing. People from all over the world–I mean, everybody wants to go to the Grand Canyon and see what was going on, and so we were getting a lot of push on this. And then, out of this, for three–for two years prior to ’96, Duncan and myself and the scientific group said, “We really need to do a physical test of adaptive management.” We need to do a–we think we need to do an experimental flood of some sort, to redistribute sediments. Because the beaches were going in the Grand Canyon at an alarming rate, um, even with, because of, some of it was because of the interim flows that we instituted, some of it because it was just the nature, we don’t have any sediment coming into the system anymore. And the system had caught up. In the mid-’80–when, we started the program after the–earl– before the flood in ’83, the system had been slowly pushing the sediment out of Marble Canyon. At rates–but nobody was monitoring at that point. So ,we knew the beaches were getting smaller downstream.

But no numbers.

00:52:23 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:52:24

But no numbers. After ’83, the first flood in ’83, there were huge beaches in the Grand Canyon, because all that sediment that was on the bottom of the river got churned up by 90,000 cubic feet per second and redeposited high. So, they were–shouldn’t probably tell you this, but they were landing airplanes down in National Canyon. Um, there was a lot of stuff going on. This was before the air rules came in at Grand Canyon National Park. There was a cert–well, he’s dead now, so I can use his name. Martin Litton was well known for flying his airplane up and down the Canyon and dropping–

The river runner? (Speaking simultaneously)

00:52:55 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:52:56

Dropping– Yeah, dropping ice cream for his crew, for his–


00:52:59 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:53:00

Oh God, yeah. Ah. Martin and I became great friends in later life. I have one of his original dories [P.H.: Wow] in Durango. So he’s, he was a mentor to me in many different ways. In fact, in 19–the Fall of 1983, there was a, um (pause) so this was after the big flood, there was a outfitters meeting at the South Rim. This is where the concessionaires who have the contracts for running river trips in the Grand Canyon, they used to get together every Fall, usually December, at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. And the Superintendent will give them, this is how you’re going to operate in my park, you know. And it was Dick Marks, Superintendent. So it was, this is how you’re going to operate in my park, sort of thing. And, um, Martin and Georgie White, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Georgie White.

I do know Georgie White.

00:53:52 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:53:53

Um, they took, they decided they needed to figure out–they didn’t trust, nobody trusted the Bureau. The Bureau was hated by the concessionaires, by everybody, for a good, probably good reasons, but they decided they needed to learn a little bit more about the Bureau, and who I was, and whether they could talk to me. So ,we closed the bar at El Tovar (laughter), a couple of nights running, and over many martinis, um, Martin said, “Well, I don’t necessarily trust the Bureau but I trust you. So we’re going to, I’m going to give you stuff. I’m going to feed you stuff.” A lot of old photographs, things like that, of what the river was like beforehand. So, um, long story short, there were several people who did that for the studies, because they, they appreciated–

They provided historical information about the changing river conditions.

00:54:39 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:54:42

A lot of historical [unintelligible]. They would never give it to the Bureau, but they would give it to the Glen Canyon studies. Because they saw that we were down there trying to do our best. And we were fumbling around, and we admitted when we fumbled, a lot. And so we had to rebuild on a lot of the, the process that we were–and we were learning as we were going. We were true adaptive management from day one. We learned as we went, we made tons of mistakes. We learned from the mistakes and we moved forward. But out of all of this process, the, the staff of the Glen Canyon studies went from being two or three of us to, I had 160 scientists around the country working on this, on this program. So we had, we had exploded, exponentially in my mind, on how we were doing the work to meet up to these needs. Adaptive management became that focal point of the–of the EIS, because it needed to be there to be different. And you’ll, if you look, look at the original Biological Opinions for the Columbia system, they don’t talk about adaptive management. Adaptive management didn’t come in until really, in terms of a government dams perspective, until Glen Canyon. Now it’s embraced all over the place, and I’m so happy for that. Because it’s, it needs to. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But it gives you a framework of process.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:56:11

So the first flood. It got shot down the first time because we just, there were threats of lawsuits. Got shot down the second time because Trout Unlimited was going to sue the Bureau over impacts to the trout fishery below the dam. Even though it’s an exotic species in a river below a dam. But nonetheless, the Bureau wasn’t going to go there. But we did get it the third time. And I remember Bruce Babbitt calling me up and saying, “Well, I wasn’t going to come out, but now that you’ve gotten your, the court approval to go ahead with this experimental flood in March of ’96, I’m going to come out.” And so literally, I met him, I met Bruce at the, whatever the hotel is right coming off the, out of Page on the way to the dam. And we had dinner that night and chatted about a bunch of things, but he was, of course, he was down at the base of the dam in the morning on Good Morning America and whatever you– The Today Show, and rightfully so, Secretary of interior, he ought to take all the credit for this. And uh, and so the flood, you know, it went off. And so he wanted all of a sudden, Bruce became very interested in what was going on below the dam. Now that he knew we were going to, we were going to finish an EIS, so he was going to be able to report to Congress on a positive note. We weren’t going to get sued, because that had been put away by the judge saying, “They can do the flood,” so to speak. And that we were getting a lot of credits all over the world, and he was being asked to speak on what was going on in the Colorado River, and how his administration was changing the way the Bureau did business through Dan Beard. Even though Dan had left by this time. And so Bruce was, you know, fairly emphatic that we were going to continue on this. And in fact, the night before, the evening before the flood started, he and I had a long–we went up, we got off the river–I had taken a river trip with all the press and everybody from Glen Canyon Dam down to Lees Ferry. And there were a bunch of people on that trip, a bunch of dignitaries and politicians and, um, press, et cetera. And so Bruce and I, we took a, we walked up into the cemetery at Lees Ferry. Pretty sacred spot. It is to me at least, you know, that’s where the folks who ran Lees Ferry, that’s where they’re buried, you know, that’s a pretty sacred spot. And we had a discussion that basically said, “I’m so happy with what has happened here, but we want to take what you’ve done here at the Glen Canyon studies, and we want to expand that to become a much bigger program across the Bureau of Reclamation.”

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 00:58:47

And we want you guys, your, we now are going to have to set up this Grand Canyon monitoring center. Because that’s what he had agreed to do. And it’s going to be set up in Flagstaff and, but we, we’re going to keep your crew together, basically, to do this adaptive management concept around the Bureau. For a lot of reasons, uh, that I won’t go into, that didn’t quite work out as he had told us it would work out. And at that point he, Bruce was under a lot of pressure, because Congress had flipped and Newt Gingrich was now Speaker of the House. Newt was no way, no how going to let Bruce’s biological survey [National Biological Survey, NBS] survive. It wasn’t going to happen. So Bruce was left trying to figure out how to take–and his whole concept was to set up the Biological Survey to be a replica of the US Geological Survey. So it was going to be a separate entity. So ultimately, when Gingrich took away the money, took away the ability for (pause) Babbitt to do his job, essentially, it forced Babbitt to take the eight regional directors he had already selected to run the survey and repopulate them in back into what’s now the USGS. And that’s when all the scientists in the Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau, all those got assimilated into the USGS. So the science programs and all the agencies got cut off at the knees. So–all, I mean it was, it was a bad deal. It didn’t, it wasn’t Bruce’s fault, but it was kind of his fault that it ended up this way. And Gingrich and others made sure that science was, in my mind, forever changed in the Department of Interior. And, but adap–we had the flood, adaptive management work, I got called back to Washington a bunch of times to, to um, talk about it. And uh, and for a lot of reasons we decided to part ways. But adaptive management, the first experiment, the first full-scale national experiment for adaptive management was the flood.

That 1996, March 1996 (speaking simultaneously) experimental flood.

01:00:52 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:00:54

March 1996. And we did, we had more science going on and I had trips on the river for post and pre, post, during, flying helicopters in and out all the time. And it was just, it was, it was a great time to be a scientist, because we were really doing, we didn’t know what to expect. Nobody had ever done this before. Nobody. So, you know, we just, we had people from all over the country, all over the world, who came to see or participate in this. The nice thing that we were able to do, that they won’t–they will–they decided they never would allow this again, is that I coupled the power revenue money with other funds. So I had EPA money, I had money from National Geographic Society. I brought in money from five or six sources to augment the basic science money. And that really gave us flexibility to do the kind of adaptive management that we felt we needed to do.

Was, was that how you got from a handful of researchers and studies to 160–?

01:01:51 Paul Hirt
Potochnik, Andre Profile Photo
Andre Potochnik 01:01:55

Part of that. Yeah. Part of that was bringing in alternative funding and going out and getting academia to step up and say, “I’ll give you options to come on river trips and do science. The kind of science we need if you’ll, you know, backfill some of the costs for your, um, for your, um, research people.” You know, it’s–so we, we worked out a lot of deals like that, that [unintelligible] they can’t do now, they won’t do now, so. It’s just, you know, but that’s what–but again, nobody gave us any direction. But being involved with the National Academy of Sciences gave me a perspective on how you could work this. Because the Academy at this point was working, starting to work on the Everglades, starting to–they were doing work on the Mississippi after the floods in the Mississippi in the early nineties, working on the Columbia. So I got exposed to a much broader context of scientists working on these large ecosystem-based programs, that I never would have if I had stayed insulated just within the Bureau. So to this day, I am now, I’m–the Academy now has me on their board, working on this issue. Um, and specifically, they’ve asked me to come and work on adaptive management, but they want to make that a key part of the new Water Science Technology Board approach, is how can we take adaptive management and apply it elsewhere. Part of that was, because now, fast forward, I left, I left the Department of the Interior on December 31, 1996. Had my own consulting firm that I started up where I focused on river engineering and looking at issues around the world. So I went to Siberia to Japan all over the world, looking, Costa Rica, looking at dam–how to re-operate dams.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:03:49

Out of that then, here comes George Miller back into my life. Um, we have a new president who is elected, Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama had George Miller as one of his transition folks. George was responsible for helping to spool up what was going to be the Department of Interior. And knowing that, um, Ken Salazar was going to be Secretary. So Ken was kind of doing his thing at his level. Um, George wanted somebody to work with on the Hill, who could be the conduit for Congress, working on, with the agenc–somebody who knew the agency. So you had to know the agencies inside and out. Had to know where the skeletons were buried. You had to know how to work at that level, and how to be able to communicate with them. Somebody who also knew how to communicate with the scientific world. So the National Academy of Sciences, the triple, American, triple A-S [AAAS, American Association for the Advancement of Science], all the quasi–all the organizations who are on the science side of academia, who deal with water. So, George calls me up and says, um, “The president, wants us to make a big push on this area with Western water issues,” specifically Indian water settlements. We want to look at dam operations and river operations and oh, by the way, we want you to come back to work on the Hill. We want–and we want to place you in Congress so you’re on staff, so that you have direct access to all 435 members to help see what we can do in this arena. And so we did. And at that point, we also had, we were implementing the Recovery Act [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009]. So there was a lot of money that needed to go out into the energy field, the water programs. You know, we were trying to get America back on its feet again after the debacle of the, of the recession. So that was on my agenda, too. So I came back and said, “Okay, George, um, you need to give me some help (laughs) because I’ve not worked on the Hill.” I mean I’ve been to the Hill, given a lot of briefings, but I have not worked on the Hill. He said, “Don’t worry about it. I’m going–I got you covered.” So George was my person on the Hill when I first got there.

And who were you working for when you–

01:06:10 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:06:11

I was working, actually, for the committee, the Natural Resources Committee. George’s old committee. He said, because that’s where the Bureau is.

The House?

01:06:16 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:06:17

Yeah, the House, House of Representatives. Because that’s where the Bureau is physically, administratively located under the Natural Resources Committee. At that point, Nick Rahall had taken over. George had moved over to education, but George and Nick were, and still are, great friends, and so Nick convinced, or George convinced Nick, to hire me to come back and do this. So that’s what I did.

Did you have a specific position, working in adaptive management, or were you staff?

01:06:41 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:06:46

I was Staff Director.

Staff Director for the—(speaking simultaneously) House Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee.

01:06:47 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:06:48

For the Water and Power Subcommittee. Um, sp–I was specifically over the Bureau. And the Western water settlements, and the programs that are part of Western water, in particular. Um, so out of that I began working with all the members who were interested in this area, continued the dialogue with the Academy of Sciences, Ameri–the triple A – S [AAAS], and starting to bring up our level of knowledge on the House staff side. Because (pause) I hate to say this, but there’s very few staff in the House of Representatives that (A) know there’s a country west of the hundredth Meridian (interviewer chuckles). They’re just, most of them are East Coast policy–they come out of the schools that churn out policy people in the East. Or (B) know that Western water is different than Eastern water. And that it’s managed differently, and there’s a whole different set of water laws, and that the Native Americans, the Indian tribes, have a federal reserved water right. And that we, we have an obligation, because we established a treaty with them. And if they’re federally recognized we have to work with them to make sure they’re taken care of. So those were the big areas that I was asked to jump into right away.

By any chance, did you work on the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s water? (Speaking simultaneously) Okay.

01:08:03 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:08:06

Oh, yeah. Yeah. Ann Kirkpatrick was Congresswoman early on in that. Yeah, yeah. And Salt River Project, and others, were all in it–so I’ve, yeah, I’ve worked on a lot of these issues over the years. So that came on. Um, then we had another revolution, of sorts, in the House, and we lost the House, and the Republicans took over. At that point I was asked to go over to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, so I could take what I was doing with natural resources and apply it to the Corps of Engineers, EPA, FEMA, the other federal agencies. And George, again, asks, called up and said, “I would really like you to go over,” and Nick Rahall called and said, “I would really like you to come with me.” Because Nick had now migrated over to become the ranking member on T and I [Transportation and Infrastructure Committee]. And because, um, the Congressman from Minnesota had lost his race and–

T and I, (speaking simultaneously) Transportation and Infrastructure.

01:09:04 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:09:05

Transportation and Infrastructure. So it gave me this additional national perspective. And so we started to bring the concept of adaptive management into the Corps of Engineers, EPA and the other—St. Lawrence Sea[way]– and all the various important–Tennessee Valley Authority, was under that subcommittee. And so all of that became part of the group that I was asked to work with. So, as part of that, then, I got interested in, again, adaptive management. So, I had this great group of graduate students of sorts. Well, they’re much more, they’re professional people, at the, at the Library of Congress, called the Congressional Research Service. So, lo and behold, I found out one day, I could just call them up and say, “I need you to do a report for me on this issue or another issue or whatever,” and I did. So I learned, and they were constantly coming into my office, they–them and GAO [Government Accountability Office, prior to 2004 called the Government Accounting Office] to–because we had to, kept asking him to do stuff for us. So out of that, I commissioned the Congressional Research Service to start doing reviews on adaptive management around the world, around the country.

So this was like 2010, 2011?

01:10:13 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:10:15

Well, this is act–this first report came out on October 21, 2010. “Adaptive Management in Ecosystem Restoration Initiatives.” So, and Glen Canyon’s one of the programs that I had them review, but I also had them look at the Platte River, Missouri River, Everglades, Lower Colorado Multi-Species Program, a whole variety. And then I had them list the benefits and the difficulties. Les–I wanted to really learn, get a kind of a lessons learned from this. So, um, one of the nice things about being former staff is I can still call up and have them do this, do these sorts of things, as long as I have a member sign a letter. And so they’re finishing up the second version of this now, where I’ve had them go back and explore again, let’s [unintelligible]– let’s cast a broader net over where adaptive management has been applied. Because now you, you see it, you see those two, two words in almost every NEPA document now that has to do with water or environmental management, or you’re even seeing it now populate into energy reports, et cetera. So, because the energy companies are getting into it. So what I find is that, I have members who I still consult with on a fairly regular basis in Washington, who are smart people and–I know you got to get going–smart people in your own time but–in on their own right, but they don’t understand the concepts of how they’re–these things are applied. So, I still provide a service to members, where I’ll go and explain things to them. They’ll call me up and say, can, I know, “When you’re in Washington next, can you come in and explain how this works, in simple terms that I’ll understand?” And that’s not a derogatory statement about our members of Congress, just the fact that they’ve got so many things coming at them, that to explain to them the nuances of what we wrote in ’92 and what–how it’s played out, and what it now, how it affects what they are going to be taking their little plastic card and voting on at some point. That’s my job still once a staffer, always a staffer. You educate, and continue to educate, both them and the, and the staff over how these things are applied. And so, this concept of adaptive management is getting enough air time that it’s now becoming part of the discussion. But again, they don’t understand it all the time, what it means, and what its implications are to a particular issue or project or case. So, helping to explain that for them is what I do. So. And now I’m helping students do it. So, who are writing on these issues. So, you know.

At which universities are you (D.W.: Whew) working with students?

01:12:57 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:13:00

I work with students at University of Washington, University of Minnesota, Colorado State. Um, you know, a variety of US–UC [University of California] Berkeley, um, let’s see, I’ve had one at UC Irvine. She just graduated. So, you know, and NAU [Northern Arizona University] occasionally. So it’s just around, people are interested. Um, there’s the Water Resources [Research] Center here on campus [at University of Arizona], Sharon Megdal and her group. I lecture to them and have taken, she’s asked me to take a couple of her students under my wing, so, educate them, so, you know–I have the luxury now of being able to do that. They can’t fire me anymore (laughter). Even though I did get fired three times on the Glen Canyon studies.

And they kept bringing you back.

01:13:43 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:13:44

Somebody kept–I had a guardian angel of sorts [P.H.: Yeah], several of them over the years, who kept saying, “You can’t do that.” You know, I had members of various administrations who would come on river trips and perhaps consume a little bit, and decide they were Jesus Christ and decide to walk across the river, and go in and rescue them and they didn’t like being rescued, hurt their self-image. So, I was fired for that once, so, um, you know. Goes with the territory. Took it personal for a while, but not anymore.

When you’re retired, you can afford to be magnanimous more so than when you’re working for a paycheck for someone.

01:14:15 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:14:20

Well, yeah, though, one of the reasons I had a little bit of initial pushback with you, Paul, is that, as of three weeks ago, there was somebody in the Regional Office in Salt Lake who complained about adaptive management and the fact that I had gotten it started at Glen Canyon, because it was costing the Bureau so much money (laughter). Yeah, so there’s still, even after all these years, people who don’t particularly like what we’ve done, but I would–I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe a few things, but–

Let’s take a brief break. We can grab something to drink, a little bit of water. I’m going to ask at the front desk if we can extend our time here in the room, and we’ll start again in, like, five minutes.

01:14:51 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:15:02

Sure. We, uh, but I know it’s Friday and you guys probably want to get back to [unintelligible].

Jennifer Sweeney 01:15:06

All right, so I’m going to stop, and we will restart with another file [D.W.: OK] when we continue.

Pause in recording.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:15:13

Okay, um, so you asked, kind of, what are some of the key points along the way. And I would say that (pause) to categorize it, there was kind of three prongs on adaptive management that were moving forward simultaneously from about 1985 forward. This was after we got the first–that we first started to look at, um, the Grand Canyon and the operations of the dam after the high flows of ’83 and ’84 and ’85. Part of it was–and, there, those three prongs are the scientific prong of it, moving forward, the administrative prong of it, which is the executive review committee and, and the agencies associated with that. And then the third piece would be the public piece of that. Because we, we were educating, we were bringing the public along with us, in this, and, and especially after NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act EIS process] was started in ’89, after we started to have public meetings. And, um, the public was part of the process now. You couldn’t shut them out anymore. In fact, for the first, um, NEPA scoping meeting that was held in Flagstaff, Arizona by the Bureau of Reclamation, got about ten minutes into it. And they had to shut it down because there was not–the fire marshal came in and said, you got too many people in the high school–Flagstaff High School Auditorium. That was the interest the public had in this, because the public had been pushed down so long by the Bureau. The old adage, “The Bureau buildeth, the Bureau taketh away,” continued, that was their philosophy. And so the pu–so those were the three prongs. So let me speak to that, first off.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:17:08

I think scientifically, the genesis of the adaptive management really began with when we brought the National Academy of Science onboard. This first report in 1987 was (pause) and it was titled, the Review of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Glen Canyon Environmental Studies. It was hard on us, for all the right reasons. Because we had started out in the planning and management of this, um, and I’ll just say, um, they, they basically said, “You’re weak on your direct–your objectives, and articulating them,” you know, things like that. “The science could be improved upon. The whole process that you’re moving forward on trying to do good science around this set of questions is not scientifically supportable.” Harsh to hear if you’re an agency science, scientist who’s been down in 115-degree heat, pulling nets in the Grand Canyon, but absolutely necessary. It made us grow up. And it became better organ–um, better because of that. Subsequent review–and the, and I guess the genesis for adaptive management began with that. Because we all of a sudden said, “We’re not going to be able to understand and give specifics on everything that the government wants us to give on.” So we’re going to figure out a way to, how to do monitoring that will feed back into this. And I didn’t use the terms “adaptive management” at that point, but that’s exactly what it was. We had to start thinking of that.

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Dave Wegner 01:18:47

The next big effort that we did, we held a symposium in 1990 in Santa Fe, for the Colorado River ecology and dam management. We brought together, again, high level scientists and, and um, National Academy of Science folks to not only continue the review of what we were doing in the Colorado river, but to kind of get us over that next hump. And that’s, again, and now adaptive management begins to be talked about in terminology–in that terminology. And then, of course, we get into the final one they did for me, and they did two more after this, but river resource management in the Grand Canyon, and this from a scientific, is where it’s embraced full bore. You know, this is where adaptive management all of a sudden becomes the element that, then, ultimately gets embraced in the Grand Canyon Protection Act in section 1805. So there’s this–this is the science prong of adaptive management. So you asked for where are the, the, kind of the documents that articulate that. It’s there. Administratively, we began the process, this report, this was the final report, 1988. So this is May of 1988. I would say, the first time I–

That’s the Grand Canyon Environmental Studies final report?

01:20:08 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:20:11

This? No, this is the Executive Review Committee. This is what was leading us up to the EIS. [P.H.: Uh-huh.] So this was the Executive Review Committee., it was all the Department of Interior, and I had, I had put this together because I won’t– the–I kept getting calls from all the various agencies, the regional and–this, these were all Regional Directors. These were not delegated to some staffer down on the bottom of the totem pole. The RDs would come to these meetings, and be briefed by us. “This is what we’re doing, this is why we’re doing it, um, this is the people we’re coordinating with.” As an example, when Cliff Barrett was Commissioner, was, um, Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation in Salt Lake City, Upper Colorado Region. Once a month, we would take the Bureau jet, um, Aero Commander, down to L.A. [Los Angeles] to meet with Dennis Underwood, who was then head of Metropolitan Water District [of Southern California]. You don’t think that the Bureau of Reclamation, what we did at Glen Canyon, wasn’t important to California? Every month we’d fly down to LA [P.H.: Hmm] and have a one-on-one briefing, Regional Director to the head of Metropolitan Water District. Me telling them what we’re doing on the river and what the implications were, potential implications were, to river management. So, the administrators, early on, knew, they had a gut feeling. Once you tip one domino on NEPA and the Colorado River system, it’s going to go upstream and downstream. And It did. Not only in terms of operations, but in terms of the fish programs. Now prior to this, when I was working in Fla–in Fort Collins, I was going to graduate school, it was then called the Colorado River Fish Program. It’s now evolved into the [Upper Colorado River] Recovery Implementation Program, but then it was just the Fish Program. And there were two of us, Mike Pruitt, who did the Colorado River side, and me, who did the Green River side, and we were out every month taking measurements on the Colorado River–or the Green River, as related to endangered fish, so–

Ever work with Minckley?

01:22:19 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:22:20

Chuck and Wendell. [P.H.: Okay.] I know both of them quite well. I knew Wendell when he was still alive. He and I actually flew up to Duncan’s [Patten] ranch in Montana for several meetings. We laid–Duncan spent the summers. They have a family ranch that borders on Yellowstone National Park. Bought it in ’50, ’49 or ’50, his parents did. I mean, it is right–Yellowstone is across the Madison River, and there’s Duncan’s ranch. So we met up there for, well, for obvious reasons several times. But anyway, part of this was that the executive review committee, this is where I started giving, and I would be asked to come in and make reports to these, and then they would go into discussion over how they, as a group, would implement what we were asking them to do in terms of flows, in terms of permitting, in terms of operational packages, etcetera. This is the group that I first gave a report to on adaptive management in 1987. So, I laid it out to them as an administrator, for–as administrators. Regional Directors for these agencies. “This is what the concept is all about and we might want to start thinking about how we implement something.” So, the genesis on the administrative side was 1987. And it was embraced in ’88, in this document. So, this is coming forward, and this ultimately becomes, then, the NEPA, because these are the agencies who are the elements of the NEPA. These are the federal agencies who are the action agencies for NEPA. So the concept that we laid out here moves forward with that. Part of–go ahead.

Can you clarify, briefly, why you think the Bureau of Reclamation was so disinterested in doing NEPA compliance and doing a full blown environmental impact statement?

01:24:04 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:24:17

Simple. Easy. Because they had never, they’d never done NEPA on Glen Canyon before. And forever, David Brower and the conservation community had just blasted the Bureau for Glen Canyon Dam. And they knew–and David Brower was still alive at this point, and doing, you know, David Brower stuff, and the public was getting hammered. Every boatman of any magnitude in the Grand Canyon, if they didn’t have a post–a pack of postcards in their ammo can when they went downstream, and gave it to every one of their clients who, or customers who were on the trip, and say, “Send this into the Bureau of Reclamation,” and we need to do a new change in the operations, the dam, or we’re losing our beaches. So some of the biggest champions of getting to NEPA was the river community. Forever I’ll be indebted to the boatmen down there. Because the ones who really cared, they worked their customers hard to talk to them about the impacts the dam was having, so, talk about education. The boatmen were educating the public who were on every on every river trip. And so the Bureau knowingly, that, knowing that Glen Canyon dam had, was having such a huge impact downstream, but also knowing they had the Law of the River and all these constraints that they’ve lived by, for years and years and years and years, to operate the dam, and knowing that no other dam on the Colorado River system had gone through NEPA compliance. If one does, the dominoes start falling, so Flaming Gorge subsequently has had it, the Curecanti [National Recreation Area in Colorado] unit’s had NEPA compliance. We’ve had NEPA compliance on almost all the Upper Basin dams now that are, that feed the system.

And is it, is it that the result of doing the scientific studies on the environmental impacts ends up altering [D.W.: Sure] dam management and the Bureau of Reclamation simply did not–

01:25:59 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:26:11

And you go to any of the old engineers and they’ll tell you that this is an inefficient way to run the dam. The best way to run the dam, and I remember having this discussion clearly. We were doing the twenty-fifth anniversary, Cliff Barrett was Regional Director, at the top of Glen Canyon Dam. Rose Mofford was [Arizona] Governor, and we were doing this big ceremony up there, and I had been asked to come up and say a few words and I took one of the old engineers who was there when the dam was first operated, and I said, “How did you come up with what the flow releases should be at the dam?” You know, because they said, “Well, depending on how much water’s in the reservoir, we want to ramp it up to exactly that h–level, so we maximize the head we have on the reservoir to make the maximum amount of electricity possible.” I said, “Well, that’s great. That makes sense. How did you determine the low end?” “Well, if it had, if it was our desire, we would just turn it off at night. But we couldn’t do that because the environmental folks would go ballistic if there wasn’t some water in the river.” So the whole context, we looked over the side until we saw about, the wa–you know, we could see water coming out of the base of the dam, that was our minimum flow. That’s where 2,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) came from. It wasn’t some scientific study, it was some dam engineer looking over the top of the dam and saying, “We’ve got to have something in there. Let’s put a little water in there.”

“Looks like enough.”

01:27:34 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:27:34

Looks like enough. Exactly! Looks like enough. That’s–so the Bur–that’s the way the Bureau operated, and that’s how the dam engineers were looking at efficiency. From their mind, from their perspective, that was the smart way to run these things, up and down, you know, and then you ma–you, because it’s a peaking plant, you can spool it up real–you can spool up those generators in three minutes, where Navajo Generating Station takes twenty-four hours to spool that generator up on the steam plant. Three minutes, you can bring it from zero to full bore. That’s how they should operate it.

So you’re saying the, um, the Bureau of Reclamation, which is a irrigation agency which happens to fund itself [D.W.: Yeah] through hydropower revenues, but has completely turned into a power agency by the 1980s?

01:28:07 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:28:19

Because that’s what pays the bills.

That’s what pays the bills.

01:28:21 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:28:22

It’s–Glen Canyon Dam, think of the Colorado [River] Storage Project as a huge Christmas tree. And there’s a bunch of ornaments out there, and those are all the small dams and such. There’s one ginormous ornament that sits right on the very top, Glen Canyon Dam. That’s the checkbook. And that pays for everything. So yeah, the Bureau went from irrigation, and they still are, to, we can–“This is how we fund our agency.” And that’s exactly how they do it. And that’s what they try to maximize. And they were very good at it for many, many years.

So, essentially, any program, including just a research program, that threatened to make their revenue interests less efficient, that threatened to make the dam less efficient as a revenue generator–

01:28:56 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:29:11

Or cause electricity to cost more–

Uh huh–was something that they would resist.

01:29:16 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:29:19

Right. And especially on the Colorado system, because they–all those reservoirs and dams are part of the Colorado River Storage Project. So, if you were–let’s just say you were the Klamath Project [Oregon], you can’t tap into CRSP revenues. It has to be projects that are pertinent to CRSP. That’s why we had the checkbook, or access to the checkbook, for CRSP. And then part of this also was in 1977, when WAPA and the Bureau, you know, when they got a divorce, so to speak. And in the Bureau, all the power marketing piece went over to the WAPA, and the Bureau, then, just became the operational piece. So there was–who populated WAPA in the first ten years? It was just Bureau people [P.H.: Bureau people–], moved across the street to WAPA. So the mindset, the culture remained the same, and it’s the culture of the Bureau of Reclamation we’re fighting more than anything else. And that’s that culture that has not, even though they do have some good biologists and scientists they’ve brought on board (cough), they are not–they’re there because they have to be there. They’re not there because the Bureau wants them there. You know, it’s just, their culture is, “We build dams and we operate dams. That’s what we do. We don’t do science, we don’t do biology, we don’t do this other stuff.”

We don’t manage for multiple values and multiple resources–

01:30:35 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:30:39

Multi-purpose, in terms of hydropower and water delivery, but not for recreation, not for humpback chub, not for, um, houseboats on Lake Powell. That’s not part of our recreational job.

So is this all part of the story of the 1960s and 1970s environmental era—[D.W.: Oh, absolutely] in which the other values are fighting their way (speaking simultaneously)–

01:30:55 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:31:04

All changed. All changed. [P.H.: Okay.] Yeah, and that’s–that goes back to–I don’t want to lose my train of thought on the third piece, but let me give you this tangent. This goes back to when I was released from the Bureau in ’96. The very first phone call I received, the very first phone call, was from David Brower. And he called up and said, “There’s a plane ticket waiting for you at the–” I think it was Delta Airlines in Flagstaff. “I want you to come to Berkeley. (Pause.) I’m going to start educating you on what happened back in the sixties,” fifties and sixties. He lived at 40 Stevenson Avenue, in the hills above Berkeley. In fact, his home, I think, is going to actually be on the National Historic Register now, because his kids still own it. They bought it back, and they’re going to do something with it. He had a garage full of David Brower, Ansel Adams, all that history that he is part of, and David being part of the Tenth Mountain Division Sierra Club, and all that. So, for seven days, I sat in his garage, and he would just keep bringing out stuff. He and his wife Anne, who is still alive–on all the history of the Sierra Club, and his battles on Dinosaur, and all that piece. Um, so, getting educated by David Brower and understanding the context he was coming from in that world in the late fifties, early sixties, Echo Park, Wallace Stegner, um, Bernard DeVoto, all those people. In (pause) he, David, had all that literature. I think most of it’s in the Bancroft [Museum] now. I hope it’s in the Bancroft. Though I know a lot of it is still in the garage, because I talked to Ken Brower, his son, and Ken said, “There’s still a bunch of stuff here, you really need to come and go through this.” So I got to do that sometime. But, um, the other piece of this though is in–after I left the Bureau, I started to become outspoken, a bit, on how the Bureau was continuing to operate the facility, and how you couldn’t just do periodic floods and expect that everything’s going to be hunky-dory in the Grand Canyon. What we learned from the flood is that you can move sediment, but the moment you go back to operations, normal operations, those beaches are going to go. There’s only so much–unless you increase the [unintelligible].

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:33:30

So out of all that discussion, um, and Dan Beard pushed me into this to some extent. He said, you know, “You need to go out there and speak on these issues.” So I did, but I began to get on the dais with Floyd Dominy, often. Floyd being the former Commissioner of the Bur–and to his mind, until he died, Floyd was “The Commissioner,” in quotes, of the Bureau of Reclamation. The Bureau, its greatest days were when Floyd was Commissioner, and you know, he operated in a whole different world. He, he operated in a sense that, um (pause) he was bigger than the Secretary of Interior, in many respects. And he was building dams over the place, and there was no NEPA, there was no ESA (Endangered Species Act), nothing he had to worry about. He just had to build dams. And Floyd was really good at getting people motivated to build dams. Glen Canyon being his pride and joy. So we’d often be debating about the value of Glen Canyon. Well out of that, we would end every evening, usually at a bar someplace, and we started to have a friendship out of this. So out of that, Floyd invited myself and my wife to his house, um, in the state of Virginia. And so we’d go up, went by his house three or four times, and did oral interviews and took them to lunch, and he again, he started pulling out all this stuff about his side of the story. And while Stegner captured very well, or [uniintelligible] captured the, um, trip down the Grand Canyon between Brower and Dominy. There’s a whole nother [sic] story.

That’s John McPhee’s Encounters with the Archdruid? (Speaking simultaneously)

01:35:07 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:35:08

John McPhee. Yeah. That’s McPhee, yeah, I’m sorry. I got my people mixed up here. But it’s, there’s the whole other story that Floyd said, “Before I would agree to go down the Grand Canyon with Brower, he had to agree to come to a houseboat trip with me on Lake Powell for a week.” (Laughter.) And they did. That was never written about. And so Floyd would haul out all these pictures and said, “Brower had a great time on that trip.” And we, you know, we–and so there’s, there’s these two iconic bookends [P.H.: Mm-hmm] of the conservation movement that I evolved into, but they, they were and still are the bookends. You had David Brower on one side, you had Floyd Dominy on the other side, and then you had Martin Litton, who was really the spokesperson for David. He wrote most of David’s stuff [P.H.: Really?]. Martin was the senior editor at the LA, um, what are, what is the newspaper in LA, Times, I want to say? [P.H.: Times.] Okay. And then he went to become the Senior Editor for Sunset Magazine in Menlo Park, California. And he wrote all those travel pieces in Sunset. That’s where he got his start in the Grand Canyon with the dories, he was writing travel pieces. And you know, you just got–so Martin was the heart and soul of David Brower. And so that, those three iconic men circled me for a bunch of years. And, in fact, when Floyd turned a hundred, I hosted his hundredth birthday party on the Hill. The Department of Interior would not come to his birthday party.


01:36:40 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:36:40

Because Floyd has a somewhat soiled reputation in the Department of the Interior. You know, he was a womanizer and a hard drinker and, he came out of that era, and he was a quartermaster in the Army during World War Two, he was going to get things done, and he knew how to do it. So they wouldn’t come, but a lot of other people peripheral did, so we had a full house on Capitol Hill for Floyd’s hundredth bir–he made it to 101 [when] he passed away, but he was an amazing–I mean, I don’t agree with him on what he did, but I respect him for what he did. And he was living a certain set of, of ideals, and was given a job to do and he did it. I would say the same for Brower. Do I agree with his methods all the time? No. I mean, Brower could be hard on you, and nasty, just as bad as Floyd could be, but he had his own way of doing business. So, to have, to have the ability to have interacted with all three of those men at that point, as I was formulating, “What do we do, here?” So, while they were pulling me in this direction, science and everything else was pulling in another direction. So, now we get back to the third part, which is the education piece of this. So as the EIS began to evolve out of this, it became apparent that adaptive management was going to be part of it. And because of the way (pause) we were talking about it, I, I started to develop papers and dialogues so it could be done. So, there’s a number of different things here, a blueprint for adaptive management of the Colorado River corridor through Glen and Grand Canyon, you know, they were doing these things all the time.

Is that something you wrote back in the eighties?

01:38:27 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:38:29

(Sound of pages turning) I don’t know what the date is on this one, but this would have probably–

Looks like it was typed [unintelligible] (laughs).

01:38:31 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:38:32

It was, it was a typewriter. I can tell you that, it was a typewriter. So it had to be before I had a computer, which was ’90. [P.H.: Right. Yeah.] So you know, things like that. Um, I had–the Park Service was talking about having adaptive management included–so, and then Steve Carothers, and have you talked to Steve?

Not yet. We haven’t interviewed him.

01:38:48 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:38:50

You need to talk to Steve Carothers. Up in Flagstaff.

Is that where he’s living now?

01:38:50 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:38:55

Well, partly. I–he’s either in Austin or he’s in Flag [Flagstaff]. He’s a, he’s a man about the country now. (Sound of pages turning.) Um, but he and I actually did this document in, I don’t remember who we gave this to, but, um, a man–we called it a management opportunity. This was January of ’92, but here I laid out options for the Colorado River, adaptive management and use, the Northwest Power Act, implementation of adaptive management on the Colorado River–this actually looks computer, so. Colorado River Coordination Group, um (pause) so. I started putting out documents like this. This is what got fed into Washington. And so, ultimately–

Were you reading people like Kai Lee at this time [D.W.: Oh yeah. Oh yeah], who was articulating adaptive management?

01:39:38 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:39:43

I was, everything I could get on this concept I was trying to assimilate and bring back in. So ultimately, this was put together to help explain the Grand Canyon Protection Act, because section 1805 of the Grand Canyon Protection Act calls for long-term monitoring and such. And adaptive management is the under–undertow to all of that. So again, this was the education piece of members of Congress, and of the political side of the agenda, on why this language is in this bill at this point in time, and what it means to implementation for the long term. So out of the Grand Canyon Protection Act, then, that’s where you saw–and you’ll see this in writings, um, where the Everglades, when they did the, when Secretary Go–or Vice President Gore was working on the Everglades deal. That became part of the dialogue there. When they were working on the Northwest Forest Plan for the spotted owl. It became a part of that when, uh, Jack Ward Thomas was [U.S.] Forest Service [Chief], he began to embr–so there was four or five of us around the country who were kicking the concept around. We didn’t quite understand what Kai Lee and others were–I mean, we understood the concept, but actually taking it from that concept and [P.H.: Putting it into practice] bringing it into action is what we were all struggling with. And I guess struggle is a good–we were just trying to figure out, “What’s that going to look like?” So, and then a [unintelligible] the Platte River and the Missouri River and all these other things, and now there’s a whole adaptive management network that’s out there that, you know, does this stuff–

Of land managers?

01:41:32 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:41:33

Well, of land, water, resource managers, CAMNAT [California Air Monitoring Network Assessment Tools], you know, it’s, there’s a whole bunch of professionals out there who are, now have–it’s become a science of sorts, even though it’s not a science, but it’s, you know, it’s a use of science but it’s not,

It’s applied science.

01:41:46 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:41:47

It’s applied science. But. So, uh, I guess to kind of tie it all together, and then we can go back to your questions, it was a couple of things that came together, I would like to think, for a reason, but it was, it was Jim Watt being forced to do the NEPA, to–being forced to do some environmental studies at Glen Canyon Dam, because the public was getting upset that–what was going on, and they didn’t feel anybody–just like today. “Nobody listens to us,” you know, sort of thing. It was the flood of ’83 that changed the perspective from looking at it from a very narrow perspective on just two new generators on the river outlet tubes of Glen Canyon Dam, to now be the whole operational. And I know, when we played that out the first time the [USBR] Regional Director said, “I don’t know what this is, where this is going to take us. If I all of a sudden say, Yeah, we want to look at the whole operational regime, where this may end, but, let’s go.” To (pause) but getting that call from the Secretary’s office, from, um, Reagan’s people, who were in the White House at that point, saying, “Do you have a use for the National Academy of Sciences?” And again, that money, there was two hundred thousand dollars I didn’t have to come up with. The Department of Interior came up with two hundred thousand dollars. So you know, I had the Academy of Sciences at my disposal, and they–we had a meeting with them in the Phoenix airport in the Crown Room of Terminal B, or term–whatever the sec–whatever terminal the–Delta flies out of. There’s, there used to be a little Crown Room–

It’s Two now, or is it–

01:43:26 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:43:28

But that’s where we held the first meeting with the Academy of Sciences, when I–and then from there, they invited me back to Washington to pitch the study to the whole Academy of Sciences. So here I am, fly from Flagstaff, Arizona, roll into Washington, DC, go down to the main National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Avenue there, walk inside, see the portrait of Abraham Lincoln, who started the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of the Civil War, and here I am pitching to why the Academy of Sciences should now take on the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies, and the Bureau, and what we were doing. And that to me was one of those, one of those moments, watershed moments, where all of a sudden, now, we’ve got the nation, and some of the best scientists in the nation, looking at these issues with us. Not day-to-day, but oversight. Which was critical. Then getting to the, to the lawsuit where WAPA, Western Area Power Administration, was sued by the public over operational impacts of the way they operated the dam, and having the Bureau have to be implicit in that, because they own the dam, own and operate the dam. So, and having–I’ll say this, Ty Cobb, who was their attorney, um, for the plaintiff, being the aggressive person he still is, I assume that’s why President Trump got him, to win that case. And to force the NEPA compliance on the–on the contracts, and ultimately on the operation of the dam. To getting the operation of the dam EIS and having George Miller and Dan Beard and Bruce Babbitt all (pause) come into this at various points to help (pause) be the guardian angels they were, to make sure that we weren’t done away with. Which could have been done three or four times. They should have pulled the plug on the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies, but, for whatever reason, they didn’t. And then we got to ’96, and had the experimental flood, and that gained a lot of credibility for the program. Um, so, on it goes. (Pause.)

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Dave Wegner 01:45:41

And I’m proud of everyone in the science, most of the scientists who worked for us, so. They’re all good folks. And we all committed to this more as a (pause) deal for the Grand Canyon than for, um, checking a box on any agencies stuff. So– (Pause.) But talk to Steve [Carothers]. Because Steve was, he was the former, um, scientist at Grand Canyon National Park. In the late seventies. He was the guy that was shooting mules out of helicopters and that sort of thing. Well, there was a mule problem in Grand Canyon. Um, and I think, it was–Cleveland Amory and Friends of the Animals [Fund for Animals] or friends of whatever it was, friends of the mules, got on their case. Anyway, Steve and the Park Service had a separation. Steve went on to start his own company, SWCA in Flagstaff, which is now nationwide almost. Um, but Steve was, um, for whatever reason, and I’ll forever be indebted to him, he kind of took me on as saying, you don’t know much about the Grand Canyon, but I’m going to help you. I’m going to teach you. So, he and the river community, several people in the river community embraced us. And they be–they watched out, they watched out for my scientists in the canyon. If one of my crews got in trouble, they’d be the first ones to pull over and help them. Or they would call me and say, “Your crew is hung up on such and such a rock. You need to helicopter in a motor or, you know, or bring in a new survey rod” or something like–and, the river community, as we gained credibility, they embraced us.

Did he ever serve as an official representative on the adaptive management team, once it became a, sort of a stakeholder [D.W.: No] group? No?

01:47:23 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:47:32

I think Steve and I were both kind of ostracized from that whole pro–after GCMRC [Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center] came into being. We were (pause) told to go away. For a lot of rea–and some of them, valid reasons, but (pause) you know.

Do you want to talk about that?

01:47:45 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:47:47

(Pause.) I don’t know if it’s important to the adaptive management story you’re telling. It’s a story, and it’s a long story, so, probably not now.

Alright. Perhaps another time.

01:47:55 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:47:56

But, there is, and you can, if you can–I would definitely encourage you to talk to Steve, because he was the guy who, um, encouraged me to keep pushing and writing on adaptive management. (Pause.) Just because he knew it was going to be different–it was going to be a, it was going to be a game changer. And I think if there’s one thing in the EIS that is the game changer, it’s adaptive manage–it’s the embracing of adaptive management. Now, how it’s been applied, I don’t necessarily always agree with, but the original intent and the fact that it’s in the Grand Canyon Protection Act and in the EIS and it’s in the Record of Decision, to me, is something that we can all be proud of.

Was Steve involved in helping to get the Grand Canyon Protection Act introduced and passed?

01:48:40 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:48:46

No, I mean, he’s (pause) he’s always peripherally out there, so (pause) I would, well, in terms of the fact that he and I would get together, and go running up San Fran–Humphreys Peak to relieve ourselves of various stresses (laughter). Yeah, I’d say he was–I would say he was probably one of the most important people who you’ll never hear about, in Grand Canyon adaptive management [P.H.: Oh, interesting.] Because of the fact that the role he’s played has always been behind the scenes, but I know I never would’ve been able to do what I did without Steve Carothers in the background. Absolutely would never have gotten it done. Because when it was the low of lows, when I was getting hammered by DC or the agencies, Steve would always find an encouraging word to say to keep the discussion going. He and, um, Dottie [Dorothy] House, who was the librarian at the Museum of Northern Arizona before they let her go, she became Steve’s go-to person. He hired her. Smart man, smartest move he ever made was to hire Dottie, because she knew, she knows how to write, and she can write EIS–she can do everything that Steve needs to have written (pause) but, um, Steve and Dottie, I, I would go to the ends of the earth for them, because of–ultimately, at the very–if you look at the core of what kept the egg incubating, it was Steve Carothers. Absolutely. So you really need to talk to him.

All right. Yeah, we’re, we have a several more years of interviews to do, and we have a growing list of people to interview, and I will put him on the list and we’ll contact him.

01:50:16 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:50:27

You should. Okay.

Um, can I ask you to, um, think broadly about the value of the program over time? Um, it’s–so, sometimes, um, there’s a little controversy over how much money is being spent on research, and what is the value of that research, and what has been accomplished by the program. And, I’m, I’m very interested in leaving a legacy [D.W.: Absolutely] of people who have been around for a long time who have something to say about the value of the program over time, what it’s accomplished, why–should it be continued, and if so, why?

01:50:30 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:51:09

Well, first off, I’ll answer your last question. Should it be continued? The abs–it’s absolutely yes. You, you need to understand what the impacts of the dam are as much as you need to know how that spinning widget in the dam impacts how much electricity can be made. It’s a–to me, it’s an integrated, essential component of any management of a federal facility, whether it’s a dam, a power plant, uh, irrigation system, you name it, you have to have that part of it to see if what you’re doing is having an effect, and then understanding what you can do to either mitigate or adapt to that effect. So, the answer is, absolutely it needs to be part of it. Um, should it go through periodic revisions? Absolutely. Because, to be adaptive, you have to learn as you go. And you’re going to learn that some things, uh, become more important to either the managers or the public, or to the ecosystem itself, than it was when you started out on the journey. So as a case in point, um (pause) we’ve spent an awful lot of time, effort and money on the beaches in the Grand Canyon. Should we continue to monitor them at the intensity that they’ve been monitored over the past since ’96? I would say, probably not. We’ve learned a significant amount about the beaches, and we know the processes that are driving their formation and loss, their erosion. Um, but, and we know a fair amount about what floods will do. Now, we learned a lot from ’96, never having done one of those, ever in the world before, on purpose. So you could have scientists pre-, during, and post-, evaluate it. We learned that how we did it was not necessarily the best way to do it. And we’ve learned from that, and now have adop–adapted to that. Do we need to continue to do them? Well, I think that’s, that, to me, is more of a societal question in some respect, because do you want beaches in the Grand Canyon? For river runners, etcetera. I can tell you I want beaches for the riparian–I want sediment there, for the riparian zone, for the birds, for the lizards. I want them to build backwaters for fish, etcetera. More than I want them for beaches, for camping on, even though beaches for camping on are great. So, it’s these societal, um (pause) desires or objectives, I think, need to be looked at periodically and recalibrated. Should we be putting, you know, now, I think to me, the more important question, if I were there running it, I would be looking into is the impact of climate change. Downstream. Because, you know, I was just up there in, was it May, for, NAU (Northern Arizona University) had asked me to come up and talk about adaptive management to a bunch of Brazilians from, who were working on developing an adaptive management program for the Amazon River. So I went up and I spent the day, I went up to the dam with them, we did a float. I was amazed how much that system has changed up there, because of the v–um, the aquatic plants that are in the system now that weren’t there before, what’s lost from the system and how the riparian zone has changed. Part of that, a large part of that, is–

Between the dam and Lees Ferry, I’m assuming?

01:54:45 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:54:47

Exactly. [P.H.: Okay.] Part of that is due to the fact we’ve had low reservoir elevations in Powell, which has brought warmer water downstream. Some invasive species have gotten in–


01:54:57 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:54:57

Tam–well, tamarisk, for one. I’m more worried now about quagga mussel [P.H.: Oh. Yeah] and a few other species like that. There’s some salamander that Larry Stevens has found up there now, that we’re not sure if it’s a native or if it’s an exotic, so, but to me, the value of having the Adaptive Management Program there, and the fact that you’re integrating it with what I would consider one of the jewels of the National Park Service, Grand Canyon National Park, sandwiched between two big reservoirs that are feeling direct impacts of climate change because of lower hydrology, lower water levels. To me, this is a–this is an area that we should be nationally, internationally embracing for looking at it in the term–the context of changes that are coming out that are due to, whether it’s man or just natural process going on, we need to under–we need to be able to tease these things apart. We have a rich data set to be able to do that with. So do we need to keep monitoring the beaches as much as we are? Probably not as much. I think we can get that honed down a little bit. Should we continue to put effort into the humpback chub? Absolutely. It’s an endangered fish for a reason. It’s limited in where it can live in the Colorado River system, this is one spot. We want to make sure we take care of it and get [a] second population well-established, etcetera, etcetera. Um, should we continue to do work with the Native Americans and the archaeology? Absolutely, it’s their, it’s their–I mean, you cannot imagine the pushback I got from the Bureau of Reclamation for bringing the eight tribes on board. Absolutely–one of the times I was fired. My boss out at Salt Lake came down and said, you know, we brought him down to a meeting, I think it was at Kykotsmovi, and the Hopis. And he said, “I never want to go into another one of those meetings again. I think it’s absolutely worthless”–his words–“to have the tribes involved. All they’re going to do is cost us money and time, and you’re not to interact with them anymore.” And I said, “I am going to interact with them. We’re in a NEPA process, they are a constituent, they have a right, we’ve blown them off from the very beginning. You’re damn right I’m going to keep meeting with them.” He said, “Well, you, know. I’m going to have to fire you if you don’t obey me.” So I called, I shouldn’t tell you this, but I called George [Miller] and George did an end around on some people, and helped–

Protected your job for a little while longer?

01:57:14 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:57:14

Yeah. But you can’t–well, NEPA requires you to consult. You don’t get to pick who you consult with.

And there are laws requiring consultation with tribes [D.W.: Exactly] when management impacts their resources and interests.

01:57:24 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 01:57:31

And the Bureau never even talked to them. When you think about Lake Powell, when they built Glen Canyon Dam, they had what was called a salvage study (pause) above the dam. On the north side of the, what would be the reservoir, the University of, uh, Utah collected all the stuff they could get, as the waters were literally rising. As–

Archaeological stuff.

01:57:50 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:57:51

Archaeological, cultural, baskets, you know, things like–south side, it was the Museum of Northern Arizona. So you had, um, Ned Danson and his crews, they were just out there picking this stuff as, literally, as the water was rising. That was, that–to the Bureau, that was consultation. (Pause.) That’s not consultation. You need to, you need to go to Window Rock, and sit through an eight-hour council meeting where they’re speaking Navajo, and maybe they’ll speak English for two minutes to you at some point, but you need to be there. You need to, to be, let them part of the process. But, neither here nor there. So, I think that part of it continues to be important to me, and I think it should be to the nation, because the tribes are an integral part of this part of the, of the country, of the world. So, it’s important.

Um, a related question that I had was, um, what, what did you want to accomplish when you were involved that you were unable to, and why?

01:58:43 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:58:55

Well, I didn’t know what I, what, what we were going to accomplish. So I guess all of it is good. I think how it ended up, in terms of structure, um, I would have done a little differently. But again–

What do you mean by that? What kind of (pause) structure?

01:59:13 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:59:14

Well, I’ll just take as, as an example, um, the organization of the adaptive management committee [probably the Adaptive Management Work Group, a Federal Advisory Committee]. There were two environmental seats. (Pause.) There were a whole bunch of seats for the water users, the electrical users, you know, other folks, admin–agency, administrators, etcetera. To have two people who represented the environmental community, to me–and there was nobody there representing the science community. They were part of the Technical Work Group, but they weren’t, they didn’t have a voting seat [P.H.: Ahh] at the committee.

And when was that?

01:59:53 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 01:59:54

Well that was when they set it up in ’96. They were starting to set up in ’96, implement it in ’97.

Seems like things have changed quite a bit since then.

01:59:59 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 02:00:01

They’ve changed a bit. I mean, I don’t–I think that the users have, still, more power than the conservation entities in the–certainly more than the science entities do. Um, I would also say that adaptive–the process, like any process, over time, will tend to get insulated. And I think that’s happened, to some extent. How do you get out of that insulation? The Everglade–well, we saw that in the Everglades, what we did is we set up–

Is the re-meandering of the Kissimmee River that you’re referring to, or something else? (Speaking simultaneously)

02:00:37 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 02:00:39

Well, that’s part of it, but there’s–this is actually getting more water to the Ever–the river of grass. So the Kis–unwinding or winding, re-winding the Kissimmee was a Corps of Engineer [sic] project, but there’s, there’s bigger parts of that. There’s the water quality of Lake Okeechobee [P.H.: Mm-hmm] is part of that. What we do with Hoover Dike is part of that. What we do with opening up the ability to move water south to the Everglades, so opening up roads, building, um, elevated roads, so the water can pass through without getting ponded up. It’s all part of that. But what we did there, um, was that every two years the Academy of Sciences comes in and does a broad oversight of, are we still on the right track?

They’re evaluating the science [D.W.: Yeah], or they’re evaluating management actions? (Speaking simultaneously)

02:01:25 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 02:01:27

They’re eval–the science and the management, you know, kind of look at it in a broad, fifty thousand-foot view. I think you need to have periodic check-ins, to make sure you’re still moving in the right direction that Congress directed you to do, that the science is, is coming in and showing you to do, and that the agencies and the public are expecting you to do. So I think periodic resets, of sorts, would be a value added to the process. And certainly if you see now other places where adaptive management is being implemented more successfully, you have periodic resets. And I don’t want to make that sound like you go in and change everything, and it may be two years, five years, ten year–I don’t know what the magic number is, but you come in and open yourself up to peer review just as we, as scientists, would. If you’re writing a paper, you get outside people to give you input to make sure you’re still moving in the same direction. So I think increasing, um, exposure of science and conservation on the Adaptive Management Work Group would be appropriate, and I think having periodic reviews, would be two things right off the top of my head that I would think of.

A little earlier, you mentioned that there are three prongs to adaptive management. You mentioned the scientific research being one prong. The administration of the program and the agency’s management actions is another, and then public participation.

02:02:41 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 02:02:55

Public participation and education.

And education.

02:02:57 Paul Hirt
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Dave Wegner 02:02:58


Can you, do you have any opinions about how the three of those prongs intersect? Are there times when one is more powerful than the other? How do you get them to work well together and integrate? Because you want the science to inform the management and you want the public to be satisfied [D.W.: Right], and that doesn’t always happen. Can you talk a little bit about the relationship of those prongs?

02:02:59 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:03:26

Well, you’re absolutely right. They do kind of jump start, and some will be further ahead or further behind than others at certain times. Um (pause) again, when we were designing this test, this experiment of sorts, uh, didn’t have a lot of to go on, so we were kind of making it up as we went. And that’s where Steve played a really key role in this, because he would kind of keep feeding ideas, to a certain extent, on this, or questioning. He was sometimes my biggest critic, “What are we trying to do here and why are you trying to do that?” sort of thing. Um, but I think all of them are necessary, and it’s inevitable that some will have to take precedent over others at certain points in the process. Uh, that being said, I think if I were to do it over again, I think the science, the scientists were hard at the beginning, but once you got them on board, they kind of got it, why we’re doing adaptive management. And now that being said, we still have agency scientists who are driven by the latest cooperative agreement requirements, etcetera. So you need to make sure there are scientists there who think at different levels. Some that are at the five thousand-foot, some that are at the thirty thousand, some at the fifty thousand. The value of the Academy of Science at the fifty thousand, to kind of gau–make sure you’re still moving in the right direction for the right reasons sort of thing. So that science needs to move forward. And there needs to be bridges or intersections back and forth. The administration part of it, once they were forced to embrace the concept, then we, you have to educate them on what it means, and how it’s going to impact and be applied.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:05:26

Part of what we ended up doing as part of the Adaptive Management Program is that every month, I would get on an airplane, um, and I wou–or drive to–get in the car, either drive to Page or to fly to Montrose, Colorado, where Western Area Power Administration offices were, still are. And we would sit down monthly, and we would talk about, this is what the science needs to have in terms of dam operations for this next month or, you know, we would look out three months, but we, you know, always had a three-month kind of moving forward average. And we’d talk about what that meant to the guy who sits at the control at the base of–at Floor Nine, in the control room at Glen Canyon Dam. Because I wanted to have them feel they were part of the process. So. And that was one of the smartest things we did, is Dick White, who was, who ran the power office at Glen Canyon Dam, it was his guys who were at the gauges, and he had me come in and talk to them. So they knew why this bunch of crazy scientists were downstream doing this, and why what they did was important. Now, did they agree with what we’re doing? I would say probably 90 percent of the time they didn’t, but they understood why we were doing it. So, again, on an administrative level, you’ve got to get to the five thousand, the twenty thousand, and the fifty thousand level, the Regional Directors and the Executive Review Committee, they have to be working with you and not against you. And I made a few mistakes and had them working against me on certain occasions. So, that doesn’t help.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:07:03

And then the public and the education prong of this. The public needs to keep–you need to keep the public working with you. Not necessarily agreeing with you, but understanding what you’re doing. We had, like I say, when we were sued twice by Trout Unlimited for the experimental, first experimental flood, because the trout fishermen were convinced that we were going to destroy the trout fishery below Glen Canyon Dam with the flood. They had seen what happened in ’83. ’83 was a whole different deal than ’96. You wouldn’t think thirteen years would have that big a difference, but there, already the ecosystem had changed, more because of how Arizona Game and Fish [Department] was managing the fishery than it had to do with the flood. The fish move to the side, they know where to go when high water comes. They weren’t being flushed downstream. But–

During the experimental flood, what was the effect on the trout fishery?

02:07:52 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:07:57

Very little.


02:07:56 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:07:58

Ultimately, no. [P.H.: Okay.] What it affected was their food base, in terms of the cladophera getting picked up and pushed away.

Library Staff 02:08:06

[Opens door] Just to let you know, that thing’s five minutes slow.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:08:08


Library Staff 02:08:08

The clock, okay? We’ve got about twenty-five minutes before we close.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:08:10

Okay. Thank you.

Library Staff 02:08:10

[Unintelligible] will be locked at five ’til five.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:08:13


Library Staff 02:08:13

Thank you.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:08:14

Um, so, but so, the Trout Unlimited piece is, you’ve got to keep educating the public as you learn, and make sure the information gets out to them, whether it’s in public fluff pieces or NPR or–you just, you’ve got to keep educating as you move along here through the process.

And what do we gain when all of that is working?

02:08:35 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:08:39

You get the public trusting what the government’s doing. Maybe not always agreeing with it, but understanding why they’re doing that. There’s one important part of this that I think, um, though the, though the, being in the government, they would say “You don’t need this,” but I think you do. I think you need to have a point person who, a spokesperson of sorts, who the public trusts (pause) being able to have that dialogue with the public, and with the politicians, and with the scientists. So, as hard as it is for a person in–if you’re working in the government, the government never wants to have a person be the point person, so to speak [P.H.: Right]. If you’re all part of the, the broader group, it’s important that you do cultivate leadership in that, in that arena. Somebody who is good, good speaking and who can communicate. It’s critical that they communicate. So–

So, we gain trust because, uh, of the transparency and the collaborative engagement with stakeholders, that’s an important part of–

02:09:37 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:09:45

It’s con–and, but you have to be consistent. You can’t just show up, you know, for one decision, for one meeting when you need a decision like the next day and you can’t let the pu–if the public thinks you’re just there checking a box (pause) that’s the worst thing you can do. You’ve got–they’ve got to be, you’ve got to be working them way before that.

And how about accomplishments? I mean, we, we’ve got a couple of decades of research and adaptive management. What would you say, um, has improved as a result of this work?

02:10:06 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:10:20

We know more about the Grand Canyon. We know–we have a lot more science now. I think there is an understanding that the agencies need to work together. They don’t always do that, but that there is a forum for them to have that discussion. Um, it’s unfortunate, in my opinion, and this is mine alone, that, um (pause) depending on the administration and who they have as their secretarial representative, sometimes it’s collaborative, sometimes it’s dictatorial. They w–they’ll tell you it’s collaborative, but it’s checking off a box. And they’re, you know, they’re just basically, “This is how we’re going to do this no matter what you tell me” sort of thing. So, you need to be (pause) I would say that we’ve gotten more science, we do have a forum, and it’s a proven forum, now, for discussion and dialogue. Um, I don’t believe we’ve fully (pause) embraced everything we should with the tribes yet. Part of that is, we don’t fund the tribes to participate. And the tribes have got to come up with their own bucks. Most of these tribes don’t have the dollars to participate at the level of the [U.S.] Fish and Wildlife Service or Western Area Power Administration or CREDA [Colorado River Energy Distributors Association], or people who have a checkbook. They don’t have a checkbook. And I don’t, and–I think that’s part of it, that if I would have had something to say in this, that I’d go back and change, it would be that the United States government would support the Native American groups’ involvement and engagement in this.

You’d like to see that added to the Grand Canyon Protection Act?

02:11:58 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:11:59

I would have put that in there, just–just because of the role that the United States government has with our sovereign nations, the tribes. Just because I see that they don’t, they aren’t often given the credibility or the ability to interface at the level of CREDA, or the level of the Salt River Project, or any of the other stakeholders who have a trained staff who have a checkbook to travel, go to meetIngs, to be participants. The tribes just don’t have that capacity. And that was the nice thing we started with the Glen Canyon Studies, it wasn’t continued, but where the EPA money came in. We were able to bring in money from EPA to start training tribal staff, because they had the tribal program. And we use that to get the Hualapai spooled up, their natural resources department, the Hopi, um, the San Juan Paiute. That’s–the money that started those programs, all was seed money we got from EPA, and we brought it in and just rolled it up. And, you know, I think that’s important.

As a result of that increasing involvement and collaboration with tribes, do you think that uh, operations at Glen Canyon Dam have been altered in a way that is beneficial to archaeological resources or cultural resources in the Grand Canyon?

02:13:06 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:13:21

Um, I would say that we’re still seeing the erosion of a lot of those resources. And, and–

Slower erosion than otherwise (speaking simultaneously)?

02:13:27 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:13:28

Uh, it’s hard to say. I mean, I think it, it varies. I remember sitting at the Salt Mine Beach below the confluence of the Little Colorado with Ferrell Secakuku when he was still alive and was Chairman of the Hopi tribe. We had taken a–we were done, we were doing a river trip together, um, Marc Reisner was on the trip [P.H.: Really?] with us. Um, little ‘nother tangent. Marc’s first, I took Marc Reisner on his first tour of Glen Canyon Dam [P.H.: Wow]. This was after he had written Cadillac Desert.

After Cadillac Desert?

02:13:57 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:13:58

Yeah. He had never been to Glen Canyon Dam before he wrote Cadillac Desert [P.H.: Wow]. So, but, and we became friends after he, um, wrote the book and we took him on the river trip. But anyway, Ferrell and I were sitting there and you know, it’s just to the, to the Hopis, it’s not necessarily (pause) a location, or a rock, or a beach. It’s the area. So to him, any change, any impact the dam is having, is a change that is not natural. So, yeah, it’s continuing to impact their resources. Those beaches are getting smaller. Um, we did, you know, as part of the EIS we did, we–I had crews that literally walked from Glen Canyon Dam to Lake Mead on both sides of the river. Every foot. From Glen—think about that. Glen–and I had Jan Balsom and the Park Service hire people to do this, but that’s–they walked it, every foot.

I didn’t even think that was possible (laughs).

02:14:58 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:14:59

You wouldn’t think, but they did it. And they–we had boats. I mean, I had so many river trips on the water, it was just amazing. But um, you know, that level of science has never been done anywhere else before. So, you think about it. Is it everything that it could be? No. Is it better than it would have been? Absolutely. Does it have promise for the future? Of course. Yeah. And we’ve just got to keep building on it and keep working it, and not let it just become a check box. In my opinion. That’s not what we intended when we put the Grand Canyon Protection Act together. It’s called the Grand Canyon Protection Act for a reason. It’s to protect the Grand Canyon (pause) for a long–for, forever, in perpetuity.

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

02:15:48 Paul Hirt
Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:15:50


Don’t you?

02:15:50 Paul Hirt
Jennifer Sweeney 02:15:51

I do.

Wegner, Dave Profile Photo
Dave Wegner 02:15:53

Pretty good!

End of recording.

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Dave Wegner

Tucson, 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.


Dave Wegner has a background in biology and geomorphology specializing in river basin management. He worked for the US Bureau of Reclamation during his early career and led the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies (GCES) program from 1982- 1996, which was the precursor to the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (GCDAMP). Wegner was instrumental in integrating the adaptive management concept into the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992 and what became the GCDAMP. While working at USBR, Wegner interacted frequently with federal legislators and their staff. After leaving USBR he became a private consultant. From 2009-2014 he held staff leadership positions on the U.S. House of Representatives Water and Power Subcommittee and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee.

Wegner, Dave Oral History Interview Transcript 8-04-2017

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Wegner, Dave Oral History Interview 8-04-2017

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Wegner, David. ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW. Transcript of recorded Interview conducted by Paul Hirt, Arizona State University, and Jennifer Sweeney, Four East Historical Research, LLC, on 4 Aug 2017, in Tucson, Arizona. Edited by Paul Hirt and Jennifer Sweeney.
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