Grand Canyon Protection Act (GCPA)

The GCPA was enacted on 30 October 1992. It states that the “…Secretary shall operate Glen Canyon Dam … and exercise other authorities under existing law in such a manner as to protect, mitigate adverse impacts to, and improve the values for which Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area were established, including, but not lintited to, natural and cultural resources and visitor use.” The act, however, also states that: “The Secretary shall implement this section in a manner fully consistent with and subject to the Colorado River Compact, the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact, the Water Treaty of 1944 with Mexico, the decree of the Supreme Court in Arizona v. California, and the provisions of the Colorado River Storage Project Act of 1956 and the Colorado River Basin Project Act of 1968 that govern … the waters of the Colorado River Basin” (Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992). Finally, the act required consultation among federal agencies, the Governors of the Basin States, Indian Tribes, and the general public, including representatives of academic and scientific communities, environmental organizations, the recreation industry, and contractors for the purchase of federal power produced at Glen Canyon Dam. (GCDAMP Strategic Plan of 2001) [Note: Jack Schmidt describes his recollection of the people responsible for shepherding the concept of legislative protections for Grand Canyon (Schmidt OH, minutes 27-30.)]


More timeline events

11,000 BP
Paleo-Indian peoples occupy Grand Canyon region.
May 24, 1869
Major John Wesley Powell leads first recored expedition to traverse Grand Canyon.
June 17, 1902
Reclamation Act Creates the Bureau of Reclamation.
August 25, 1916
National Park Service Organic Act passed.
February 26, 1919
Grand Canyon National Park created.
July 25, 1921
Colorado River was officially re-named from the “Grand” to the “Colorado.”
November 19, 1922
Colorado River Compact signed allocating the Colorado River water between the upper and the lower basins. Upper basin States have the right to use 7.5 maf/yr only if that quantity is available after meeting delivery requirements of 7.5 maf/yr to the Lower basin plus the amount required to satisfy anticipated claims by Mexico.
December 25, 1928
Boulder Canyon Project Act passed authorizing Hoover Dam.
September 30, 1935
Hoover Dam completed.
February 3, 1944
Treaty with Mexico obligating the US to provide 1.5 maf of Colorado River water to Mexico annually.
October 11, 1948
Upper Colorado River Basin Compact signed.
April 11, 1956
Colorado River Storage Project Act passed authorizing Glen Canyon Dam.
June 3, 1963
U.S. Supreme Cort held in Arizona vs California that, as a result of the Boulder Canyon Project Act, California held an allocation of 4.4 maf, Arizona 2.8 maf, and Nevada 300,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water.
September 13, 1963
Glen Canyon Dam completed as part of the Colorado River Storage Project.
March 9, 1964
U.S. Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. California confirmed apportionments of Colorado River water authorized in 1928 Boulder Canyon Project Act, including Nevada’s allocation of 0.3 maf per year. The Decree in this case set many of the rules under which the river is operated.
September 30, 1965
United States contract for delivery of power from the Colorado River Storage Project to customers.
September 30, 1966
National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 passed.
March 11, 1967
Humpback chub and Colorado pikeminnow federally listed as endangered.
September 30, 1968
Colorado River Basin Project Act of 1968 passed.
July 10, 1969
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 passed requiring Federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of their proposed actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions.
June 8, 1970
Long-range Operating Criteria developed for Glen Canyon Dam operations.
Last verified record of Colorado Pikeminnow caught in Grand Canyon at Havasu Creek.
December 28, 1973
Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 passed to protect and promote the recovery of animals and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct because of the activities of people. Administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
June 24, 1974
Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act authorized the construction, operation, and maintenance of works in the Colorado River Basin to control the salinity of Colorado River water available for use in the United States and Mexico. Some GCDAMP stakeholders participate in the Salinity Control Forums created by the act.
First Lawsuit filed over Glen Canyon Dam operations by commercial raft operators contending that the disruption of normal flows was interfering with their ability to conduct river trips.
January 3, 1975
Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act passed.
May 25, 1978
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service files jeopardy opinion on the effects of Glen Canyon Dam on endangered fishes.
Grand Canyon National Park designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
USBR proposes an upgrade of Glen Canyon Dam’s generators.
April 23, 1980
Bonytail chub listed as endangered.
June 22, 1980
Lake Powell reaches full pool (3,700 ft).
December 1982
Glen Canyon Environmental Studies created to study effects of Glen Canyon Dam operations.
June 1983
Glen Canyon Dam releases more than 92,000 cfs to stop Lake Powell from overtopping Glen Canyon Dam.
One of the last Razorback Suckers seen in Grand Canyon is caught and released at Bass Rapids.
National Research Council completes review of Glen Canyon Environmental Studies, publishing River and Dam Management: a Review of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Glen Canyon Environmental Studies.
Plaintiffs contended that WAPA contracts with power users impacted how USBR managed Glen Canyon Dam. Evidence that large daily fluctuations of flow through the dam were related to the fulfillment of WAPA power contracts (Dave Wegner OH, minute 36-40).
May 1988
Glen Canyon Environmental Studies issues Glen Canyon Environmental Studies Final Report, completing Phase I and starting Phase II, which would be accelerated to support environmental impact statement process.
Power from the Colorado River Storage Project plants was combined with generation from the Collbran and Rio Grande projects into the Salt Lake City Area Integrated Projects. Salt Lake City Area Integrated Projects (CRSP) passed-1989 after a series of public information and comment forums.
1989 - 1993
1989-1993 under George H. W. Bush
National Research Council sponsors symposium that reviews existing knowledge on Colorado River ecosystems.
July 27, 1989
In 1989 Secretary of the Interior Manual Lujan announced that an environmental impact statement would be completed to evaluate the environmental impacts of the operation of Glen Canyon Dam. An EIS was proposed earlier during the Reagan Admin but resisted until the Bush administration. The decision was controversial. First time there would be a “retroactive” EIS done for a federal dam already in existence.
c. 1990-1995
Five people associated with Duncan Patton discuss controlled flooding, a concept that other scientists and agencies were typically wary of (Schmidt OH minute 19, does not remember exact date).
The General Management Plan was designed to meet the goals of the act establishing the national recreation area “…to provide for public outdoor recreation use and enjoyment…and to preserve scenic, scientific, and historic features contributing to public enjoyment of the area.” (NPS, 1979).
1993-2001 under Bill Clinton
Programmatic Agreement on Cultural Resources signed between the State of Arizona, Department of the Interior agencies, and six tribes over protection of cultural resources in the river corridor below Glen Canyon Dam.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designates critical habitat for four species of endangered Colorado River fish and completes Biological Opinion outlining reasonable and prudent alternatives that must be evaluated for dam operation.
Memorandum of Agreement signed for development of a Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Plan between state agencies in Nevada, California, and Arizona and federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service:
The Biological Opinion (BO) dated 21 December 1994 was in response to USBR’s request for section 7 consultation under the Endangered Species Act “on the proposed action to operate Glen Canyon Dam according to … the Modified Low Fluctuating Flow Altemative (MLFF)” (USFWS, 1994). The modified-low-fluctuating-flow strategy allowed dam operators to continue diurnal fluctuations of water flow through the dam’s turbines to meet power demand, but restricted the up-ramp and down-ramp rates of water discharge to reduce the rapidity of river flow changes and the total daily range of fluctuations in river flow. The BO determined that a MLFF would not result in jeopardy to endangered species.
The EIS dated March 1995 analyzed nine alternatives to implement the goals of the Grand Canyon Protection Act and balance the interests of hydropower generation with the protection of environmental and cultural resources. As stated in the EIS, its purpose was to: “determine specific options that could be implemented to minimize—consistent with law—adverse impacts on the downstream environmental and cultural resources and Native American interests in Glen and Grand Canyons” (USBR, 1995). (See also 1996 Record of Decision below.)
The GCMRC was created by the Secretary of the Interior and placed under the USBR following completion of the Glen Canyon Dam EIS to fulfill the directive in the Grand Canyon Protection Act for the “Establishment and implementation of a long-term monitoring and research program to ensure that Glen Canyon Dam is operated in a manner that protects the values for which the Grand Canyon National Park and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area were created.” (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Power, 1995). Glen Canyon Environmental Studies program merged into GCMRC.
The informal group was assembled to act as a bridge between GCES and GCDAMP personnel and methods. It was comprised mostly of soon-to-be GCDAMP stakeholders.
Dated August 1995, the General Management Plan was designed to “provide a foundation from which to protect park resources while providing for meaningful visitor experiences” (NPS, 1995). The plan built upon several earlier park plans including the 1988 Backcountry Management Plan, 1989 Colorado River Management Plan, and 1994 Resource Management Plan. (Subsequent NPS planning documents relevant to the AMP include the 1997 Resource Management Plan and the 1998 Draft Wildemess Management Plan.)
Upper Basin stakeholders, and WAPA in particular, were against the High Flow Experiment (HFE) plan–the next one was not conducted until 2003. (Potochnik) Some of their fears were assuaged when the same positive beach-building results were obtained the second time with less water than was released in the first HFE. Still, the third HFE was not conducted until 2008. (Around 2008, the nomenclature changed from “Beach Habitat Building Flow” to “High Flow Experiment”)
The ROD selected the “preferred alternative” from among the options presented in the Glen Canyon Dam EIS of 1995. The preferred alternative was the Modified Low Fluctuating Flow Alternative (see 1994 Biological Opinion above). The rationale for choosing that alternative was “The goal of selecting a preferred alternative was not to maximize benefits for the most resources, but rather to find an alternative dam operating plan that would permit recovery and long-term sustainability of downstream resources while limiting hydropower capability and flexibility only to the extent necessary to achieve recovery and long-term sustainability” (USDI 1996: 10). The ROD also mandated the establishment of an Adaptive Management Program and the funding of scientific research to inform the Secretary of Interior regarding how dam operations might be modified to meet the statutory requirements of the Grand Canyon Protection Act (USDI, 1996). Several specific environmental research and monitoring commitments were specified in the ROD, including cultural resources, flood frequency, sediment/beaches, and endangered humpback chub populations. In his oral history interview, Andre Potochnik calls this the real starting point for GCDAMP, because it was the beginning of compliance with the GCPA.
Held position 1996-1998
Orton, involved with AWG through her position as southwest regional director for American Rivers, begins to mediate AMWG stakeholder meetings.  She is retained as mediator by GCDAMP after leaving American Rivers in 1999.
Formed at the behest of SOI Bruce Babbitt for the transition from GCES to GCDAMP/AMWG. There were seven members, representing recreation, environmental, tribal, hydropower and Department of the Interior interests. According to Andre Potochnik, it was this group that took the Colorado River trip described in detail by Mary Orton (see 1999, below).
In 1997 Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt established the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Work Group (AMWG) as a formal Federal Advisory Committee, under the authority and guidelines of the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972. The purpose of AMWG was to monitor implementation of the ROD, provide recommendations to the Secretary regarding its effectiveness, and recommend science-based adjustments to the operation of Glen Canyon Dam to better achieve restoration and maintenance of downstream resources. AMWG held its first meeting on September 10-11, 1997, and officially formed the Glen Canyon Technical Work Group (TWG) as a subgroup to work on tasks charged to them by the AMWG.
Oral history interviewees stated that there was a perception that the USBR had a vested interest in hydropower and was not sufficiently “independent” so the GCMRC was placed directly under the authority of the Asst Secretary of Interior (for Water and Science?)
As described in Mary Orton’s oral history interview, this trip through Grand Canyon helped soothe contention among AMWG stakeholders, who had not been working together for very long, and resulted in a Vision Statement for the group. Most oral history interviewees involved in GCDAMP at the time have shared a recollection of the trip or its impact on the program.
First test of low summer steady flows to benefit endangered fish species. Second and third tests of habitat maintenance flows conducted in spring and summer.
2001-2009. NPS administrators generally and many GCNP administrators in particular had a feeling of being “under siege” during the Bush administration (Anne Castle OH, Part 2 Minute 2)
2001-2006 under George W. Bush
Humpback Chub population in Grand Canyon was in decline in the 1990s, and reached a low of about 5,000 adult fish in 2001.
“This strategic plan is a guidance document for the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program and was developed by program members. Elements of this plan include the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Work Group’s vision and mission statements, as well as principles, goals, and management objectives.” (From the Foreword to the Stategic Plan)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces recovery goals for endangered fishes of the Colorado River Basin.
Adaptive Management Work Group recommends implementation of the first 2 years of an experimental design proposed by the GCMRC.
Experiment begun to remove nonnative fish from the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. Fluctuating nonnative fish suppression releases from January through March implemented and continued through 2005.
2006-2009 under George W. Bush
Operational guidelines to address drought conditions affecting the Colorado River Basin and reduce potential friction among water users and other stakeholders. GCDAMP/AMWG asked to be included in negotiations leading up to the guidelines but was not, according to Andre Potochnik.
Grand Canyon Trust contended that federal agencies responsible for Glen Canyon Dam operations had authorized dam operations that ran counter to their obligation to comply with the Endangered Species Act, Natonal Environmental Policy Act, and Administrative Policy Act.  After a series of decisions and appeals, the suit was decided in favor of the operating agencies in 2012.
(Potochnik OH)
Resulted in both an AMWG recommendation and a minority report to the SOI. Grand Canyon River Guides’ minority report made case for streamling HFE approval process, eliminating the EA requirement for each planned HFE.
2009-2013 under Barack Obama
2009-2014 under Barack Obama
As the Secretary’s designee and AMWG Chair, Castle implemented a policy of “pre-meeting meetings” for BIA, USBR, NPS, USFWS, and USGS (all except USGS voting members) to preview the agenda, get an idea of the agencies’ concerns and priorities and try to coordinate their positions.
Jack Schmidt named GCMRC Chief, 2011-2014
Dave Uberuaga Superintendent of GCNP, 2011-2016
“Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar triggered the first release under the experimental long-term protocol in November 2012. The protocol calls for conducting more frequent high-flow experimental releases and timing them to occur following sediment inputs to the Colorado River downstream from Glen Canyon Dam.” (USDI Press Release 11/07/2016: )
Sally Jewell Secretary of the Interior, 2013-2017 under Barack Obama
Draft EIS for Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan (LTEMP) released to public in January 2016. Public comment accepted through May 9. Final EIS published in October. Record of Decision signed in December. LTEMP prepared by Department of Interior (USBR and NPS), evaluating the effects of dam operations on resources in Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Lake Mead NRA. LTEMP “provides the basis for decisions that identify management actions and experimental options that will provide a framework for adaptively managing Glen Canyon Dam operations over the next 20 years.”
Ryan Zinke Secretary of the Interior, 2017-2018 under Donald Trump