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Open-File Report 2011–1012

Non-Native Fish Control below Glen Canyon Dam—Report from a Structured Decision-Making Project

By Michael C. Runge, Ellen Bean, David R. Smith, and Sonja Kokos


This report describes the results of a structured decision-making project by the U.S. Geological Survey to provide substantive input to the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) for use in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment concerning control of non-native fish below Glen Canyon Dam. A forum was created to allow the diverse cooperating agencies and Tribes to discuss, expand, and articulate their respective values; to develop and evaluate a broad set of potential control alternatives using the best available science; and to define individual preferences of each group on how to manage the inherent trade-offs in this non-native fish control problem.

This project consisted of two face-to-face workshops, held in Mesa, Arizona, October 18–20 and November 8–10, 2010. At the first workshop, a diverse set of objectives was discussed, which represented the range of concerns of those agencies and Tribes present. A set of non-native fish control alternatives ("hybrid portfolios") was also developed. Over the 2-week period between the two workshops, four assessment teams worked to evaluate the control alternatives against the array of objectives. At the second workshop, the results of the assessment teams were presented. Multi-criteria decision analysis methods were used to examine the trade-offs inherent in the problem, and allowed the participating agencies and Tribes to express their individual judgments about how those trade-offs should best be managed in Reclamation‘s selection of a preferred alternative.

A broad array of objectives was identified and defined, and an effort was made to understand how these objectives are likely to be achieved by a variety of strategies. In general, the objectives reflected desired future conditions over 30 years. A rich set of alternative approaches was developed, and the complex structure of those alternatives was documented. Multi-criteria decision analysis methods allowed the evaluation of those alternatives against the array of objectives, with the values of individual agencies and tribes deliberately preserved.

Trout removal strategies aimed at the Paria to Badger Rapid reach (PBR), with a variety of permutations in deference to cultural values, and with backup removal at the Little Colorado River reach (LCR) if necessary, were identified as top-ranking portfolios for all agencies and Tribes. These PBR/LCR removal portfolios outperformed LCR-only removal portfolios, for cultural reasons and for effectiveness—the probability of keeping the humpback chub population above a desired threshold was estimated to be higher under the PBR/LCR portfolios than the LCR-only portfolios. The PBR/LCR removal portfolios also outperformed portfolios based on flow manipulations, primarily because of the effect of sport fishery and wilderness recreation objectives, as well as cultural objectives. The preference for the PBR/LCR removal portfolios was quite robust to variation in the objective weights and to uncertainty about the underlying dynamics, at least over the ranges of uncertainty investigated.

Examination of the effect of uncertainty on the recommended outcomes allowed us to complete a "value of information" analysis. The results of this analysis led to an adaptive strategy that includes three possible long-term management actions (no action; LCR removal; or PBR removal) and seeks to reduce uncertainty about the following two issues: the degree to which rainbow trout limit chub populations, and the effectiveness of PBR removal to reduce trout emigration downstream into Marble and eastern Grand Canyons, where the largest population of humpback chub exist. In the face of uncertainty about the effectiveness of PBR removal, a case might be made for including flow manipulations in an adaptive strategy, but formal analysis of this case was not conducted.

The full set of conclusions described above is not definitive, however. This analysis described in this report is a simplified depiction of the true decision; it is only meant to aid decision-makers by helping them see the structure of the problem, not to make the decision for them. This analysis can best be used as a starting point for the deliberative consultations that will lead to the final decision. In particular, this structured decision-making process will be useful to the Department of the Interior (DOI) as it undertakes an analysis of removal strategies under the National Environmental Policy Act.

First posted January 13, 2011

For additional information contact:
Michael C. Runge, Ph.D.
Research Ecologist
U.S. Geological Survey
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
12100 Beech Forest Road
Laurel, MD 20708

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Runge, M.C., Bean, Ellen, Smith, D.R., and Kokos, Sonja, 2011, Non-native fish control below Glen Canyon Dam—Report from a structured decision-making project: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011–1012, 74 p., at




Decision Framework



Consequences of the Hybrid Strategies

Decision Analysis

Summary and Discussion


References Cited

Appendix 1 Letter from Anne Castle to Adaptive Management Working Group and Technical Working Group Members and Alternates, September 17, 2010

Appendix 2 Detailed Description of the Hybrid Portfolios

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