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Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Arizona: Operation of Glen Canyon Dam

Agencies: Bureau of Reclamation and National Park Service

Criteria for Council Involvement:

  • Operation of the Glen Canyon Dam has substantial impacts on the Grand Canyon, a World Heritage Site, as well as the Grand Canyon River Corridor District, an important district of archeological sites (Criterion 1).

  • The undertaking presents important questions of policy or interpretation regarding the effects of the operation of large water projects on historic properties (Criterion 2).

  • With implementation of a 1994 Programmatic Agreement for the dam's operation overdue and difficult, there is the potential for procedural problems (Criterion 3).

  • Operation of the dam and its associated impacts present issues of concern to seven Indian tribes (Criterion 4).

Recent Developments

In response to concerns raised by the Hopi Tribe, the Council is discussing with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and the National Park Service (NPS) implementation of the 1994 Programmatic Agreement (PA) for BORís operation of the Glen Canyon Dam. In December 2000, the Council reminded BOR and NPS that they had a responsibility under the PA to evaluate the National Register eligibility of the Grand Canyon for its traditional cultural and religious values to the seven signatory Indian tribes.

BOR and NPS have since begun preparing documentation for formally determining the National Register eligibility of the canyon and have resumed consultation with the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Hualapai Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, Shivwits Paiute Tribe, and Kaibab Paiute Tribe.

The Council also requested that BOR indicate how and when it intends to develop the long overdue Historic Properties Management Plan (HPMP) to address the long-term management of the many historic properties affected by the operation of the Glen Canyon Dam. The Council also asked how BOR responds to recommendations for changes to the Glen Canyon cultural resources program made by a panel of experts participating in a May 2000 Protocol Evaluation Panel. The Council recently received a response from BOR which is currently under review.


The Grand Canyon is a unique natural and cultural property listed as a World Heritage Site on UNESCO's World Heritage List. In 1994, the Council entered into a PA with BOR (as lead agency), NPS, the Arizona State Historic Preservation Officer, and seven Indian tribes regarding the effects of BOR's operation of the Glen Canyon Dam on the canyon, notably on the Grand Canyon River Corridor District, which is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
(Photo: National Park Service)

This district consists of 313 archeological properties located on more than 230 miles of Colorado River corridor within the Grand Canyon National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and tribal lands of the Hualapai Tribe, Navajo Nation, and Havasupai Tribe (the latter tribe elected not to participate in the PA).

The seven signatory Indian tribes attribute traditional cultural values to the Grand Canyon itself and many specific locations within the canyon. Thus, the PA provides for BOR and NPS to determine the National Register eligibility of the affected area, including the Grand Canyon, as a traditional cultural property important to the tribes.

Implementation of the PA is part of the Secretary of the Interior's larger program to comply with the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992, which mandates the continued monitoring and management of environmental and cultural resources and Native American interests affected by the operation of the Glen Canyon Dam. The PA calls for the development and implementation of a monitoring program through a Monitoring Remedial Action Plan and a longer-term HPMP.

Regrettably, key provisions of the PA have yet to be implemented. BOR and NPS have not yet developed an HPMP acceptable to the signatories to the PA. Also, in September 2000, the Hopi Tribal Chairman wrote to the Council expressing concerns that BOR and NPS had not yet evaluated the Grand Canyon as a Hopi traditional cultural property.

Policy Highlights

Large Federal water projects in the West can have significant impacts on historic properties. The Glen Canyon PA is an important attempt to address such effects programmatically, and its implementation will highlight both what does and does not work in trying to understand the effects of such projects on historic properties and possible approaches to addressing such effects.

Complicating these issues in this case is the overlap of jurisdictions between NPS as the land-managing agency for the Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the Navajo Nation and Hualapai Tribe for their respective tribal lands, and the Bureau of Reclamation as operator of the Glen Canyon Dam.

The project is also an interesting case study in consulting with many Indian tribes who attach religious and cultural significance to one or more historic properties.

Staff contact: Margie Nowick

Posted March 21, 2001

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