Winter 2001Already


Time flies when you're having fun. Time to write that definitive article for the lead into the first bqr of 2001. As usual, I've put it off 'til the last minute. Five days past the deadline for submissions and the night before driving to the Ferry to rig for a science trip. Luckily for gcrg, we have Lynn Hamilton to keep things from flying apart. Speaking of Lynn, in what is probably a long overdue move, the Board of Directors has voted to establish the position of Executive Director and promote her into the position since in reality, she's been performing in that capacity since she took on the job of keeping our heads above the water a few years ago. She is the perfect person for the job and we are really blessed to have her.
A few weeks back, Lynn, Richard Quartaroli and I attended two meetings at the South Rim. The morning meeting dealt with nps concerns over last summer's outbreak of gastroenteritis on river trips; specifically, they (we) want to determine the etiology of the illness and implement effective preventative measures.
The best guess regarding etiology is a waterborne viral pathogen. Since viruses are not filtered out by any water filtration methods, we will also have to disinfect all of our water with chlorine, iodine, boiling or carry pure water from the Ferry or Phantom Ranch. Carrying water from pure sources is only possible for motor trips and boiling is prohibitively fuel and labor intensive. That leaves rowing trips with only two possibilities for pure water, iodine and chlorine. Many people are iodine intolerant, leaving only chlorine disinfection after filtration as a way to provide safe, potable water on rowing trips.
The challenge for those of us who don't like that swimming pool taste or are concerned with the possible long term health effects of ingesting mega amounts of chlorine (a powerful oxidant), is to figure out how to effectively remove the chlorine after the required disinfection. I think a second pumping of the chlorinated water through a carbon filter might work. Any ideas out there on this one? Contact me and let's get a system figured out.
While the additional requirements for purification will increase our workload a little, I'm encouraged by the fact that they realize that it's the water and not our sanitation practices causing the outbreaks.
A related topic of discussion was the fact that the offending pathogen was never positively identified in either the 2000 or the 1994 outbreaks. In order to rectify this, stool samples from infected individuals need to be obtained in a timely manner for testing. Procedural protocols will be forthcoming. The bottom line though (no pun intended), is to keep people healthy on our trips.

Our second meeting was to get acquainted with the new acting Wilderness District Ranger, Mike McGinnis, and discuss the first aid and guide licensing changes instituted in the 2001 Commercial Operating Requirements (cors). We were opposing the change from a minimum requirement of Department of Transportation (dot) First Responder to Wilderness Advanced First Aid (wafa) for guides and Wilderness First Responder (wfr) for trip leaders. Our argument was that the cost and time commitment coupled, with the limited availability of courses, would present undue hardship on all guides and would eliminate many veteran guides who have moved on to other endeavors, but would like to guide a trip occasionally. We also pointed out that there is, as yet, no nationally recognized standard curriculum for wafa or wfr.
The Parks' position is that the requirement has been raised nationally to the wfr level so they are compelled to raise it in the Canyon. They did, however, acquiesce to our contention that a phase-in period was necessary; thus, for the time being, if a guide stays current in all certifications, the dot standard will be acceptable. It is a tough position for us to take, because we see the value of wafa and wfr training and have encouraged and helped to provide it for guides, but to make it the minimum requirement seems to place an unfair burden on the guides. A note here…nps personnel are paid to take the required courses. Any ideas out there on this one?
We also discussed the new change in the cors requiring new guides to have outfitter sponsorship in order to take the Guide Licensing Test. The nps argument on this one was that they want someone else to take responsibility for verifying the necessary experience qualifications of a guide candidate. This is a liability issue that the Park Service feels they need to divest themselves of.
Then there are all those other issues that we need to work on. Use allocations, guide pay and benefits, decommissioning the dam, eating breakfast and getting my next trip rigged. The last two of which have to be my priority at this point. Hopefully most of you know what I'm saying, but please feel free to write or e-mail me personally with your criticism or, better yet, any helpful ideas or suggestions you may have. Cheers, or as the old-timers used to say, “Guano,” for now.
Kenton “Factor” Grua