New EIS Underway for Glen Canyon Dam

In an attempt to comply with a settlement agreement reached last September between environmental groups and the Department of Interior, the Bureau of Reclamation has begun the scoping process for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the operations of Glen Canyon Dam called the Long-Term Experimental Plan.

According to John Weisheit of the Utah-based river restoration group Living Rivers, the world-renowned Colorado River ecosystem in Grand Canyon National Park has been deteriorating for more than four decades due to the upstream operations of the 700-foot-high Glen Canyon Dam. Beaches, endangered native fish and archeological sites have all disappeared as cold, nutrient-depleted water is released at the whims of dam operators on a daily basis, replacing the gradual seasonal fluctuations consistent with the Colorado River's natural hydrology. Within ten years after the dam's completion, strong public outcry forced the Bureau of Reclamation (BoR) to begin exploring mechanisms to alter Glen Canyon Dam's operations to reverse its detrimental effects on Grand Canyon National Park.

"As presently conceived, this EIS will deliver nothing more than a continuation of studying Grand Canyon to death" notes Weisheit, who points directly to Reclamation as the cause of the damage.

"Despite hundreds of millions of dollars invested, major studies completed, and new laws enacted by Congress, Reclamation has continued to drag its feet, citing an ongoing need for even more studies." As proof of the critical situation, Weisheit is quick to point out that four of eight native fish species have gone extinct, otters and muskrats have disappeared, and the riparian ecology has been dramatically altered--from the river's native food web to the proliferation of non-native plants throughout the canyon.

According to Weisheit, there already exists an abundance of scientific understanding regarding how dam operations must change, much of it from the first Glen Canyon Dam EIS completed in 1995. If Grand Canyon's river ecosystem is to be protected, according to Weisheit, the problem is that these recommendations are not being followed by the stakeholder group that is in charge of implementing the regulations, under the auspices of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program.

Dominated by water and power interests, the Adaptive Management Workgroup, as a committee of advisors to the Secretary of the Interior, has continuously sidestepped its directives as outlined in the 1995 EIS. Weisheit is critical of a new study while the earlier studies recommendations go unheeded. "They have failed to follow the earlier EIS recommendations to develop a recovery plan for the endangered razorback sucker or establish a second population of the endangered humpback chub, failed to augment the water temperature or to restore sediment, and failed to implement river flows consistent with the river's natural hydrograph."

What You Can Do!

It's time to send a quick e-mail, letter or fax to the Bureau of Reclamation with your comments on the Long Term Experimental Plan for the Future Operations of Glen Canyon Dam.

Below are some of the issues you might mention. Remember, for your comments to have more weight, you should re-write the points below in your own words.

Express your dismay with the Department of Interior's mishandling of the recovery efforts for the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park over the past 40 years.

Demand that any new EIS must have a clear purpose and commitment to implement recovery of native species, sediment augmentation, temperature modification and restoration of the natural hydrograph.

Ask that the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center and all other agencies/researchers avoid using motorized watercraft for the gathering of field data during Grand Canyon National Park's annual Colorado River motor-free period October through March.

Make it clear that the principal objective should not be the long-term operation of Glen Canyon Dam, but the implementation of the ingredients necessary to bring about the recovery and preservation of endangered species within the Colorado River corridor of Grand Canyon National Park.

Ask that the no-dam alternative be evaluated as one means of achieving the restoration of the natural process necessary for the recovery and preservation of endangered species in Grand Canyon's river corridor.

Let Reclamation know that restoration must include:

-The return of river flows consistent with the Colorado River's natural discharge into Grand Canyon.

-The re-establishment of a water temperature regime consistent with seasonal temperature variations of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.

-The re-establishment of sediment inputs into Grand Canyon consistent with the amount that would be received in a dam-free environment.

-The elimination of non-native species, which have taken hold in the artificial riverine environment created by Glen Canyon Dam operations.

Finally, mention that the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (AMP) be replaced by an open source and independent body of research and advisory scientists, where the monitoring and research data are consistently and thoroughly peer-reviewed prior to formulating any recommendations to the Secretary of Interior.

Submit your comments on or before Tuesday, February 28, 2007

To send via email:

To send via fax: (801) 524-3858

To send by mail:

Mr. Rick Gold
Regional Director, Bureau of Reclamation
Upper Colorado Region
Attn: UC-402
125 South State Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84138-1147