Living Rivers - Colorado Riverkeeper
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Save Grand Canyon Again
Grand Canyon Campaign
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Grand Canyon & Glen Canyon Dam: The Basics
The Restoration Journey
Colorado River Water Storage Without Glen Canyon Dam
Climate Change: The End of Glen Canyon Dam?
Other Reasons to Decommission Glen Canyon Dam
Species in Peril

The Restoration Journey

Slow Road to Failure

  • 1972: In preparation for management plans for an enlarged Grand Canyon National Park, the Park Service begins to research and monitor the degradation of the natural and cultural resources caused by the altered water releases from Glen Canyon Dam.
  • 1982: Federal government launched Glen Canyon Environmental Studies due to heightened concerns about Glen Canyon Dam's impacts to Grand Canyon.
  • 1989: Bureau of Reclamation initiated an environmental impact study to propose new dam operation methods to mitigate adverse impacts on Grand Canyon.
  • 1992: Congress passed the Grand Canyon Protection Act requiring the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Glen Canyon Dam's operations
  • 1996: Bureau of Reclamation completed EIS and established the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program to guide Grand Canyon recovery efforts.
  • 2004: 200 NGOs demand the Bureau of Reclamation undertake a supplemental EIS on the operations of Glen Canyon due do its impacts on Grand Canyon National Park. Read more...
  • 2005: 130 NGOs support the "One-Dam Solution," a report on the benefits of decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam, as the terms of reference for the Bureau of Reclamation's review of operating Lake Powell and Lake Mead under low water conditions. Read more...
  • 2005: United States Geological Survey released a ten-year report card on the Adaptive Management Program which reveals many failings of the AMP Program. Read more...
  • 2006: Living Rivers, Center for Biological Diversity and other NGOs file suit against the department of Interior for failing to protect endangered species in Grand Canyon as prescribed for in the 1995 EIS. Lawsuit is settled and a new EIS is planned. Read more...
  • 2007: Bureau of Reclamation launches new EIS for a Long-Term Experimental plan for Glen Canyon Dam Operations. Read more...

For over 30 years the public has been demanding that the impacts of Glen Canyon Dam on Grand Canyon National Park be addressed by the Bureau of Reclamation. And throughout this history, the Bureau has failed to encourage any meaningful changes in Glen Canyon Dam operations to reverse the decline of the native riverine ecosystem in Grand Canyon National Park.

The most significant undertaking to date, the now eleven-year old Adaptive Management Program was given specific instructions from the 1995 EIS on the steps it should be taken to reverse the ecosystem's decline, but continues to ignore most of them.

The program has failed in its principle charge to recover endangered fish. The razorback sucker is no longer found in Grand Canyon, and the humpback chub has declined 80% to approximately 1,100 fish. Additionally, the dam continues to cause the deterioration of archaeological sites along the river and the rise of non-native species invading the canyon.

This lack of progress resulted in a lawsuit being filed in 2006, the settlement of which has brought about the launching of a new EIS in 2007.

Because the evolving focus of this new EIS appears to be the development of recommendation for more studies and not immediate action consistent with what science has determined is already determined, Living Rivers is not confident that this new EIS will generate a productive outcome for Grand Canyon.

This is why it's critical that public submit comments [LINK 750] on this EIS process, and demand that it be focused on mechanisms to restore Grand Canyon first, then how and if Glen Canyon Dam can be operated so as not to impede this process.

The growing momentum for Grand Canyon restoration has unfortunately prompted Utah Congressional leaders to successfully obtain an annual ban on federal funds for evaluating the best alternative for Grand Canyon's restoration, decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam. Efforts are therefore under way to fully educate Congress on Grand Canyon's fate and the urgent need to support [LINK 610] an unconstrained EIS on the operations of Glen Canyon Dam.

Contemporary Concerns

Experts who have been intimately involved with Grand Canyon restoration efforts are urging more aggressive action:

"It's time to stop pretending that Grand Canyon resources can survive the effects of Glen Canyon Dam. Funding for adaptive management should be used to evaluate how to best decommission the dam while there is still time."
David Haskell, Science Director, Grand Canyon National Park, 1994-1999

"Adaptive management was not meant to be used as an excuse to avoid making the hard decisions necessary about how, and if, Glen Canyon Dam can continue to be operated in order to restore the native ecosystem in Grand Canyon."
David Wegner, Program Manager, Glen Canyon Environmental Studies, 1982-1996

"Clearly, the Adaptive Management Program has not benefited the aquatic resources in Grand Canyon. Status quo is unacceptable and inaction will doom native fish populations. All alternatives must receive critical and unbiased evaluation-a discharge hydrograph that mimics pre-dam conditions, temperature modification, decommissioning, and other scenarios all should be on the table."
Dr. Paul Marsh, Zoologist, Arizona State University

"Glen Canyon Dam's Adaptive Management Program has initiated minor flow modifications and limited non-native fish removal, but these mediocre attempts to restore native fish populations and pre-dam habitats are not enough to counter the daily ecosystem destruction imposed by Glen Canyon Dam."
Dr. Joseph Shannon, Aquatic Ecologist, Northern Arizona University

"The price of the creation of Glen Canyon Dam has been the deterioration of the pre-dam environmental attributes of the Grand Canyon. Unless radical measures are taken, this price will remain."
Dr. Jack Schmidt, Geologist, Utah State University

The Battle for New Studies

In April 2004, 200 organizations from across the United States came together to call for a new Environmental Impact Statement on Glen Canyon Dam operations. Federal guidelines warrant preparing another EIS when new information arises that was not considered in the original EIS and which could impact future management decisions. Clearly, in the case of Grand Canyon, the continued decline of endangered species raises serious questions about the ongoing implementation of the 1996 EIS' recommendations.

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Last Update: January 23, 2007

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