February 26, 2008

Researchers Propose Artificial Flood in Grand Canyon

Government officials plan to stage the third artificial flood in the Grand Canyon next month with hopes of reversing some of the negative effects experienced by the local ecosystem which were caused by the construction of a nearby dam.

In 1963, the Glen Canyon Dam was built, and it completely changed the composition of the Colorado River and abruptly caused the extinction of four fish species, leaving two others currently in danger as the nearby beaches are eroding because sediment is being blocked by the dam.

If the artificial flood is approved, flows in the Grand Canyon would increase to 41,000 cubic feet per second for nearly three days - four to five times the normal amount of water released from the Glen Canyon Dam, according to Associated Press.

Environmentalists are anticipating being able to see how the local fish react when the artificial flood is ended.

"Our ultimate purpose is to learn whether or not this is a viable strategy for creating sandbars and habitats for native fish," said John Hamill, chief of the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, part of the U.S. Geological Survey.

In 1996, the government opened Glen Canyon Dam's bypass tubes for several days hoping that they could imitate natural cycles and rebuild beaches and fish habitat. The most recent test was conducted in 2004.

Some environmental groups want the government to permanently change the dam's operation rather than perpetually conducting similar tests. They claim that their plan would work smoothly with the river's natural flow cycle.

Nikolai Lash is the senior program director for the Grand Canyon Trust, a group that has been in a long-lived battle with the government over the dam's operation. He said that the tests are only projecting the image of normal fish activity.

"They're trying to make it appear that they're doing something beneficial when they're just doing it for appearances," he said. "It's being manipulated to be a 'one and done,' even though we know that doesn't work."


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