Local Headlines
12:53 pm
Thu December 10, 2009

Grand Canyon to See More High Flows

Flagstaff, AZ – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today (yesterday) that there will be additional high flow experiments conducted at Glen Canyon Dam. The artificial floods are designed to rebuild sandbars and beaches along the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

The last high flow experiment was held in March of 2008. Two jet tubes at the base of the gigantic dam were opened for two and a half days, releasing 300 thousand gallons of water per second.

Within days new sand bars were created downstream, providing wildlife habitat, and camping for river runners. But many of the benefits eroded away in the months following the high flow. At the time of the experiment, there wasn't another one planned for at least five years.

That will now change with Secretary Salazar's announcement.

"I know there has been some debate about the effectiveness of the high flow experiments. But the one we did in 2008, demonstrated the potential benefits of more experiments."

And Salazar said if the new experiments don't work, "we'll change them."

Grand Canyon National Park superintendent Steve Martin was critical of the one-time nature of the last high flow experiment. But he says he's pleased with the new longer term approach.

"It's a really important decision, something we're very supportive of and quite excited to see."

The Interior Department must first complete an environmental assessment of the new high flow release protocol, which will establish certain triggers for multiple future experiments. Also next month the US Geological Survey is completing its research on the effects of the 2008 experiment, which will be incorporated into the new protocol.