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Feds flood the Grand Canyon to save endangered fish

Feds flood the Grand Canyon to save endangered fish

Feds flood the Grand Canyon to save endangered fish
March 5, 2008

Federal government officials unleashed a flood of water from Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona to help restore the Grand Canyon’s ecosystem which has suffered as a result of changes caused by the dam.

“This gives you a glimpse of what nature has been doing for millions of years, cutting through and creating this magnificent canyon,” Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne was quoted as saying by the Associated Press after he released the water.

Park officials hope the three-day flood — which at 41,000 cubic feet per second will be four to five times the normal amount of water released from the Glen Canyon Dam — will restore sandbars on the Colorado River downstream from the dam. It is the third time since 1996 that the artificial flood has been released.

Photo of 2004 Test

“This experiment has been timed to take advantage of the highest sediment deposits in a decade and designed to better assess the ability of these releases to rebuild beaches that provide habitat for endangered wildlife and campsites for thousands of Grand Canyon National Park tourists,” Kempthorne said in a statement. “The water will be released at a rate that would fill the Empire State Building within twenty minutes. It will transport enough sediment to cover a football field 100 feet deep with silt and sand.”

Officials say the manmade flood with help the ecology of the canyon, which has been dramatically altered by the dam.

Before the Glen Canyon Dam’s construction in 1963, the Colorado was a warm and muddy river. Annual flooding built up sandbars which are critical habitat for native plant and fish species.

Today, with sediment trapped by the dam, the Colorado runs cold and clear. At least four fish species have gone extinct, while two others — including the humpback chub — are endangered.

Scientists will conduct experiments during and after to flood to determine its effectiveness on restoring habitats for the humpback chub and other species.

Environmentalists have critized the flood as little more than a PR stunt, saying that the one time “flush” would not have a lasting impact.

“This week’s high-flow stunt is nothing but a green wash to mask another betrayal of the Grand Canyon by its political custodians,” said Jeff Ruch, Executive Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an environmental advocacy group.

This article used quotes and information from the Associated Press and the Dept. of the Interior web site.

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