U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- The effort to restore lost elements of the Colorado River's ecosystem through a controlled flood released from the Glen Canyon Dam has been called a success. The whole thing "worked brilliantly," said Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit.
"What we have found is really quite extraordinary," Babbit said of the flood which released a torrent of water from Lake Powell -- a discharge which peaked at 45,000 cubic feet per second and continued for seven days, lowering the level of the lake by three and a half feet.
Babbit said the beaches along the canyon appear to have been increased as much as 30 percent and that the flooding had created numerous large backwater channels that can serve as a habitat for endangered fish species such as the humpback chub.
Years without the annual spring floods on the Colorado River -- floods which ceased with the construction of dams and reservoirs -- have left beaches depleted and spawning grounds for fish uninhabitable.
The flood stirred up sediments which not only created beaches, Babbit said, but provided nutrients for plants and improved conditions for fish.
"It was exactly what we needed to do," said Dave Wegner of the Bureau of Reclamation, who supervised the flooding project.
Data show that 80 percent of the new beach sediment was deposited in the first 40 hours of flooding and all the new deposits were in place within 100 hours.
Babbit explained that repeats of the flood, which he expects at "regular intervals," won't have to continue for the full seven days as this one did. He estimated the cost of the flooding at $1.5 million for research done during the flood and about $2.5 million in lost electrical generating capacity.
Over the 13-year span of developing the project, however, total costs were more than $75 million, he said.
Babbit said the results of the project "confirm our conviction that a new era has begun in the management of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon."
Return to the U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water News Homepage