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Dam’s Future On Line at Phoenix Meeting

August 12, 2009

Phoenix, AZ - Glen Canyon Dam stakeholders meet today to discuss possible changes in the dam's operation. Environmental groups are pushing for steadier water releases to protect habitat and recreation in Grand Canyon National Park. Comments from Nikolai (NICK-oh-lie) Lash, Colorado River program director for the Grand Canyon Trust.

From river-runners to power companies, Glen Canyon Dam stakeholders begin a two-day meeting today in Phoenix to consider better ways to operate the dam. Nikolai Lash, Colorado River program director for the Grand Canyon Trust, wants more high-water releases into the river, such as the one in March 2008.

"Those high flows are critical for building up beaches, and big beaches are necessary, not only for good recreation but also for good habitat."

Lash also favors steadier river flows at other times. He says the current, daily high and low releases have a washing machine effect, eroding beaches in Grand Canyon National Park. Power generation interests are opposed to changes that would increase the cost of producing electricity - but Lash says Congress has directed that the dam be operated to protect recreation, archaeological sites and endangered species within the park.

"The Grand Canyon Protection Act actually requires that the Grand Canyon be given priority over hydropower generation. So, by federal law, if you have to make a choice between diminishing hydropower and diminishing Grand Canyon - diminish hydropower."

The same 1992 law requires a public review of Glen Canyon Dam operations every five years, something Lash says has yet to happen. He is not among those who want the dam removed, although he'd like to see it operated so that river flows are similar to those before the dam was built.

"What we're advocating is a return to something that mimics the natural cycle. Keep the dam in place, keep generating hydropower, but do it in a manner that more closely mimics the natural processes."

Recommendations from the Glen Canyon Adaptive Management Working Group will go to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for possible adoption.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ