FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rearranging Deck Chairs at Glen Canyon Dam

by JOHN WEISHEIT

The experimental flood releases last month from Glen Canyon Dam was merely another public relations façade staged by the Department of the Interior believing three times is a charm. Luck is not how one restores the Grand Canyon.

The first media hoopla was in 1996, then again in 2004, and now in 2008. Twelve years, three experimental floods, same results: a degraded ecosystem for this prized national park.

These experiments do nothing but rearrange the furniture and most of the shuffling occurs in Marble Canyon, which is the first 52 miles of Grand Canyon National Park.

What were the beaches like in Marble Canyon before Glen Canyon Dam? According to the USGS, as reported at the Technical Work Group meeting on April 8, 2008, the total storage of sand in Marble Canyon prior to the dam was 16,000,000 metric tons. All that is left today is 2,600,000 metric tons.Between the passage of the Grand Canyon Protection Act in 1992 and the 2008 experimental flood, 6,000,000 metric tons have been removed from Marble Canyon.

The odds are clearly against the players.

Even if Interior operated the dam with the sole intent of just rebuilding the beach and habitat conditions that existed in 1992, it would take 40 to 45 years to achieve the goal.

Why is this charade tolerated? Why does Interior continue to stage farcical media sensations instead of providing results that are tangible and real?

The scientists explained in 2005 that the sand replenishment hypothesis from the 1995 EIS is flawed. The scientists recommended that mechanical sediment augmentation may need to be implemented afterall. Mechanical sediment augmentation is physically extracting sediment that is currently being stored in the reservoir, Lake Powell.

A system of dredges and pipelines would need to be funded and built to pump a slurry of sediment into the river below Glen Canyon Dam or 15 miles downstream at Lees Ferry.

If not a slurry pipeline, the alternative would be 500 trucks a day hauling sediment over roads.It is clear: there will never be enough sediment for the ecosystem until different applications are seriously examined. Namely, mechanical sediment augmentation and restoring a free-flowing river through Grand Canyon by dismantling Glen Canyon Dam.Before the big dams of the upper Colorado River basin were built, the total annual amount of suspended sediment in the river from 1925 to 1940 was 195 million tons.

Scientists noted how a change in climate patterns (the intensity of summer storms have decreased overall) occurred around 1940. From 1941 to 1957, the annual sediment load in the river dropped to 85 million tons. After the upper Colorado RIver basin dams were completed the flow of sediment that enters Lake Powell is now 44 million tons annually.

Very few people have seen Cataract Canyon above Lake Powell. Those who have, like myself, will tell you how the sediment passing through Cataract Canyon creates ample beaches and sandbars every year. And, yes, Cataract Canyon has endangered species too, but at least they are not extirpated (regionally extinct) as they are in Grand Canyon. Scientists are not studying Cataract Canyon sediment dynamics at all, even though the National Research Council has advised they do.

Meanwhile, behind the curtain of these staged events, Interior continues their bureaucratic stalling, obstructionism, lying to the public, and wasting their revenues on useless programs. No different than a polluter paying the fine, instead of correcting the problem.

John Weisheit, the Colorado Riverkeeper, is director of Living Rivers. He can be reached at: john@livingrivers.org

This article originally appeared in On the Colorado.

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail