Comment period extended for Glen Canyon Dam management, water release plan

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PAGE, Ariz. — A public comment period for a Glen Canyon Dam draft management plan has been extended until May 9. Construction of the dam created Lake Powell and is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is managed by the National Park Service.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the National Park Service are extending the public comment period for the Glen Canyon Dam Long-term Experimental and Management Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The new 20 year management plan is intended to allow changes and experimentation in setting release schedules for water in the dam. The proposed changes will affect how sediment is deposited in the river channel to more closely mimic natural conditions. The plan affects 15 miles of river within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and 277 miles in the Grand Canyon.

 “It would change the monthly and hourly release schedule for the Glen Canyon Dam to better comply with the Grand Canyon Protection Act,”  Rob Billerbeck, Colorado River coordinator for the National Park Service said, “and to make use of the 20 years of science that’s available since the last time an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) was done on the dam.”

“What it doesn’t do, is it does not change the annual volume that goes from Glen Canyon Dam down into Lake Mead,” he said. “So it’s about how the water is released, not the annual amount.”

One of the major aspects considered in the plan is how and when to carry out high-flow releases to increase the retention of sand bars and beaches, Billerbeck said. The natural timing of high-flow events is in the spring. However, studies have shown that with the dam in place, fall releases are more effective.

The plan is expected to benefit recreational users by creating more camping beaches, but will also improve habitat, protect cultural resources and return the canyon to a more natural state.

“There were extensive beaches and sand bars in the canyon prior to the building of the dam,” Billerbeck said.

The experimental aspect of the proposed plan allows river managers to experiment and adjust water release schedules annually.

The National Park Service and the Bureau of Reclamation developed the plan in conjunction with the the Adaptive Management Working Group for the Glen Canyon Dam, which includes representatives of seven states, several Native American tribes and recreation and hydropower groups, Billerbeck said.

The comment period was originally set to end April 7 but has been extended in response to several requests for more time.

The plan is a framework for adaptively managing Glen Canyon Dam over the next 20 years with the goal of creating certainty and predictability for power and water users while protecting environmental and cultural resources in Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River ecosystem.

The draft plan evaluates the effects of dam operations on resources in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Grand Canyon National Park, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and provide management and experimental options for managing the dam.

Details

  • Public comments should be received or postmarked by May 9.
  • For more information, visit the plan website.
  • Frequently Asked Questions Web page
  • To submit a comment, visit the plan Web page.

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

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