Glen Canyon Dam study to help develop long-term operation plan

There are many competing needs in a river system for water. From farming irrigation and recreational activities (like boating and fishing) to environmental protection and hydropower production, these needs can be hard to prioritize and manage.

 To address operations on the Colorado River, the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation are developing a new Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan for Glen Canyon Dam.

 As part of the development process, the agencies will co-lead a draft environmental impact statement and public scoping process to evaluate operation alternatives and receive public comments, respectively.

Impact on hydropower production

The resulting plan could change hydropower generation output, which is marketed by Western’s Colorado River Storage Project Management Center, and possibly implement a Recovery Implementation Program for endangered fish species below Glen Canyon Dam.

According to a notice of intent in the July 6 Federal Register, the comprehensive review of dam operations – the first since 1995 – “will provide a framework for adaptively managing Glen Canyon Dam over the next 15 to 20 years consistent with the [Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992] and other provisions of applicable Federal law.”

“We need to make use of the latest science to develop and implement a structured, long-term management plan for the Glen Canyon Dam that adheres to the Law of the River, respects the interests of the tribal nations, and sustains the health of the Grand Canyon and the communities that depend on its water, consistent with the Grand Canyon Protection Act,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in a July 5 press release.

Between the dam’s completion in 1963 and 1990, dam operations strove to maximize hydropower generation. However, increasing environmental concerns of dam operations on downstream resources prompted the government to pass the GCPA, which directed DOI to conduct a study to minimize the impact of dam operations.

Following the study, a Record of Decision Oct. 9, 1996 from the Bureau implemented the current Modified Low Fluctuating Flow Alternative used today at the dam. In 1997, the Secretary of Interior adopted operating criteria for Glen Canyon Dam (62 FR 9447).