New Grand Canyon High Flow Experiment Started
On November 18, 2012, the Grand Canyon experienced a highflow release of water from Glen Canyon Dam. This release was part of a restoration experiment by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in cooperation with U.S. Geological Survey’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The purpose of the experiment is to restore sandbars and beaches in the Grand Canyon for habitat and recreation. A new protocol developed by Reclamation calls for a series of simulated floods through 2020. The protocol allows flood releases on short notice and without extensive environmental review when conditions meet predetermined criteria. The floods are expected to redistribute sediments in a manner similar to natural, pre-dam conditions. Before the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1966, spring floods transported large amounts of sediment that created natural sandbars. Since then, beaches have eroded and sandbars have been disappearing, causing negative impacts on native fish and recreation. Similar experiments were conducted in 1996, 2004, and 2008 and yielded findings that indicate a program of well-timed high flows could reverse some of the damage. Monitoring, data collection and analysis will continue throughout the program to contribute to adaptive management of the affected area.