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Water Release Management Plan Proposed for Glen Canyon Dam

January 16, 2016

GRAND CANYON, Arizona The U.S. Department of the Interior today released a proposed 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 environmental impact statement (EIS) is available to the public for review and comment for 90 days.

Glen Canyon Dam

The National Park Service and the Bureau of Reclamation led examination of seven possible alternatives in the draft EIS, including a preferred alternative that would provide assurances for water and power users while mitigating adverse impacts on Grand Canyon National Park. Research and proposed experimental actions under the plan will preserve and improve the resources in Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon while continuing to ensure that water and power needs are met.

The high-flow experimental releases of water from the dam considered in the draft EIS are designed to mimic the natural flooding of the Colorado River through the Glen and Grand canyons that occurred before the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Sand stored in the river channel is picked up by high-volume water releases from the dam and re-deposited in downstream reaches as sandbars and beaches. These sand features and associated backwater habitats can provide key fish and wildlife habitat, potentially reduce erosion of archaeological sites, restore and enhance riparian vegetation, increase beaches, and enhance wilderness values along the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park.

The preferred alternative identified in the draft EIS continues the high-flow experiments carried out in recent years to help restore the natural ecosystem, but enables continued adaptations and establishes criteria to trigger future releases, which will create certainty and predictability for water users and other stakeholders along the Colorado River.

Reclamation and the National Park Service began developing the draft EIS for this framework in 2011. The draft EIS and all its alternatives will be the subject of extensive public hearings and discussion before the comment period closes on April 7, 2016, laying the groundwork for preparation of a final EIS.

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