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High-Flow Water Experiments Aiding Wildlife Along The Colorado River
Water flow from the Glen Canyon Dam carries much-needed sediment down the Colorado River.

A surge of water into the Colorado River is being hailed as an important step in preserving endangered fish species in Grand Canyon National Park. According to Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association, increasing the flow of water sends precious sediment down the 277-mile long river.

“The key feature is the sediment that’ll carry in and redistribute along the Colorado River. It will build up sand banks along the river and create habitat that’s conducive to the endangered Humpback Chub in particular,” he said.

Adequate flow in the river, which runs through Grand and San Juan Counties, is absolutely crucial to the health of the Humpback Chub population. Reports compiled by the Bureau of Reclamation help design experiments in water surges from the dam, said Dahl.

“They have an annual hydrograph of expected water that’s going to come in to the system but of course the ultimate source is Mother Nature,” he said. “So, when we have a good idea that there will be ideal conditions to bring the sediment in and plenty of water to do that, that’s when these high-flow experiments happen.”

According to Dahl, the surge experiments are working to help the ecology of the river. Continued research is key to maintaining the improved conditions of the sediment, he says.

“We’ve been really pleased. You know, this stretch of the Colorado River is probably the most intensively studied stretch of river, I would say, in the world,” Dahl said. “Each of the high-flow experiments have done what we’d hoped they’d do. It does improve the conditions and, then, in between these surges the conditions degrade. So, it’s something we have to be able to do when we can.”

The Glen Canyon Dam has regulated the flow of the Colorado River since 1963.