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March 7, 2004

Save Grand Canyon Native Fish: Demand EIS on the proposed temperature control device at Glen Canyon Dam

Penstocks at Glen Canyon Dam
Penstocks at Glen Canyon Dam
The last of Grand Canyon's native humpback chub are headed toward extinction, and the department of Interior is attempting to fast-track a controversial experiment that could kill what's left. Letters are urgently needed to ensure that a full environmental impact statement is prepared, and a sound recovery plan is developed for Grand Canyon's deteriorated river habitat.

On March 3 the Department of Interior began a 30-day scoping period for an Environmental Assessment (EA) to consider the feasibility of installing a temperature control device (TCD) at Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona to study the potential benefits of warming the temperature of water released from the dam to the downstream Colorado River through Glen and Grand Canyons.

First proposed in 1998 and scrapped in 1999, the temperature control device will take water from the warmer (upper) level of Lake Powell reservoir, as opposed to the reservoir's cooler (lower) elevations for turning the turbines that generate electricity.

Since completion in 1963, Glen Canyon Dam has been releasing water into Grand Canyon that is consistently about 47 degrees F, which are too low for native fish to spawn or mature. Before Glen Canyon Dam the river temperatures approached 80 degrees in the summer and near freezing in the winter.

While strategies to warm the water are critical to recovering Grand Canyon's native fish this device, especially on its own, may not be the best choice and its operation could actually bring the remaining native fish species closer to extinction by promoting the proliferation of alien fish that feed on the young native fish.

Living Rivers, Colorado Riverkeeper program and others are calling for:

  • A full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), as opposed to the much narrower and fast-tracked Environmental Assessment, as the magnitude of this federal action requires is too extensive for such limited environmental review.

  • The potential for increases in the population of non-native fish species must be fully understood and addressed, including catfish, carp and Brown trout, which are known to prey on the young of endangered fish species.

  • A full analysis of water quality concerns, including how they may contribute to new and increased levels of exotic animals and parasites, such at the New Zealand mud snail and the Asian tapeworm which are not native to Grand Canyon.

  • The potential impacts on Grand Canyon's aquatic food web, and food security for Grand Canyon's native fish.

  • The corresponding dam releases and flow regimes that must be undertaken in consort with temperature modification to mimic the historic flow pattern.

  • The corresponding sediment augmentation that must also be undertaken in consort with temperature modifications to mitigate the loss of 95 percent of Grand Canyon's sediment and nutrients trapped behind the dam and to disadvantage hunt-by-sight alien fish predators.

  • The impacts the of sustained drought on the need for, and operations of, a temperature modification.
  • The safety risks associated with operating temperature control device poses a risk to the safety of the dam.

  • All potential alternatives to warming the water, including permanently lowering the reservoir levels, and decommissioning the dam.

  • The range of new information not known when Glen Canyon Dam's first EIS was completed in 1996, including the continued decline of endangered native fish populations, the ineffectiveness of sediment conservation measures, the likelihood of long-term drought, and the deteriorating credibility of the science program advising dam managers.
Please write to:

Ms. Nancy Coulam
Bureau of Reclamation
125 South State Street, Room 6103
Salt Lake City, UT 84138-1102

Phone: 801-524-3684
Fax: 801-524-5499

Letters must be received by April 2, 2004.

ou can automatically submit a letter by clicking "ACT NOW" at our affiliate's, Waterkeeper Alliance, web site:

For More Information:

Sample Letter

Grand Canyon/Glen Canyon Dam--The Facts

Letter to BOR requesting extension of public scoping period

Save Grand Canyon from Glen Canyon Dam

Living Rivers Colorado Riverkeeper letter demanding new EIS for Glen Canyon Dam

Department of Interior Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program

Draft Science Plan for TCD

Federal Register Notice for TCD

Letter from BOR announcing scoping for Temperature Control Device

NOTE: The Bureau of Reclamation's web site and email is down due to a court order concerning the Department of Interior's mismanagement of the Trust Funds for the First Nations.

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Last Update: October 30, 2007

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Living Rivers    PO Box 466     Moab, UT 84532     435.259.1063