From: Associated Press
Published October 31, 2005 12:00 AM

Scientists Unsure of How To Protect River

PHOENIX — Scientists say they still don't know how to protect the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon without disrupting water and power production upstream.


Despite a decade of trying, few attempts have succeeded in trying to mimic the natural conditions erased by construction of Glen Canyon Dam, which supplies water and electricity to millions of people.


Endangered fish continue to disappear, habitat erodes almost as fast as it is rebuilt and interloping fish and plants find new ways to thrive.


The river's health as it courses through the Grand Canyon is the focus of a 10-year-old program created after environmental studies uncovered deteriorating conditions caused by Glen Canyon Dam. The giant structure cooled the river, stripped it of sediment and nutrients and tamed its seasonal flows, which helped keep wildlife habitat vital.


Scientists admit that reversing the damage from 40 years of unnatural river flows could take decades and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.


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Living Rivers, a conservation group, claims the best solution is to decommission the dam and return the river to its historic flow all the way through the canyon.


"We're sacrificing the Grand Canyon for that dam," said John Weisheit, Living Rivers' conservation director. "We just don't need it."


Glen Canyon Dam, completed in 1963, supplies power across the West and stores water that eventually serves users in Arizona, Nevada and California.


Other restoration efforts also are under way, including a $600 million lower-Colorado habitat-conservation program adopted this year by Arizona, Nevada and California. But Weisheit said the government should stop spending money on ideas that will never solve the entire problem.


"They've spent $200 million and there's been no improvement," he said. "Nature's been doing this for millions of years for free."


Source: Associated Press


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