'Turning Nature On and Off'

It was with great disappointment that I read your editorial "Turning Nature On and Off" (Sept. 6). While I appreciate your concern for the environment of Grand Canyon and the effects of Glen Canyon Dam operations, the editorial contained several serious errors.

You indicate that present operation of Glen Canyon Dam disregards all considerations but maximizing hydroelectric power generation. This is not true. Present criteria for coordinated long-range operation of the Colorado River Reservoirs, established in the late 1960s, provides for appropriate consideration for all beneficial uses of the river, including in-stream flow values and recreation, consistent with "the law of the river." It must be understood that most of the multiple uses compete with each other and operating plans for the river are a balanced consideration of all uses.

The present blue ribbon trout fishery and recreational use of the Colorado River below the dam have developed as a result of the dam and 20 years of operations under these criteria.

Since 1982, the Bureau of Reclamation has been conducting the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies to determine the impacts associated with existing operational criteria and to determine if modification is warranted.

Unfortunately, the study years included the record high Colorado River flows of 1983 and 1984. This resulted in the inability to assess the impacts of fluctuations in flow that would occur during a normal year, or even a drought year such as 1988. Because of that, Reclamation has been directed to continue the studies for the next two years to analyze the effect of fluctuating flows on fisheries and on the beaches of the Grand Canyon.

Thousands of hours and millions of dollars have been expended in research conducted by scientists within government and leading universities. The National Academy of Sciences has thoroughly reviewed the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies and concluded that the technical studies were an important step in understanding the Colorado River ecosystem.

In regards to your reference to legislation directed at operations of Glen Canyon Dam, we are not aware of any such legislation. An appropriate process to consider changes to the river's operating criteria is through the development of information and evaluation which considers all uses.


Regional Director

U.S. Dept. of Interior

Bureau of Reclamation

Salt Lake City

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