Judge orders new plan for dam releases into Grand Canyon


Federal officials must reconsider how they release water from Glen Canyon Dam into the Grand Canyon in order to protect an endangered fish, the humpback chub, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Environmental groups have long argued that the irregular releases from the dam just above the canyon damage the fish’s native environment, erode beaches and wash away ancient ruins in the canyon.

Nikolai Lash of the Grand Canyon Trust, which filed a lawsuit along with Earthjustice, said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation should release water in regular flows, which would do less damage. “They’re better at preserving the beaches, the archaeological sites and the fish,” he said.


Officials at the bureau could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

For much of its existence, Glen Canyon released water on timetables designed to benefit Southwestern power companies, whose demand for hydroelectric power peaks during the day.

Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, reversing an old agency opinion, found that the fluctuating dam releases did not violate the Endangered Species Act. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell ruled that that revision was improper and ordered the agency to reconsider how the dam flows may harm the endangered fish.

Campbell gave the government until November to file a new plan and ordered that, should it find the releases threaten the chub, it must propose a new schedule.