Summary of Glen Canyon Ecological Conditions

The adverse ecological effects on the Colorado river aquatic system produced by the Glen Canyon Dam are many and difficult to dispute. The variety of interested parties results in a wealth of information and propaganda which is often times conflicting. Many biological consequences directly or indirectly stem from sedimentation, including extinction and endangerment of species, a shift in composition from endemic to exotic species, and poor water quality. Although some claim that the introduced species and new riparian habitats have created a healthy stable ecosystem, the fact remains that the Glen Canyon system has been profoundly altered from its natural state. To different individuals, this alteration may or may not pose a problem for the current and future state of the Colorado River ecosystem. However, it is our opinion that the adverse environmental impacts caused by the Glen Canyon Dam, specifically the complete substitution of a wildly free flowing, nutrient rich environment with that of a controlled trickle, greatly outweigh the positive ecological effects of the dam as well as any possible benefits that annual "band aid" solutions, such as controlled floods, might offer.

From an ecological perspective, we strongly believe that Lake Powell should be drained. This drainage would occur over 10-15 years, so the release of the water would not be catastrophic. National Park Service studies show that with this alteration, sediments will become exposed in side canyons and will be flushed away within 6-12 months (David Wegner, personal communication). These side canyons will once again host riparian birds such as the canyon wren, raptors such as the peregrine falcon, and neotropical birds. Native plants will be able to reseed and establish habitats. Springs will once again filter through the system, acting as "biological magnets" for insects, birds, and other organisms (David Wegner, personal communication). The main stem of the river will return to the characteristic eddies of slow moving water which are very important habitats for native and currently imperilled fish species such as the humpback chub, the razorback sucker, and the Colorado squawfish. Exotic species will still remain in the system, but the returning natural conditions will be more conducive to the growth and establishment of native species. These factors will collectively contribute to the restoration of the natural biological integrity of the Glen Canyon ecosystem.

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