| For Immediate Release: September 5, 2006
New Environmental Study on Grand Canyon’s Native Fishes
PHOENIX—The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will conduct further environmental studies on the impacts of the Glen Canyon Dam on endangered fish of the Colorado River according to a recent settlement agreement. The agreement specifies that the Bureau, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement by October 15, 2008.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Living Rivers, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter and Glen Canyon Institute filed suit in U.S. District Court in Arizona earlier this year against the Bureau of Reclamation on behalf of the Humpback Chub and the Grand Canyon. The groups charged the Bureau with violations of the Grand Canyon Protection Act, Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.
In the settlement recorded by the court on September 1, the Bureau agreed to assess the impacts of current and modified operations of Glen Canyon Dam on the Humpback Chub, Bonytail Chub, Razorback Sucker and Colorado Pikeminnow – all native fishes to the Colorado River.
“We’re pleased that the agencies will be conducting the studies without a protracted lawsuit. Arizona’s native fish are overwhelmingly imperiled, and only four of eight native fish species continue to exist in the Grand Canyon. The Humpback Chub will fail to recover and likely go extinct if action isn’t taken to reverse the degradation posed by Glen Canyon Dam,” said Robin Silver, Board Chair of the Center for Biological Diversity.
For more than a decade the Bureau of Reclamation has been required to modify the operations of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River to reverse the dam’s downstream impacts on Grand Canyon’s priceless river ecosystem. These efforts have failed to produce results.
In 1992, Congress passed the Grand Canyon Protection Act to reverse the demise of the canyon and the decline of endangered native fish species. Following the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) three years later, the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program was established to guide the Bureau of Reclamation in implementing recovery guidelines set forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
The unsuccessful “Modified Low Fluctuating Flow Alternative” (MLFF) is the operational scheme enacted in the Adaptive Management Program, which called for released flood flow events with the hope of improving habitat and restoring native fish populations.
“To date, the negative impacts of Glen Canyon Dam continue to jeopardize the Humpback Chub. Clearly the Adaptive Management program, as being implemented by the federal government, is not working,” said David Wegner, Glen Canyon Institute.
“The Grand Canyon Chapter has long worked to protect the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, plus the species that rely on this important system,” said Sandy Bahr, Conservation Outreach Director, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter. “We have supported efforts to remove non-native fish species and previous efforts to operate the dam in such a manner as to promote recovery of the fishes and to rebuild the beaches which are also being decimated by the operation of the dam. Clearly, the federal government needs to make some changes to protect our native fishes and to protect the recreation that relies on the Canyon’s beaches.”
In October 2005, the U.S. Geological Survey released its evaluation of this program in a 220-page report, “The State of the Colorado River Ecosystem in Grand Canyon.” This report confirmed what many scientists have been saying for years: that recovery of the Humpback Chub is not being achieved. According to the report, " ... it is clear that the restrictions on dam operations since 1991 have not produced the hoped for restoration and maintenance of this endangered species …”
"It is past time for a new assessment on the dam's operations. At least now the issue will be reopened for public review," said Living Rivers Conservation Director John Weisheit. "The hope is that the Humpback Chub can be rescued from imminent extinction and that the ongoing destruction caused by the current operations of Glen Canyon Dam on the Grand Canyon and Colorado River will be stopped."
Matt Kenna, Western Environmental Law Center in Colorado, represents the organizations.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit conservation organization with more than 25,000 members dedicated to the protection of imperiled species and their habitats.
The Arizona Wildlife Federation is Arizona's oldest conservation organization, founded in 1923 by Arizona hunters and anglers to protect and conserve Arizona's wildlife resources.
Living Rivers is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration of the natural hydrological and ecological processes within the Colorado watershed to protect native species and their habitats.
The Sierra Club is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots conservation organization with more than 13,000 members in Arizona.
The Glen Canyon Institute is a non-profit conservation organization with over 1,500 members dedicated to restoring Glen Canyon and the protection of the natural and biological living systems of the Colorado River and its tributaries.
The Western Environmental Law Center is a non-profit public interest environmental law firm that works to protect and restore Western wildlands and advocates for a healthy environment on behalf of communities throughout the West.