For Immediate Release: February 28, 2007
||John Weisheit, Living Rivers, (435) 259-1063, (435) 260-2590 (cell)
Michelle Harrington, Center for Biological Diversity, (602) 628-9909
Grand Canyon River Restoration Failing
Groups Ask Government to Tell Public the Truth and Revamp Approach
MOAB, Utah– In a 21-page letter sent today to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, conservation groups Living Rivers/Colorado Riverkeeper and the Center for Biological Diversity demanded that the Secretary revise his plan to support a failing Colorado River restoration project in Grand Canyon National Park.
A 12-year-old program that was established to mitigate the impacts of Glen Canyon Dam, upstream of Grand Canyon National Park, is undergoing environmental review for a new set of experiments. The groups charge that continuing activities under the current framework would be a death sentence for the remaining native species trying to survive the extensive ecological changes the dam’s operations have brought to Grand Canyon.
“If their approach doesn’t change, the end result will be more of the same,” says John Weisheit, of Living Rivers. “Study after study clearly illustrates the current program is a disaster.”
Citing findings from the National Research Council, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and former Interior Secretary Gale Norton, the groups outline how the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program has failed in its mission to reverse the decline of cultural and natural resources in Grand Canyon National Park as directed by the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act.
• Habitat conditions for endangered native fish like the humpback chub have not been improved, so its numbers have declined since the program began. Plans to reintroduce other endangered species lost to Glen Canyon Dam’s operations have stalled.
• Requirements of the Fish and Wildlife Service to operate the dam more consistently with the river’s natural water levels and rates of flow are repeatedly ignored .
• Hydroelectric-power interests override conservation objectives and hamstring progress .
• Recommendations by scientists are ignored and critical studies, such as the 2000 low summer steady flow experiment, are left incomplete .
The main problem, the groups point out, is not how to mitigate the dam’s impacts to allow Grand Canyon’s recovery to begin, but the deeply flawed decision-making structure that impedes sound science from fulfilling the objectives of the Grand Canyon Protection Act.
“Glen Canyon Dam has caused the nearly complete loss of the natural and cultural resources in Grand Canyon’s Colorado River corridor ,” says Michelle Harrington with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Adaptive Management Working Group has failed in its work and needs to be cut off.”
Prior to Glen Canyon Dam, the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon supported one of the most unique fish communities in the world — eight species that existed together nowhere else on earth. Four are already gone, one has not been seen since 1992, and another, the humpback chub, has declined to the brink of extinction with just a few thousand fish.
This Environmental Impact Statement process was launched as part of a settlement reached in September 2006 between the Center for Biological Diversity, Living Rivers, Glen Canyon Institute, Sierra Club and Arizona Wildlife Federation, and the Department of Interior to address the worsening habitat conditions for endangered native fish in Grand Canyon.
“We chose to settle the lawsuit with the understanding that the environmental review would comprehensively address immediate recovery needs for endangered species in light of the documented failings of the Adaptive Management Program, but it appears Interior had no such intention,” adds Harrington.
The groups have asked Secretary Kempthorne to abandon the Environmental Impact Statement’s focus from a hastily conceived set of experimental options prepared by the Adaptive Management Working Group to a broad examination of the Adaptive Management Program process to date. They urge removal of the Bureau of Reclamation as an adviser on Grand Canyon issues, establishment of a truly independent scientific research and advisory mechanism to ensure ecological integrity, and a thorough examination of all options available to improve habitat conditions, including decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam.
“It’s time to stop pretending that this program can work,” concludes Weisheit. “Let’s either agree that the public does not care about Grand Canyon National Park’s unique river ecosystem, and spend these so-called conservation resources elsewhere, or get serous about reviving them as Congress mandated through the Grand Canyon Protection Act.”
Living Rivers (www.livingrivers.net) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration of the natural hydrological and ecological processes within the Colorado watershed to protect native species and their habitats.
The Center for Biological Diversity (www.biologicaldiversity.org) is a nonprofit conservation organization with over 32,000 members dedicated to the protection of imperiled species and their habitats.