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Planning for Colorado River Basin Future Moves Forward

Posted: 09/12/2023
By: Kestrel Kunz

More and more voices call for major renovation or complete removal at Glen Canyon Dam


In August, American Whitewater and many others submitted scoping comments on the complex planning process for Post-2026 Operations at Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams on the Colorado River. The outcome of the multi-year process led by the Bureau of Reclamation will guide reservoir operations at both Glen Canyon Dam (Lake Powell) and Hoover Dam (Lake Mead) and has the potential to affect river recreation opportunities throughout the entire Colorado River Basin. 


The Bureau specifically requested input on how management should be improved compared to the operating guidelines for the period of 2007-2026. We delivered on that and more. American Whitewater included the key points in our comments to the Bureau of Reclamation: 

  • Reductions in consumptive water use need to be baked into the central purpose of the process and carried forward to direct management well into the future.

  • The scope of the process should include analyzing impacts from Upper Basin reservoirs and how coordinated operations will affect recreation and environmental resources. 

  • Impacts to river recreation and the environment should be fully analyzed in every management alternative. 

  • The planning process should include investigating both dam modification and complete removal at Glen Canyon Dam, including analysis of flow scenarios that modification or removal would result in.

  • Tribal water rights and Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge need to be prioritized in all management decisions.

Additionally, we shared an extensive amount of flow-based data on river recreation and requested that the Bureau of Reclamation include it in their analyses. Colorado River decision makers need to know how important river recreation is to the local economies and to the entire country and this must be reflected in management. 

In these initial comments, American Whitewater did not propose that Glen Canyon Dam be outright removed, however we requested that dam removal be analyzed as a realistic management alternative and we stressed that some level of dam modifications will be required in order to operate the dam into the future. 

This week, Reclamation published all of the scoping comments they received and some of the letters were enlightening. Fortunately, it seems that most - river recreationists, farmers, tribes, environmentalists - agree that dam operations should be based on the best available science. Going even farther, some of the biggest farmers in the Imperial Valley have asked the Bureau of Reclamation to consider removing Glen Canyon Dam entirely. 

American Whitewater will continue to ensure that our priorities are addressed in the planning process for operations at Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams. As this effort progresses, we will need river enthusiasts to stand up and use their voice to help ensure the river itself is protected for future generations.


Kestrel Kunz

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