Glen Canyon Dam opens flood gates to improve conditions downstream

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PAGE, Ariz. -- Visitors to Glen Canyon Dam will see a whole lot of water flowing out.

Not to worry – the dam hasn’t sprung a leak. It’s part of an experiment by the Bureau of Reclamation to improve conditions downstream.

This is the third year the federal agency has done a high-flow experiment. For 96 hours the outlet will pour out 37,500 cubic feet per second of water. The main goal is to simulate yearly flash floods below the dam, giving the ecology a chance to thrive.

Directors say the high flow will not affect the annual volumes released by Lake Powell.

“Dams have impacts, but as we have learned over the last 50 years, we can operate Glen Canyon Dam in ways that both meet our demands for water and hydropower, but also achieve our goals for natural resources and recreation,” said Deputy Commissioner for Operations Lowell Pimley.

The releases include research, monitoring and data collecting. It’s a long-term study in which the bureau will conduct high flows through 2020. But for visitors to the dam, it’s an impressive demonstration in the force of water.

“This is my first time actually getting a look at it while it’s being in the full release like this,” said local worker Ryan Tracey. “I go down and fish below the dam pretty frequently, and I haven’t seen this much water coming down -- it’s got a lot of energy to it.”

Those who live downstream will see the levels rise up to a foot. That’s good news for Lake Mead in Nevada, which is seeing its lowest water levels in decades.

The experimental high flow continues through Thursday.

More information on the project can be found here: http://www.usbr.gov/uc/rm/gcdHFE/index.html

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