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Environmental groups call for major infrastructure upgrades to Glen Canyon Dam

Glen Canyon Dam
Melissa Sevigny
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Glen Canyon Dam

Three environmental groups have published a report that calls for major upgrades to the infrastructure of Glen Canyon Dam in the face of long-running drought. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

Water is delivered through the dam through hydropower penstocks, or, if the reservoir drops too low, through smaller river outlets that are located at a lower elevation.

But the report says if the reservoir’s level drops another hundred feet, there won’t be enough pressure to push water through the river outlets at the volume required by the Colorado River Compact.

Eric Balken, executive director of the Glen Canyon Institute, says, "The situation on the Colorado River is unprecedented, we all know that, but it’s not unpredicted. Climate science has been very clear; and it’s clear that the river hydrology is most likely going to get worse."

The report, written by the Glen Canyon Institute, Utah Rivers Council, and Great Basin Water Network, proposes widening the existing river outlets, or constructing a bypass tunnel at the base of the dam.

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Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.