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Grand Canyon sees first artificial flood in four years

Water flows from the number one and two jet tubes as seen from atop the Glen Canyon Dam, March 5, 2008, in Page, Ariz. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation decided against sending water rushing through the Grand Canyon this fall to redeposit sediment because of persistent drought. Agency officials said opening the bypass tubes at the Glen Canyon Dam would have reduced the elevation of Lake Powell at a time when it's at historic lows.
Matt York/AP
Water flows from the number one and two jet tubes as seen from atop the Glen Canyon Dam, March 5, 2008, in Page, Ariz.

Engineers at Glen Canyon Dam will release an artificial flood into the Grand Canyon starting today through Thursday. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports, it’s the first beach-building flood in four years.

The water released through the dam will rise to nearly forty thousand cubic feet per second over the next few days. The flood is meant to spread sand downriver to rebuild beaches and protect cultural heritage sites.

Paul Grams is an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "A positive aspect of doing it this time of year is it’s doing it ahead of the main commercial and recreational boating season," he says. "The hope is that there will be rejuvenated sandbars for people to use over the summer."

It’s also hoped the high flow experiment will help aquatic insects and disrupt the spawning behavior of exotic fish.

The last artificial flood in springtime was more than a decade ago. Fall floods occurred regularly up until 2018, when fizzled monsoon seasons and drought stymied the long-running program.

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.
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