My home, the Little Colorado River
Did the picture come out ok? Can you see my face up there? We’re supposed to live in murky, sediment-rich water where good eyesight is not that useful. Anyway, my family and friends need to make a good first impression here, as cyberspace may be our last hope.
Oh, I’m Charlie, Charlie Chub, as in Humpback Chub. I’m about 19 inches long, weigh a bit over two pounds and am 17 years old. I probably look a bit younger in the picture though. Read more
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar observing controlled flood from Glen Canyon Dam, November 19, 2012
Every time we see the media show up, we know the torrent can’t be far off. Months, maybe even years of strategizing and politicking likely occurred to give scientists the opportunity to discharge a made-for-TV flood from Glen Canyon Dam down through Grand Canyon that’s supposed to improve natural habitat conditions along the river corridor.
Since 1963 Glen Canyon Dam has blocked nearly all the sediment that historically flowed into Grand Canyon’s river ecosystem. As Grand Canyon’s remaining sediment stores gradually flowed downstream, the nutrient-rich, turbid water that we and other Colorado River natives thrived on was transformed into a rather sterile aquatic environment. Read more
Climate change is lowering Lake Powell reservoir, and warming the water entering the Grand Canyon
Keep burning that CO2. That’s the mantra coming from a new generation of chub. They may accept that ethically their attitude is a bit dicey given the broader implications that climate change is having on so many other species around the world, but for us chub living in the Grand Canyon, global warming means life.
See, among the reasons why we’ve been struggling since Glen Canyon Dam was completed is that water released from Lake Powell reservoir into Grand Canyon is always really cold, about 48 degrees. Like lots of you, we’ve got no problem with this on a seasonal basis, but year round it’s awful. Most frustrating is that our reproductive systems shut down when water temperatures fall below 55 degrees. So while some of us can get by in those dam-chilled waters, our species sure can’t. Read more
Rotenone is discharged into the Green River to kill native fish, September 4, 1962
I was told it was akin to a military operation. Teams of executioners descended into the canyons setting up 55 stations along a 450-mile stretch of the Green River. Drums of poison at the ready. Their mission: kill every Colorado River native fish in preparation for stocking rainbow trout.
Their three-day operation beginning that late summer morning in 1962 was far from covert. Conceived and led by the National Fish and Wildlife Service, word had been out for months. The completion of Fontenelle and Flaming Gorge dams on the Green River was seen as an opportunity to advance recreational fishing in the reservoirs and tailwaters below the dams’ outlets, so why not start with a river cleansed of “trash” fish. Read more
I think I was so obviously disappointed that the environment was systematically excluded from the Bureau of Reclamation’s new Colorado River Supply and Demand Study, that I glossed over some of the more insidious aspects of their approach and findings. Regardless of what Reclamation may have said, it’s now clear that the report’s two main objectives are:
- Show the public that Reclamation and Colorado River water users now know about climate change, but absolutely don’t tell the public too much because we don’t yet know how to handle this growing problem.
- Create a hugely unrelated and unrealistic set of demand figures that helps to reinforce the idea that there may be problems ahead, but that we’ve got some time to build our way out them.
It only took two weeks from when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar presented the study to see this strategy in action. Read more
The Least chub
If ever I saw a fish out of water it was Patricia Mulroy struggling through a river trip down Grand Canyon. The Las Vegas water czar was clearly someone who disliked getting her nails dirty or sleeping on the ground. I often see passengers like her, but generally it’s family dynamics, not professional responsibility, that lands them down here against their will.
She was part of a team-building trip for water users led by then Assistant Secretary of the Interior Bennett Raley on how they should begin addressing potential water shortages. Living that Las Vegas life of abundance in artificial worlds as she does, I guess I should not have been too surprised that Pat got so prickly as things tended toward the natural. For Pat, nature is a public relations necessity or a means to an end. Otherwise, the natural world represents a hindrance to her pursuits of new water supplies for golf courses, condominiums and resorts—indeed the de facto job description of a number of water agency heads.
But my goodness, why must she engage in deception and misinformation on behalf of developer interests when options are there to do some real good for the City of Las Vegas, for the environment and to save her customers money? Read more
Twelve years ago friends of mine drove a tanker truck around the Colorado River watershed collecting donations to be delivered to the river delta down in Mexico. I didn’t see them, but heard they grabbed a few buckets from the Little Colorado River just upstream of where my family has been eking out its existence since Glen Canyon Dam was completed.
It wasn’t much water, so we were happy to contribute knowing that the once vast habitat of the delta—that used to support everything from jaguars to miniature porpoises—was nearly destroyed.
With the US taking 90 percent of the Colorado River before it crosses the border, and Mexico putting the remnants to work as they see fit, the famed delta has become a parched wasteland. The 2-million-acre wetland that was alive and well 75 years ago, has dwindled to 150,000 acres. For more than a decade scientists have been advising that with just 1 percent of the river’s flow, along with some pulses now and again, these remaining wetlands could be sustained. That’s not a lot of water to give back. It merely requires more appropriate landscaping polices, more efficient cropping techniques or even ensuring everyone turns the tap off when brushing their teeth.
So fast forward to November of 2012 and the signing of something called Minute 319 by the International Boundary Water Commission between the United States and Mexico. Environmentalists were tripping all over themselves with superlatives to describe this new agreement. Among other things they lauded it for temporarily guaranteeing close to that 1 percent flow for the remaining delta habitat. While returning some water down there is fantastic, how this water will be obtained, and the hyperbolic self-praise among those involved is a bit troubling. Read more
I’ve lost a bit more hope that there are many people out there that truly care about us, the Grand Canyon or the ecological well-being of the Colorado River in general. Earlier this month, in Las Vegas, a study was released amidst great fanfare about not having enough water in the Colorado River and the need to do something about it. Duh! Sure, I guess the findings allow the federal government and states using the Colorado River to now officially acknowledge a system out-of-balance. But something major was missing. Read more