Hello, anyone out there?


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

Unsustainable: Arizona’s Trillion Dollar Defense May 8, 2014  

Central Arizona Project It’s pretty rare that Arizona’s media receives the opportunity to report a 13-digit figure attributed to the state’s economy. At nearly four times Arizona’s 2012 GDP, it’s big! Nonetheless, the story surrounding this figure generated only tepid interest when released by Arizona State University economists last week. Not that this concerned the sponsors of their research. Immediate fanfare was not their objective when funding their calculations. No, this valuation is vital propaganda to be stored and maintained for future use, at which point the convenient trillion dollar sum will be referenced again and again in defense of the state’s takings of Colorado River water. Read more

Let’s Lose the List April 16, 2014  

2014_ar_listHey everyone, we’re off the list. By some magic within the DC headquarters of American Rivers, me and the rest of my pals still struggling to survive in 2013’s Most Endangered River are in the clear for 2014. All this despite no changes in how our habitat’s managed, the amount of water diverted, number of dams in place or any visitation or activism on American River’s part. Read more

Ex Commish’s Straight Talk on Draining April 9, 2014  

Dan BeardA couple fins up for Dan Beard, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner from 1993-95. He never publicly says “Drain Lake Powell”, though strongly believes the discussion should be had.  So last Friday he offered up some candid advice to a gathering of Glen Canyon restorationists that was especially refreshing given his ongoing establishment ties, currently with the Pew Center’s Oceans North Project. Read more

Call from the Gulf April 2, 2014  


“Hey Charlie, Cómo estás?”

“That you Victor? You’re alive! Wow, been a few years so figured we lost you too.”

“No, I’m hanging in there Charlie. Still a lot of vaquitas getting caught down here and the water quality’s not to our liking. I don’t know how much longer. Just a few hundred of us left now. You know how it is.” Read more

An Absence of Trust February 21, 2014  

Another year, another round of subjugating the remnants of Grand Canyon’s river ecosystem to tables and charts, and bits and bytes. Fish counts, river flows, sediment volumes, water temperatures…all featured topics at February’s bi-annual meeting of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Working Group (AMWG). Such a repressive depiction of our life in Grand Canyon. Worse still, it’s been 22-years since passage of the Grand Canyon Protection Act, which provides these number crunchers job security, yet our habitat is no less endangered and no more restored. Read more

Flooding Fiasco January 23, 2013  

Salazar at Glen Canyon Dam November 19, 2012

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

In Praise of Climate Change January 22, 2013  


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

Stewart’s List January 18, 2013  


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

Faulty Scales January 16, 2013  

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

Pat’s Pipeline January 14, 2013  

Least chub

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