Glen Canyon Dam Releases Good for Ecosystem—And for Business

For the first time in four years, the Department of the Interior has initiated a high-flow experimental release at Glen Canyon Dam.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar opened the river outlet tubes at noon Monday. The peak flow was supposed to last into Tuesday, and the river will run high for five days. The goal is to wash millions of tons of sediment downstream to create beaches and improve habitat for plants and animals.

For the local recreation industry, the experimental high flows are seen as a boon.

Molly Mugglestone is the project coordinator for Protect the Flows, a coalition of almost 600 businesses along the Colorado River. She says businesses are happy to see the federal government stepping up to rehab these areas.

"Our members, particularly the ones that do rafting in the Grand Canyon, are very excited about this because they think that it will really benefit their business in bringing people down the canyon and having that experience—having better beaches, as well as habitat. Just overall habitat will be improved."

Mugglestone says the high-flow itself is a good opportunity for business.

"As we get to know about these [high-flow releases] in the future—like I mentioned, this sort of planning process that will happen, and these releases will happen more often—the rafting companies I'm sure will take advantage of that and bring people out."

This is just the fourth high-flow release since 1996, but a recent change in protocol could require releases to occur as often as a couple times every year.