The Colorado River will never be the same. Declaring success in the controlled flooding experiment conducted on the river in April (Eos, June 11), U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt has officially changed the operation plan for the Glen Canyon Dam in order to better protect the natural resources of Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreational Area.
In a ceremony on October 9 in Phoenix, Arizona, Babbitt completed a process that began during the Bush Administration. In 1989 researchers and land managers began preparing an environmental impact assessment of how the river and dam could be managed to better protect the ecosystem. The new “record of decision” signed by Babbitt directs the Department of the Interior to operate the dam in “such a manner as to protect, mitigate adverse impacts to, and improve the values” for which the parks were established. The order makes permanent some changes first ordered in 1991; those changes allow for (but do not necessarily prescribe) occasional controlled floods and other dam management procedures that minimize erosion downstream.