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Chub Has Friends in High Places

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It isn't easy being a humpback chub in the Colorado River. Trout are prettier and even catfish are more cuddly. What's worse, as other fish flourish in these waters controlled by Glen Canyon Dam, the 4-million year old chub is going extinct.

But there's one thing the chub has that his neighbors don't -- a friend in high places. A federal court stepped in this month and told the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam, to change its dam operations to make them less harmful to species like the chub.

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The Glen Canyon Dam creates unnatural ebbs and flows in the Colorado River, making the water more friendly for some species and more deadly for the chub and other wildlife.

As the National Park Service already observed, the bureau has steadfastly refused to change its dam operations despite spending tens of millions of dollars to study how the dam is killing the Grand Canyon and its wildlife.

The Glen Canyon Dam changed the Colorado River from one that seasonally raged with torrents of snowmelt runoff from the Rocky Mountains to a mild-mannered stream, controlled by the hand of engineers. The river today no longer enjoys the natural building of sand bars and backwaters needed by native fish to survive.

The situation can be reversed simply by changing dam water releases, utilizing science and experiments the government already has done.

The Glen Canyon Dam was built before we understood what kind of damage it would do to the Colorado River. The court ruling recognizes that and is sending the old dam operations plan back to the dam operators to update using the newest science.


Humpback Chub
At A Glance:

  • is almost entirely scaleless

  • found only in fast waters of the Colorado River system

  • spawns from April through June, at water temperatures of 66-70°F