On March 5, 2008, then-Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne pushed a button that opened a series of jet tubes below Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona, sending water into the Grand Canyon at a rate of about 41,500 ft3/s, three to four times the normal release from the dam. Thus began a 60-hour high-flow experiment designed to study and improve Colorado River resources in Grand Canyon National Park.
The main goal of the experiment was to assess the ability of such releases to push sand from the bottom of the river onto sandbars along its banks, which provide habitat for wildlife and campsites for thousands of Grand Canyon National Park visitors. Grand Canyon sandbars have been shrinking since Glen Canyon Dam was built and cut off the supply of sediment from the Colorado River upstream. Most sediment entering Grand Canyon National Park now arrives from tributaries below the dam. The March 2008 high-flow experiment was timed to take advantage of large amounts of sediment delivered to the system after an unusual number of monsoonal storms. Some of the key players in the experiment have adapted marine-science equipment and techniques to investigate sand transport in the Grand Canyon. Other effects of the high flow are being studied as well, such as the well-being of the endangered humpback chub and other native fish.
The high-flow experiment is an interagency research effort conducted by three Department of the Interior bureaus: the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River; and the National Park Service (NPS), which manages Grand Canyon National Park. The experiment led to several internal and external awards for USGS personnel.
Western Region Director's Award
he USGS 2008 Western Region Director's Award, given in recognition of outstanding science accomplishments, was awarded to the "dedicated employees who have provided cutting-edge science to the Department of the Interior through the 2008 Glen Canyon Dam High-Flow Experiment." Western Region Chief Scientist Brian Cole announced the award at the USGS 2008 Western Region Awards Ceremony on February 24, 2009, in Menlo Park, California, calling the experiment "a remarkable scientific and logistical feat that has greatly contributed to our understanding of high-elevation sandbars, nutrient deposition, and backwater channels" and noting "This work was a significant collaborative effort with other Department of the Interior agencies, States, Tribes, and nongovernmental organizations." Andrea Alpine, Southwest Biological Science Center Chief, and John Hamill, Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center Chief, accepted the award on behalf of the high-flow experiment team, which includes about 2 dozen USGS scientists.
Western Region Communicator of the Year Award
The USGS Office of Communications gave its 2008 Western Region Communicator of the Year Award to LaraSchmit, Communications and Outreach Coordinator with the USGS Southwest Biological Science Center. This award was also presented at the February awards ceremony in Menlo Park, by then-Acting Western Region Chief of Communications Kathleen Gohn, who said: "In the past year, Lara has been at the forefront of extensive news-media activities related to the Glen Canyon Dam high-flow experiment and organizing a very successful Colorado River Science Symposium. Lara's work with our cooperators and partners has been critical to the success of our communications and outreach efforts. Working with the National Park Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other partners, she played a significant role in raising both the value and the visibility of our science."
National Association of Government Communicator's Blue Pencil Award
The National Association of Government Communicators awarded a 2009 Blue Pencil Award of Excellence in the media-event category to the USGS for the 2008 high-flow experiment at Glen Canyon Dam. The USGS led a multiagency team to organize the winning media event, which featured the Secretary of the Interior and generated hundreds of media stories, including extended pieces on NBC's Today Show that prominently featured USGS science.
To learn more about the 2008 high-flow experiment, listen to USGS CoreCast Episode 37 at URL http://www.usgs.gov/corecast/details.asp?ep=37; view time-lapse videos at URL http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1909; visit the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center's Web site at URL http://www.gcmrc.gov/research/high_flow/2008/; and read a feature article by the Bureau of Reclamation at URL http://www.usbr.gov/uc/feature/GC-hfe/.
in this issue:
High-Flow Experiment from Dam Leads to Awards