Grand Canyon: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered to review biological opinion of Glen Canyon dam’s effects on humpback chub

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NAZ Today:

U.S. District Judge David Campbell said in a ruling Tuesday that the 2008 opinion is a sharp departure from the federal agency’s long-standing opinion that fluctuating flows at the Glen Canyon Dam likely would jeopardize the fish. Campbell said the 2008 opinion never explains why the agency changed its position and doesn’t address the effects of modified river flows on the chub or its habitat using best science. In court documents, the agency said that although previous opinions predicted the chub would suffer under modified river flows, the population has stabilized and increased in the past few years. It’s up from 4,000 in 2000 to 7,650 at the end of last year, but still down from historical numbers, the U.S. Geological Survey said last month. Conservation efforts have allowed the population to increase, despite modified flows, Fish and Wildlife said. Campbell said the logic was insufficient and ordered the agency to revise its 2008 opinion by Oct. 30…

Environmentalists sued in 2007, alleging that the dam is being mismanaged by the federal government, threatening the humpback chub for the benefit of power production. Nikolai Lash, water program manager for the Grand Canyon Trust, hailed the Tuesday’s ruling and said science has consistently shown that current dam operations erode sandbars and beaches that humpback chub need to survive, reduce food production and decrease water temperatures. Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have tried to dance around those issues, he said. “This judge has caught them in a lie, and is requiring that Fish and Wildlife come up with a reason why current dam operations should continue when they are damaging habitat illegally,” he said. Campbell didn’t agree with all the environmentalists’ claims. He rejected arguments that the Bureau of Reclamation’s assessment of an experimental plan increasing river flows for a short period of time violated federal law and that too few alternatives were considered. Campbell also rejected claims that the experimental plan violates the Grand Canyon Protection Act.

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