Environment

Geologists Slip the Grand Canyon a Laxative

DiscoblogBy Amber FieldsMar 4, 2008 8:44 PM

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For those people thinking of kayaking on the Colorado River on this lovely afternoon, you might want to reconsider—unless, say, Iron Man was kind enough to lend you his suit. If you are somehow reading this blog post while paddling down the river, look out for the 41,000 cubic feet of water rushing your way every second—three to four times the normal flow. The USGS and the Bureau of Reclamation have opened Glen Canyon Dam’s four jet tubes and are increasing the flow of water through the Colorado River over the next 60 hours.

Why create an artificial flood? Before the dam, the river burst forth in annual spring floods with water flow rates of approximately 85,000 cubic feet per second, and scientists hypothesize that these floods were important in moving sediment to form sandbars that provide a habitat for fish and an area for vegetation to grow. Short of passing around shovels, officials decided opening the floodgates was the most efficient (and quickest) way to move around the 2.8 million tons of sediment that has collected on the bottom of this river.

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