The Colorado River cascaded in a flood from the Glen Canyon Dam Monday (Nov. 19), the first step in an ongoing experiment to rebuild beaches and fish habitat in the iconic Grand Canyon.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar opened the dam's bypass tubes at noon Mountain Time, releasing a spectacular display of gushing water. The six-day flood started ramping up Sunday night (Nov. 18) at 11 p.m. MT, and the peak-flow of 42,000 cubic feet (1,189 cubic meters) per second is scheduled to last from 9 p.m. Monday night through 10 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a statement from the Bureau of Reclamation.
"This is truly an historic milestone for the Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park, and the United States Bureau of Reclamation," Salazar said. "This new protocol developed by Reclamation will protect both the Grand Canyon and the delivery of water for communities, agriculture and industry," he said.
The water release from Glen Canyon Dam is the first of many simulated floods planned by the Department of the Interior through 2020. The floods, or "high-flows," are an effort to restore the river's natural environment for both tourists and wildlife in the Grand Canyon.
"These high-flow releases, a new paradigm in water management, recognize that there are hugely beneficial impacts to river ecology from releasing the requisite water needed downstream in large pulses, rather than uniformly throughout the year," said U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt.
Officials hope to deposit sediment high along the walls of the Grand Canyon, away from the river's reach at lower water levels. Before Glen Canyon Dam's completion in 1966, the Colorado River supplied more than 90 percent of the sediment forming the canyon's beaches and sandbars, popular stops for tourists and river rafters.
Currently, sand and mud piles up behind the dam and natural beaches and sandbars have disappeared, allowing predatory non-native fish such as rainbow trout to flourish.
Vegetation, once buried or ripped away during periodic floods, now grows over riverside camping sites. And the National Park Service believes erosion threatens some archaeological sites.
Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Heavy snow and blizzard conditions will continue to snarl travel and disrupt daily routines across the midwestern United States through Monday.
With rain set to dramatically lessen before reaching Southern California later this week, the threat of additional mudslides will remain low.
The first round of severe weather in 2018 for the south-central United States will continue from eastern Texas to southern Missouri into early Monday morning.
At least five people were killed when an avalanche struck a group of Turkish soldiers conducting military operations in southeastern Turkey on Sunday.
A storm will track and strengthen from the Rockies to the Upper Midwest of the United States and produce a swath of heavy snow and gusty winds on its northwestern flank.
The same storm spreading travel-disrupting snow across the central United States will prevent the January thaw from lasting past midweek in the midwestern and northeastern United States.
On the heels of damaging windstorm Friederike, another winter storm will target Germany into early this week and further disrupt travel and cleanup operations.