Tuesday February 13, 2024


Federal water managers proposed a new plan to protect native fish species in the Grand Canyon, but conservation groups say it doesn’t go far enough.

Water levels in Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir, have been dropping to historic lows as the region struggles to rein in demand in response to dry conditions fueled by climate change. Those low water levels have allowed non-native fish to pass through the Glen Canyon Dam, which holds back Lake Powell, and eat native fish that live on the other side, in the portion of the Colorado River that runs through the Grand Canyon.

The native species at issue is the humpback chub, which is found nowhere on Earth besides the Colorado River and its tributaries. It was previously considered “endangered,” but was downlisted to “threatened” in 2021. The fish still receives protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Lake Powell, which began filling in the 1960s, was stocked with non-native fish such as smallmouth bass for recreational fishing in 1982. Smallmouth bass prefer warm water near the reservoir’s surface. Now that the surface of the reservoir is dropping, the fish are able to move low enough to enter the tubes inside Glen Canyon Dam that allow water to pass from one side to the other.

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