The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation began its annual high flow experiment Monday morning, opening its first jet tube at 11 a.m. A crowd of about two dozen people were gathered at the Dam overlook to witness the event.
The Bureau opened the jet tubes one by one, with a ten minute gap between each one. By the time all four tubes were opened it created an artificial flood of 38,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) meant to mimic historic floods before the Glen Canyon dam was erected.
“The reason we do it is so we can push sediment farther down into the Colorado River system, where the sediment serves to rebuild beaches and rebuild sandbars,” said Marlon Duke, public affairs officer for the BOR.
The sandbars and beaches serve as habitat for wildlife and campsites for river runners. However, the newly built beaches don’t last very long. Once the BOR returns to its normal pattern of fluctuating the levels of water it releases, the fluctuating water levels quickly erode away many of the beaches. By the time the river guides return in the spring they may find few new beaches waiting for them.
The high flow experiment will continue through Wednesday. Though the BOR is releasing more than the usual amount of water this week, it won’t change the overall amount of water that Lake Powell releases to Lake Mead.
Jacob Heaman was one of those gathered at the overlook to witness the high-flow release.
“It was pretty awesome!” he said.
Heaman is from Massachusetts and moved to Page at the early part of summer to work as a river guide for Wilderness River Adventures, guiding tours from the Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry.
“I worked on this stretch of river almost every day all summer long,” he said. “It was kind of my summer home. I just wanted to be here to see this.”
Thirteen-year-old Elizabeth Thomas also watched the opening of the jet tubes with her family from the overlook. They heard about it while taking a tour of the dam.
“It was one of those lucky things where we just happened to be here when it was happening. I’m glad we came to see it. I thought it was pretty cool.”
Glen Canyon Dam guides with the Glen Canyon Conservancy will be extending their hours of operation during the high flow event. During their daytime touring hours, from 7:30 to 2:30 they got special permission to take their clients to the transformer deck so they can witness the high flow event from river level. During evening hours from 4:30 to 7:30 the tour will only go to the top of the dam.
The high flow event will occur until Nov. 7. The Glen Canyon Conservancy will return to their winter tour hours on Thursday, and the visitor center will close at 4 p.m.