Friday, July 13, 2012

Controlled floods, Colorado River beaches, and power generation,

There's an interesting twist to the fight between power generators and environmentalists over the Interior Dept. plans to release water from Glen Canyon dam for controlled floods to replenish sand beaches along the Colorado River.   [Right, USGS model of sand replenishment process from "controlled floods"]

NPR's All Things Considered's story about the possible loss of $4 million of electrical generation when the water bypasses the generators notes that when the hydropower is not delivered, customers turn to other electricity sources and in this region, that is often generated by coal and natural gas.

Opponents of fossil fuels for power generation raise concerns about air quality and CO2 releases.   How do you balance that against rebuilding sand bars on the Colorado to recreate the natural system?


  1. I thought the beaches were washing out again (because the floods that build them aren't regular). Are they doing the releases to try to keep the sediment from filling up Glen Canyon? Is there a consensus about whether this is practical (is this the dopey question to end all dopey questions?)

  2. The new beaches get washed away and need to be replenished with additional releases from the dam. They don't really do anything to remove sediment that is filling up the reservoir.

  3. So if sediment fills up the dam, what happens? Do they have to remove the dam? Build a new one somewhere else?

  4. Basically, yes. They can dredge the sediment, remove the dam, or abandon it as not longer useful.