River Restoration in the Grand Canyon: What Is Our Goal?
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CONFERENCE: Spring Runoff Conference
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- Life Sciences; Physical Sciences and Mathematics
conference paper description
The March 2008 high flood experiment in Grand Canyon has refocused discussion about the costs and benefits of reversing undesired environmental conditions along the Colorado River. Amongst stakeholders, there is disagreement as to whether the desired end state should favor resources of the relict, pre-dam river, such as the introduced tailwater trout fishery, or artifacts of the post-dam river, such as the endangered native fishery. Amongst those who favor re-establishment of the relict, pre-dam ecosystem, there is disagreement amongst those who emphasize recovery of biological resources and those who emphasize re-establishment of pre-dam geomorphic processes. In addition, issues have developed concerning protection of archaeological resources threatened by the same management actions – floods – intended to re-establish pre-dam geomorphic processes, and issues associated with the relative emphasis on aquatic and riparian resources. Lastly, as the challenge of achieving any goal becomes more difficult, there has been a call to lower the target, especially as it pertains to achieving some specified amount of sand deposits along the river banks. These debates and differences of opinion emphasize the fundamental social science and public policy core of the river restoration process. As a society, we cannot achieve river restoration if we cannot establish broadly agreed upon restoration goals.