Development and Protection of the Colorado River system in Utah – from John Wesley Powell to the future
Utah has long played a central role in shaping the destiny of the Colorado River system. In 1869, JohnWesley Powell navigated the Green River from Flaming Gorge to the Colorado River confluence and downstream through Cataract and Glen Canyons to the Grand Canyon. Pioneer irrigation development in small communities throughout southern Utah inspired Powell to describe how water districts might be organized to shape Western settlement. Some plans for extensive water development in theColorado River watershed in Utah were realized and other schemes were bitterly opposed, including the national debates about building dams in Dinosaur National Monument, at Glen Canyon, and in theGrand Canyon. Today, water managers confront the reality of declining runoff caused by a changing climate and how water ought to be allocated to meet the needs of communities in the Upper and LowerColorado River basin, the needs of agriculture, and the needs of river ecosystems. This mixture of utilitarian and environmental uses of water inspires debate among Utah’s citizens and debate among the various stakeholders who help shape decisions about how to manage Flaming Gorge and GlenCanyon Dams, whether to transfer water from Lake Powell to distant communities, and whether to release Colorado River water to Mexico to rehabilitate lost ecosystems. As a recognized expert on theColorado River, Jack Schmidt will speak about the history to Utah’s development of the Colorado River,the fights to protect the environmental resources of the Colorado River, and the issues and challenges faced by modern society in charting a course for the river’s future.
About Dr. Schmidt
Jack Schmidt is Professor of Watershed Sciences at Utah State University where he has been on the faculty since 1991. He is a recognized expert on the Colorado River and has published widely on the historical transformation of the river and its ecosystem, geomorphic processes of the Colorado River and other southwestern rivers, strategies to restore aspects of the pre-dam ecosystem, and management strategies for the river’s large dams, including the use of controlled floods as a management tool in Grand Canyon. Between 2011 and 2014, Jack served as Chief of the US Geological Survey Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, the primary applied science agency supporting the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program. Since 2000, Jack has worked with graduate students, agency staff, and NGOs on issues related to rehabilitation of the Rio Grande in the Big Bend region. Jack won the National Park Service Directors Award for Natural Resource Resource in 2009 and was a member of the Minute 319 Bi-national Partnership who won the Department of the Interior Partners in Conservation award in 2013 for planning and implementing a pulse flow release of the Colorado River into its former delta in Mexico.