WILDLIFE

Invasive fish threaten Lake Powell: Officials consider ways to help

Oct 6, 2023, 3:00 PM

A humpback chub in the Colorado River basin in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Humpback chub...

FILE - This undated photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a humpback chub in the Colorado River basin in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. (Travis Francis/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, File)

(Travis Francis/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, File)

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Officials at Lake Powell are trying something new by cooling the water down to keep invasive fish from causing problems in the lower Colorado River.

The Glen Canyon Dam acted as a natural barrier to the lower Colorado River for a long time. It kept invasive fish like smallmouth bass from passing through and eating the previously endangered humpback chub. But, when Lake Powell hit a record low last year, and the water temperatures went up, scientists found the invasive fish on the other side of the dam. 

According to American Rivers, smallmouth bass are only one of a number of fish that are a threat to the Colorado River. The humpback chub is the fish that states and the federal government have spent a lot of effort to protect.

The humpback chub was put on the endangered species list in 1973. It was only reclassified from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened’ in 2021 after decades of efforts to protect the fish.

Additionally, while the record snowpack caused a big water year, Lake Powell’s water level is still only at 36% capacity. The Bureau of Reclamation said they will try releasing reservoir water in a few different ways in hopes of cooling down the water and potentially disrupting the invasive smallmouth bass from living and reproducing downstream.

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Invasive fish threaten Lake Powell: Officials consider ways to help