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Can dams help buffer global warming impacts?

Columbia River study shows potential benefits of stored water

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This image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) shows snowcover for the Columbia River Basin in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, taken on February 24, 2003 (250 meter resolution). Credit: Jeff Schmaltz MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — For all the environmental mayhem they’ve caused in the past, dams may help buffer some aquatic ecosystems from future global warming impacts, according to a new study from Oregon State University.

Specifically, the researchers said dams could provide “ecological and engineering resilience” to climate change in the Columbia River basin.

“The dams are doing what they are supposed to do, which is to use engineering – and management – to buffer us from climate variability and climate warming,” said Julia Jones, an Oregon State University hydrologist and co-author on the study. “The climate change signals that people have expected in stream flow haven’t been evident in the Columbia River basin because of the dams and reservoir management. That may not be the case elsewhere, however.” Continue reading

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Report: Colorado River Basin dams degrade national parks

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is centered on the river that flows through its midst, but a new report shows how the operation of dams degrades the very resource that formed the park in the first place. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARKS CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION.

Natural flow regimens needed to restore habitat

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A pending agreement between Denver Water and West Slope entities has often been described as a “global” settlement, but in reality, the deal doesn’t look very far to either side of the Continental Divide. It’s main focus is ensuring water supplies for the Denver Metro area and for booming recreational communities in the high country.

New diversions — up to 15,000 acre feet per year — will probably exacerbate negative impacts farther downstream, including a series of national parks whose natural history is inexorably linked to the mighty Colorado River. The existing impacts were recently outlined in a new report from the research arm of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association.

The report finds that alterations to the natural state of the river, such as the long-term presence of major dams and non-native species, and changes in water flow is altering the natural landscapes and cultural heritage found in national parks in the southwest. Continue reading

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